August 23, 2014
(adapted from the ABC of Mountain Biking)
There are so many mountain bike terms and jargon out there that anyone new to the sport can easily feel like they’re joining a fraternity or becoming a pirate. It’s pretty easy to feel confused — I remember going on my first mountain bike ride at 15 and being asked by another rider how I was fairing with rigid forks. “Huh…I’m not carrying any form of cutlery” was my response. Yes friends, the learning curve was steep. Check out this list to learn the basics of mountain bike terminology. To be sure, it’s far from being a complete lexicon of all mountain bike lingo, but a quick overview of commonly used mountain biking terms any beginner may encounter when fraternizing with other mountain bikers.
the alert and well-balanced position you ride in when you approach, or ride on, rough terrain. It is characterized by bent knees, rear above the saddle, elbows slightly bent, and a raised head.
an embankment on a trail.
when you run out of energy.
a hop that you incorporate into your riding technique so you can clear obstacles such as logs without stopping.
the dragging and jamming of your chain that occurs in sloppy conditions, or when little burs occur on your chainrings that cause the chain to bunch up. CLEANa perfect ride through a tough section.
a pedal that has spring-loaded cleats that clip to a riders shoe.
a traditional mountain bike race that mixes many types of riding conditions into one coarse.
an off-road race that involves riders having to dismount and run over obstacles, carrying their bikes.
when everything on your bike is running smoothly, you are said to be “dialed in”
two trails that run parallel to each other (also called tractor trail or Jeep trail).
a type of racing held mostly on ski slopes — fastest rider to the bottom wins.
shifting to a lower gear.
Dropping in a steep single track when other riders are around.
a bike that has both front and rear suspension.
a crash that involves going over the handlebars of your bike.
a form of mountain bike racing in which there is a greater proportion of downhill sections, which are timed, to uphill and cross country sections.
a back country dirt or gravel road wide enough for emergency vehicles to use.
the part of the bike that attaches the front wheel to the frame.
extreme technical sections. Characterized by very rough, rooty, slippery, or rocky sections. Commonly found in the Pacific Northwest and New England. “He has got some great bike handling skills and can really scream through the gnarl.”
the lowest gear available on a bike, which only a grandmother would need to use; designed for steep uphill climbing, but extremely easy to pedal in on flat ground.
a long uphill climb.
a very difficult climb, requiring use of the granny gear.
a mountain bike that has no rear suspension.
International Mountain Biking Association. An organization for trail advocacy.
the all-terrain tires that are used on mountain bikes.
the desirable path or strategy to take on a tricky trail section.
Short for mountain bike.
what happens when a bike slows abruptly in mud, throwing the rider into wet goo.
(National Off-Road Bicycle Association) — USA Cycling’s mountain bike racing division.
sloped ground that makes handling difficult.
a tire flat that is caused when the tube is pinched against the rim internally.
the narrow valve found on most mountain bike inner tubes. A metal cap must be unscrewed before air can enter or exit.
the tire inflation measurement. It stands for pounds per square inch.
a riding technique in which you pedal in partial strokes in order to clear obstacles.
This refers to a section of trail covered with big rocks.
the type of valve used on most cars and trucks. They are found on less expensive bicycle tubes and are spring-loaded to release air or let it in.
negotiating trails with a higher-than-usual level of expertise.
a narrow mountain bike trail that must be ridden single file.
same as a pinch flat, but has two holes. (same causative mechanism)
the distance between the top tube and the rider’s crotch.
a turn on a hill that is too steep to be climbed without zig-zagging.
a state of mind experienced while riding. You don’t think, you just do. A truly mystical experience that can’t be fully explained, but when you get there you’ll know it and strive to reach it again.
a riding technique that involves the rider stopping completely without putting a foot down.
the distance a suspension fork or a shock can compress.
to shift into a higher gear.
to have the front tire lose traction, especially while going around a corner.
small, regular undulations of the soil surface that make for a very rough ride.
a MTB owner (not even necessarily a rider) who is more concerned with how many milligrams a certain component saves off the bike’s total weight than with how to be a better rider.
lifting the front wheel off the ground, usually with some combination of pulling on the handlebars, pedaling harder, and balance.
a crash. v. (“wipe out”) to crash.
not functioning properly. “I bailed, and now my wheel is all wonky and all I hear are wild pigs.”
Short for “cross country” – see above.
a horrendous crash that leaves all your various “wares” — water bottles, pump, tool bag, etc. — scattered as if on display for sale.