The Dictionary of Mountain Bike Slang
Based on the MTB Dictionary, version 1.8 26 Jul 1995 10:03:06
Last modified Aug 20, 1999
Many of the slang terms used in mountain biking come from the off-road motorcycling culture, from “trials” bicycling and BMX, and from road cycling. And some of the (numerous!) terms for “crash” came from skiing, snowboarding, surfing, or skating (inline or boards). Other subcultures have also contributed terms now used in MTBing — for example, the word unobtanium had been used for decades before the advent of mountain bikes, both in auto racing and in the space program.
There’s a little Internet history behind this dictionary. In February (’95), Tom Purvis, from Colorado State, posted a message to the rec.bicycles.off-road newsgroup that said, in part:
Offroading needs more lore. More culture. More vernacular. […] Let us use the ‘net for something really valuable — let’s compile a list of bikey slang. Biff, face plant, gravity check,endo; those are pretty good terms, but let’s get some of the really clever ones.
So a lively thread ensued; and I assume Jerry Dunn made another, similar request a bit later. He (Jerry) summarized some of it in April, for a book he has in the works…
Thanks so much for all the responses to my request for off-road bike slang, for my book ( — to be published in fall 1995). Here’s the summary I said I’d post. (Any corrections? Please e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org). Thanks for everything! You’re a great group of people, very helpful, articulate, and funny. All the best — Jerry
Jerry’s summary is in the exact style of, and is almost a total superset of, a list that my brother Mike sent me by e-mail in May or June (some of the entries were edited down; only one was added). He said he’d found his list in the LA Times Sunday magazine. The format and wording is too similar to be a coincidence. So … a question for Jerry Dunn, I guess: did the LA Times Mag article appear under your byline? (I’m just curious.)
Jerry’s original chapter title was “Off-Road Bike Riders Offer a Crash Course in Slang”.
acro-brat n.little kids who use thier bikes like pogo sticks, with pegs coming out of the front axle. Should be confined to the Circus or other freak show reviews.
air n. space between the tires and the ground. (Both tires must be off the ground or it isn’t “air”.) Said to be caught or gotten. See sky.
anchor n. your child, or children (anchors) that keep(s) you from riding. “Wait till you anchors grow up, you’ll have road rash for breakfast and prunes for dinner!” To be used as an endearing, not demeaning, phrase.
ano adj. frequently-misspelled abbreviation for “anodized”. See purple.
ATB n. All-Terrain Bike or Biking. A synonym for MTB.
auger v. to involuntarily take samples of the local geology, usually with one’s face, during a crash. See face plant.
babyheads pl. n. roundish rocks which tend to be found in a loose jumble on hairpin corners or other dificult-to-negotiate sections of trail. Similar to death cookies, but bigger.
bacon n. scabs on a rider’s knees, elbows, or other body parts.
bagger n. one who always agrees to ride, party, gather, etc. but rarely shows. bag v. to fail to show. “Tom swore he’d be there but he bagged.”
bail v. to jump off in order to avoid an imminent crash.
balance blackout n. that short time during almost every ride when you start to fall, lose your balance without reason, or seem to be unable to clean even the simplest obstacle.
banana scraper n. low hanging branches, the kind that smear the guts of that banana you put in the pouch on the back of your camelback when you don’t duck low enough.
beartrap 1) v. to slip off a pedal, causing it to slam one in the shin, when one gets kracked with a pedal. 2) n. the toothlike scars resulting from being beartrapped.
biff n. a crash. Synonyms: wipeout. v. “I biffed and then wiped away the blood.”
biopace adj. a now-discredited Shimano techno-fad where the chainrings were made intentionally not circular — instead, they were elliptical, in order to (allegedly) smooth the power delivery, by giving the rider an effectively lower gear for part of the spin cycle. Now used to describe any uneven pedaling motion. Also used as a synonym for pogo-ing.
boing-boing n. a bike with full (front and rear) suspension. Might possibly be considered offensive by certain owners of said bikes.
boink v. same as bonk.
bolt-on n. a woman with breast implants. Derived from the term for after-market bicycle parts that are literally bolted on.
bomb v. to ride with wild disreagard to personal safety.
bombers n. the earliest mountain bikes, converted from cruiser roadbikes to race down mountains.
boot v. to expel pre-ride stomach fillers due to extreme physical exertion. “That climb was hairy, I think Brian had to boot back there.”
bra n. the rubber strip placed inside the rim to protect the tube from the nipples.
brain n. a biking computer, usually featuring an odometer, speedometer, clock, and other “important” display modes.
brain bucket n. helmet.
brain sieve n. a helmet featuring more vents than protective surface.
brand whore n. a rider that will only buy high-end parts/gear with name recognition. Wouldn’t be caught dead using LX level parts or wearing a pair of Nashbar shorts.
bring home a Christmas tree v. to ride (or crash) through dense bushes, so leaves and branches are hanging from your bike and helmet. See prune.
BSG n. acronym for “Bike Store Guy”.
bunny n. 1) same as betty, but used to emphasize the female rider’s body; could be considerd insulting to some. 2) female novice rider.
bunny hop v. to lift both wheels off the ground by crouching down and then exploding upward, pulling the bike with you. Useful for clearing obstructions, such as curbs, potholes, logs. Differs from its older BMX & trials meaning — see jump.
burrito n. a rim braking surface that’s bent inward towards the tube, forming a section that looks rolled like a burrito.
buzz n. euphoric feeling. Commonly used after a particularly hard passage is successfully completed. “I got such a buzz after that uphill grunt.”
carve v. (from skiing) to ride with great speed around the corners of a twisting fire road.
captain crash v. to “go down with the ship”. Usually the result of a novice spud-user failing to clip out in time.
cashed adj. to be too tired to ride any farther; bonked.
chainring tattoo n. the dotted-line scar you get from gouging your shin on the chainring. See rookie mark.
chainsuck n. condition when the bike chain gets jammed between the frame and the chain rings, or when the chainring is so worn that it holds onto the chain and lifts it up to meet the incoming part of the chain.
chinese toe cuffs n. see toe clips.
chunder v. to crash.
clean v. to negotiate a trail successfully without crashing or dabbing. “I cleaned that last section.”
cleanie n. one who desires to remain clean; a wimp who will not have fun, stays on the clean trails.
clipless adj. misleading name for a pedal-and-shoe system where the clips or cleats clip onto the soles of special shoes. Called “clipless” because they replaced toe clips.
clip out (or, sometimes, click out) v. to disengage one’s spuds.
cloon n. slamming into the ground, resulting in a ringing head, or a delay in the action. Term used in biking, skiing, and snow boarding.
clotheslined v. the act of catching an upper body part (e.g. the neck) on a low piece of vegetation, resulting in separation of the rider from the bike.
cockrotter n. one who allows his bike to fall in disrepair, and whose bike invariably fails him at some point in every ride. These people don’t know why their bike always breaks, and often would rather buy new parts than keep their bike in good condition.
condom n. the little plastic or rubber thing that protects your tube’s valve stem from rim damage.
corndog v. to become covered in silt, usually after a fall.
curb slide v. to place the front wheel up on a curb and allow the rear tire to scrape along the curb, usually resulting in a loud tearing sound.
cyclephernalia n. the parts used to upgrade/dress-up a mountain bike”. See also chi-chi.
death march n. a ride that turns into an investigation of your endurance limit. “The bridge was out, and I had to go all the way back the way I came. So the morning’s nice, easy ride turned into a Bataan death march.”
digger n. a face plant. “Look at that guy on that gnarly single track… he’s going to go over the bars and do a digger.”
dirt bike n. an off-road motorcycle. Usually louder than MTBs.
drillium n. any part with lots of holes drilled in it to make it lighter.
dual boinger n. a full-suspension bicycle.
dual-track n. a dirt road used by four-wheeled vehicles rarely enough that their tires have made ruts that became parallel singletracks. Also called doubletrack. See singletrack.
endo n. the maneuver of flying unexpectedly over the handlebars, thus being forcibly ejected from the bike. Short for “end over end”. “I hit that rock and went endo like nobody’s business.” See “superman”. In BMX riding, “endo” used to be a synonym for front wheelie.
engine n. the rider.
enscarfment n. a food break at the edge of a cliff.
epic n. a ride that must last for at least six hours and include at least three mechanicals that add at least an extra hour to the ride time. Epics are usually started with a statement like “the trail is buff, should only take three hours.” Similar to death march.
fair grunt n. an expression exclusively used non-chalantly by others to describe a death march, in hopes others will try it, fail, and revere them as bike gods.
first blood n. credit to the first rider in a group who crashes and starts bleeding as a result.
flying trapeze n. when you endo into a clothesline.
foot fault n. when a rider can’t disengage his cleats from the pedals before falling over. See horizontal track stand.
fred n. 1) a person who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing, but still can’t ride. “What a fred — too much Lycra and titanium and not enough skill.” Synonym for poser. Occasionally called a “barney”. 2) (from road riding) a person who has a mishmash of old gear, does’t care at all about technology or fashion, didn’t race or follow racing, etc. Often identified by chainring marks on white calf socks. Used by “serious” roadies to disparage utility cyclists and touring riders, especially after these totally unfashionable “freds” drop the “serious” roadies on hills because the “serious” guys were really posers. According to popular myth, “Fred” was a well-known grumpy old touring rider, who really was named Fred.
front wheelie n. what endo used to mean in BMX: a trick where the rider applies the front brake and lifts the back wheel off the ground; this is the basis for many BMX tricks. Most riders cannot pedal effectively while doing a front wheelie. Also called a “nose wheelie” or “stoppie.”
gear masher n. someone who always rides in too high a gear, stomping on the pedals.
gevert n. (regional) a really long period of time. Derived from the name of a LBS that was a little slow getting work done. “Man, that roadclimb to the trailhead was almost a gevert long.”
giblets n. all the colorful parts and pieces that you can add or change out on a bike.
gnarl n. 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.”
grunt n. a very difficult climb, requiring use of the granny gear.
gutter bunny n. a bicycling commuter.
half-track n. a trail so narrow and/or overgrown that you’d hesitate even to call it singletrack.
hamburger n. the condition of skin, post auger, when geological contact was made with sharp rocks such as on a shale skree slope.
hammer v. to ride fast and hard. n. someone who hammers.
hiker log n. an obstacle (e.g. a log or boulder) placed in trail by biker-hostile trail users.
honk v. to vomit due to cycling exertion.
horizontal track stand n. a foot fault that happens at a stop sign.
IMBA n. International Mountain Biking Association. An organization for trail advocacy.
impedimentia n. all the junk on a bike that impeeds performance and looks bad.
jet v. to accelerate quickly; to go very fast.
John boy’ed v. when a riders face gets covered with spots of mud, making him look like “John Boy” on the Waltons. “I hit that mudhole and got John boy’ed big time.”
jump n. or v. where we now say bunny hop, BMXers used to say “jump”.
kack n. an injury to the shin received while doing trials, a kack can be the result of any injury receive during technical riding.
kick-out n. a bunny hop in which the rider pushes the back tire to one side.
line n. the desirable path or strategy to take on a tricky trail section.
male blindness n. when a male rider watches a beautiful female ride over rough terrain and stares intensely at all the jiggling parts, making him too dizzy to see straight when it’s his turn to ride the same terrain.
mandibular disharmony adv. how one’s jaw feels when it and the handle bars attempt to occupy the same space and time. “Fuck!” “Pray, whats wrong?” “I’ve got mandibular disharmony.”
mantrap n. hole covered with autumn leaves, resembling solid earth and effective at eating the front wheel of the unsuspecting rider.
Marin n. (muh RINN’) the county in Northern California where MTBing is said to have been invented. Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
metal head n. see organ donor.
mo n. momentum. “If you don’t get in gear at the bottom of that hill, you’ll lose your mo.”
mojo n. charm or icon worn by a biker or attached to the bike.
monkey-motion adj. magazine writer speak for a full-suspension bike.
mud diving n. what happens when a bike slows abruptly in mud, throwing the rider into wet goo.
mud-ectomy v. 1) a shower after a ride on a muddy trail. 2) the act of becoming clean.
nard guard n. used to prevent wang chung.
nipple n. the nut at the end of a spoke that nobody knows the real name for.
nirvana n. the state of being in absolute control and totally in tune with your bike, the trail, and your physical strength. “I was just doing it all so smoothly and delicately and quickly, it was nirvana!” Synonym for The Zone.
NORBA n. National Off-Road Bicycling Association. They organize most of the larger races.
nosepickium n. the crusties you pick from your nose after a ride in a dusty environ.
nose wheelie n. see front wheelie.
over-the-bar blood donor n. a rider who is injured while doing an endo.
panic skid v. to try with all one’s will and strength to prevent an impending stack by attempting to implant one’s heels as deeply as possible in the ground. Usually a dumb idea.
pimp n. a Bike Store Guy who is always trying to sell stuff on the trail. “Blow off, pimp. If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”
Pirelliology n. the noble art of being able to identify tires from the tracks they leave on the ground.
POD n. Potential Organ Donor..
pogo v. to bounce on a full-suspension bike like a pogo stick. Also, for a full-suspension bike to bounce annoyingly and uncontrollably.
POS n. Piece Of Shit. The antithesis to real bicycles, typified by Huffy, Murray, and any of a number of other bicycles that are poorly designed, manufactured, and assembled.
poser n. derogatory term for people with $7,000 bikes that never see an actual trail. Usually found near a trail head and never dirty. Seinfeld may be an example. Synonym for fred.
potato chip n. a wheel that has been bent badly, but not taco’d.
powerslide n. a two-wheel sideways slide, with the foot opposite the direction of travel kept on the ground.
prang v. to hit the ground hard, usually bending or breaking something.
RA# n. Return Authorization number. A number a vendor gives you to return the “defective” part you broke while JRA.
R&D n. Ripoff & Duplication, or Research & Development.
rag dolly v. to wreck in such a way that one’s person is tossed like a flimsy scrap of cloth. “Did you see me rag dolly back there? I think I pierced my ear on a tree branch.”
redsocks n. hikers who always block the best singletracks, so named because they’re always wearing those funny red socks. Also known as HOHAs.
retro-grouch n. a rider who prefers an old bike with old components and isn’t fond of new, high-tech equipment.
‘rhoid buffing v. going down a hill so steep that your butt touches the rear wheel.
Ride On! n. a parting phrase used by riders with out much else to say.
road rash n. contact dermatitis; an allergic reaction of skin to moving asphalt.
rock-ectomy v. removing rocks, dirt, gravel from one’s person after a yard sale. “Some betty stopped by and performed a rock ectomy on my knee after the wreck, I think she digs my scene.”rocket fuel n. the mandatory pre-ride coffee.
rockwell v. an unintentionally performed hardness test rendered by a trial side object on your anatomy or possesions. Requires the use of a number to rate the event. “I 50 Rockwelled on that last buster.” “No way, dude, it was at least a 60!”
rookie mark n. chain grease on a rider’s pant leg. “Give that guy extra points for his rookie mark. It’s even on the wrong leg!” See chainring tattoo.
roost v. to go fast or accelerate quickly. Or, to stop suddenly.
schmooz v.the act of reaching a trail head and not riding. What is done when one really can’t stand the thought of starting a ride. Talking. Bullshitting.
schwag n. free stuff. “Hey, they’re handing out scwag over at the Rock Shox booth.”
scream 1) n. a real biker’s dream ride. 2) n. a long, straight, and deceptively steep hill. 3) v. to bomb so fast one can’t pedal fast enough to make a difference.
singletrack n. trail just wide enough for one person or bike — the MTBer’s holy grail. Contrast with dual-track.
sharkbite n. the mark that your large chainring makes in your calf or other exposed body part when you fall.
skid lid n. helmet.
skid row n. that section of trail that nobody ever expects or remembers that always appears too suddenly when riding too fast. Usually switchbacks. Named after all the skid tracks left there from previous riders.
sneakers n. tires.
snowmine n. an object hidden by snow on the trail. “Be careful of the snowmines — you know, rocks, logs, hibernating bears…”
soil sample n. a face plant.
spider patrol n. lead rider, or first rider to run into a mongo banana spider. Similar to cob clearer.
spike v. to obtain a chainring tattoo on the back of the calf, usually the result of a newbie trying to dab or panic skid at high speeds.
spin v. smooth pedal motion. Opposite of push-push.
spring planting n. a face plant.
spudded v. crashing as a result of not being able to unclip from spuds in time to avert disaster.
steed n. your bike, the reason for your existence.
STI adj. “Shimano Total Integration” — a marketing ploy that forces you to buy new brakes when you replace your shifters.
stoppie n. see front wheelie.
superman n. a rider who flies over the handlebars and doesn’t hit the ground for a long time. This may result in injury, but when it doesn’t, it’s really funny for everyone else.
swag n. the stuff that manufacturers and vendors donate to be given away at bike related events. When you race, go to bike shows, help put on events, write bike articles, you are often rewarded with swag. Sometimes called “schwag”.
table-top n. a jump in which the rider throws the bike sideways in mid-air. Less commonly, a jump made over a hill that reaches a plateau and goes back down.
taco v. to bend a wheel over on itself, in the shape of a taco. “I taco’d my wheel, and it cost me a hundred bucks.” Worse than a potato chip.
tea party n. when a whole group of riders stops and chats, and nobody seems to want to ride on.
technical n. a section of trail that is difficult to ride because of rocks, tree roots, steep drops.
techno-fad n. a screwy or unique technology that a dominant company (usually Shimano) tries to foist upon the innocent cycling public. Past techno-fads include Biopace chainrings, and overly complex “thumb-thumb” or “push-push” shifters.
techno-weenie n. a rider who knows more about the newest MTB parts and techno-fads than about the trails. Someone who buys lots of gadgets to add supposed iotas of performance to the bike. Greeting a friend whom we haven’t seen in a year, I might say “Hi, Marta!” A techno-weenie might say “Oooh, you got White Industries hubs on that bike now?”
thrash 1) v. to cause severe ecological damage to a trail, usually during the wet season. 2) adj. a damaged trail “That trail’s really thrashed after last winter.”
three-hour tour n. a ride that looks like a piece of cake at the outset but turns out to be a death march. Derived from the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island.”
ti n. titanium. Some riders would replace their watches, rings, glasses frames, and gold tooth-fillings with titanium if they could afford to.
tornado v. to balance on your front wheel while turning your back wheel 90-180 degrees in either direction.
track stand n. (from road-cycling) a maneuver where the rider stops the bike and attempts to remain standing.
trail mix n. the involuntary release of last night’s dinner by the way it came in, usually with the assistance of too many adult beverages and accompanied by a long grinder.
trail swag n. equipment or accessories dropped by other bikers and found on the trail.
tricked out adj. when a bike has the latest and hottest components.
tweak n. a jump during which the rider twists the handlebars back and forth in mid-air, the more times the better. v. 1) to slightly injure a part of the body or the bike in a crash. “I tweaked my wrist when I fell.” 2) to make a minor adjustment. “My brake pads were rubbing but I tweaked the cable and it went away.”
unobtanium adj. describing a bike or accessory made from expensive, high-tech material. A play on “unobtainable” and “titanium.” n. a piece (of god knows what) that has come off from the inside of something else and rattles around, impossible to retrieve to stop the rattling. E.g. a piece of weld comes off of the inside of a bike frame.
vegetable tunnel n. a singletrack that is heavily overgrown with foliage, so a rider must duck and bend to get through it.
void n. 1) to empty the contents of one’s bladder. “Where were you, man? We waited for at least two minutes.” “Sorry, dude, I had to void, my back teeth were floating.” 2) a deep chasm that you have to clear or you will die.
washboard n. small, regular undulations of the soil surface that make for a very rough ride.
wash out v. to have the front tire lose traction, especially while going around a corner.
weight-weenie n. 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.
wheelie n. lifting the front wheel off the ground, usually with some combination of pulling on the handlebars, pedaling harder, and balance.
wheelie drop n. a combo of a wheelie and a jump, used to negotiate a large drop with little speed due to a limited run-out.
whoop-de-doos n. a series of up-and-down bumps, suitable for jumping.
winky a reflector. “Nice winky set, fred!”
wonky adj. not functioning properly. “I bailed, and now my wheel is all wonky and all I hear are wild pigs.”
wrench v. to work on one’s steed, to adjust or repair. n. a bike shop mechanic. “I blew my shock but the wrench at Charlie’s dialed it back in for me.”
The Zone n. 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.
zonk v. same as bonk.
Cast Of Characters
The following people and groups contributed to this dictionary:
|Matt Assenmacher||Kevin Axt||Arlen Bankston||Tom Beltran|
|Jay and Tracy Bothwell||Alistair Brennan||Michael Butler||Brian Crawford|
|Jeff Del Papa||Jeff Deskins||Shannon & Ginger Dog||Jerry Dunn|
|Joby Dynneson||Kelly Flannery||Jim Frost||Bill Gifford|
|Alan Goldman||Catherine Heggtveit||Bill Horst||Mark Howard|
|Doug Landauer||Mike Landauer||Dan Lehman||Mike “Speed” Leska|
|Pat Loughery||James Martin||Dave McSpaden||Mike Mitchell|
|Osan Outcast Pedaling Society||Todd Ourston||Jeff Paul||Tom Purvis|
|Joshua Putnam||Mark “mojo” Radford||Norman Schiele||Todd Scott|
|Matthew Silvia||Lois Sommerfield||Ed Snyder||Greg Stuck|
|Rob Sutter||Nathan Trainor||Henry Troup||Tadeusz F. van Wollen|
|Andreas “Karle” Zeller|