Language of Cycling
By Paul Ingwersen
While there is now a steady supply of T shirts, branded items and new cycling terms coined regularly such as Cycology, it is time take look around at a couple of classic cycling phrases.
Like every sub culture cycling has its own language. In performing arts you might say to break a leg or chookas before a show, something that probably many who use the phrase don’t even know the origin of, but it is the culture.
In cycling there are the practical phrases with real meaning like half wheeling, riding up the road, taking a turn, or sitting in. There is also some of the more descriptive language which brings riding to life. Here are a few examples, some old, and rarely used and some new.
Chewing the stem
This is the point when the only thing more painful than biting into your stem would be actually getting dropped and having to chase back on or ride home alone. The stage prior to chewing on the stem is when a rider is dribbling like a cow in green pasture. Think of those classic L’Alpe d Huez photos of sweat, concentration, and dribble like a baby at dinner time. That is chewing on the stem.
This even has a definition in the urban dictionary along the lines of someone too focused on Strava segments. There is another interpretation which is about how a Strava segment is won.
Some people think cycling is just about strength and going hard. Perhaps Strava themselves promote this idea. In fact the strongest rider often doesn’t win the race. You need to be strong enough and the smartest, and even dare I say it, the most cunning. With the advent of Strava, a whole new type of competition has emerged – the Strava KoM or QoM.
So instead of seeking out segments, by riding hard, or waiting for a westerly gale, to Strava arsehole is a smarter cunning way. It’s not wrong in the way of motorpacing behind a car or leaving your garmin turned on when you put the bike on the roof racks. That would be the equivalent of holding onto a team car or taking a shortcut in a race. The Strava arsehole approach is much more refined. Like a sprinter winning a race. It is judging your effort, timing it right and taking the winnings.
Just like any race, you need to know the segment, start at the back, or even off the back, then sit on the bunch and come round after everyone has done the hard work and take that KoM. Remember, cycling is about the smartest, strongest and most cunning. If you hear some mumbles from your mates in the bunch, it will be just like the roulers complaining about a sprinter winning a race. It is their obligation to drop you or just ease the pace to avoid being Strava arseholed.
Back when prois were pros, amateurs went to the Olympics, and masters were veterans, anyone under 17 was a juvenile. While we now have elite, Under 23 and masters, there is one scar in cycling that occasionally appears and best not be on you. We’ve all seen it and cringed, the black greasy chain ring imprint on the inner calf or worse the outside calf muscle. So named a juvie mark as juveniles just beginning to learn to ride with that teenage coordination would too often press their leg against the chain ring. Being teenagers and all too often disinclined to clean even their room, they not surprisingly would have greasy chain rings. While tattooing and body paint is in vogue, this is one piece of temporary art you want to avoid.
Getting your doors blown off
Just imagine the idea of a car getting its doors blown off, then think riding or racing hard, in a bunch and you get the sense. Getting your doors blown off would normally happen on a flat, maybe windy parcours, where the big guys feel at home.
We all know the scenario, sitting a few riders back from someone who gets the greatest pleasure in riding people off his or her wheel - even more than winning. Think of a sleek Porsche 911 turbo and you are a VW Polo. The wind curves around the 911 and batters your square frame.
As the pace picks up and you put the pressure down, you know it can’t last. The body starts to shake, wobble, move and bammm! – there go the front doors and the wind blows through you and you see a few metres gap.
You dig deep, imagining that Polo burning all 1600cc and bammm! The wind blows out the back doors and the hatch and it’s now a 20 metre gap and the race is up the road and you look behind at the carnage with doors or riders spread across the road and you know that big guy is grinning but not looking back and you have a long slow lonely ride back home.
Put it in the big dog.
Now with a big dog we’re talking Rhodesian Ridgeback or another race of sleek, muscular, toned fast dog that would be equivalent to a 53 or 54 chain ring. We’re not talking about a playful, agile border collie or labrador which would be like a mid-size compact and it’s definitely not one of those poodles or lap dogs which really would be like a full compact chain ring. Some people like them, but are they really a dog or just an accoutrement?
Putting it in the big dog is said with strength, power and certainty that you’ll be using the big cog, the big dinner plate, but on the front, definitely not the back. To put it in the big dog means you are also thinking of a 14, or 13 and heading towards the 12 or 11 on the back. You are pumping your legs, making them hurt, building that muscle and trying to drop those little hill climbers. Everyone has an inner big dog and when you let the cry out – put it in the big dog – it’s time to get brutish.