do you speak mountain bike?
beginner’s guide to mountain bike slang
Have you ever been riding with a crew of seasoned mountain bikers and felt like they were speaking a different language? You are not alone! Welcome to your crash course in mountain bike lingo, where we’ve defined common terms and phrases used by mountain bikers so you can sound just as quirky as the rest of us!
But first, a brief history. Every sport has it’s own set of terms unique to the activity. In tennis, for instance, “lob” is not short for lobster but a term for a specific way to hit the ball. A favorite word used by climbers is “flash”, which means to successfully complete a route on your first try. Mountain bike lingo is a bit more eccentric, with a jocose flair that the community has embraced since the 70’s. It all started with “klunker”, a janky old mountain bike that klunks around and probably doesn’t get the job done, but inspired a culture of innovation, rowdy fun havers, love of dirt, and a knack for adventure.
danger noodles, taco rims, and more
We’ll start with words you might use to describe a trail. A “chunky” trail is a trail for riders who hate their cranks, “tech nasty” is for people who like to eat rocks for breakfast, and a “flowy” trail is probably the reason you fell in love with mountain biking. Then there is “hero dirt”, the most perfect soil consistency with the ideal balance of moisture for optimal traction. Hero dirt is short lived and only occurs for about one or two days after a trail can be ridden post-rainfall. Ride it just once and you will understand why hero dirt is considered the holy grail of trail conditions.
Our next lesson in mountain biker terminology will equip you with several classics to use when you’re out for a ride. Have you ever heard someone say “look at that sneeze!” and said “bless you,” even though you were certain no one sneezed? Well, what they were really saying was “steeze” which is used to describe an effortlessly impressive style. Imagine you watch someone hit a jump and do something cool in the air with their bike, like a pop of the hip or sly turn of the handlebars, that is when you might say “look at that steeze” or “you’ve got steeze!”
The next few classic phrases are easy to remember and great go-tos for those group rides where everyone is amped and trying out new lines or features. Let’s say you want to follow your buddy off a drop you have been eyeing. You can say, “hey buddy, can you tow me into this drop?” This is sure to make a mountain biker blush, and asking them will unlock their power to lead the “send train!” A send train occurs when everyone riding the same line or feature does so successfully. It can also be phrased as “we were on a send train” to describe a day of riding successes. Consider a scenario where the send train does not occur because one rider botches the drop, wipes out, and all their belongings take flight and scatter about the trail. This is when you yell “yard sale!”
There are many phrases and words like “yard sale” that describe less than ideal situations in mountain biking. Mountain bike slang is weird and goofy. It helps us get up when we fall, shake it off, and have a laugh so we can keep riding. Maybe you’ve heard the word “bonk” or “bonking” while on a ride? We have all bonked at least once, it occurs when you have completely drained yourself on a ride to the point of crippling leg cramps or having barely enough energy to push your bike. Another is “OTB”, an acronym for “over the bars.” If you are using this acronym when describing how your ride went, you are likely in some pain! One of our favorites is “danger noodle.” No, it is not something a person with a gluten allergy needs to avoid. A danger noodle is a snake! There is also the phrase “taco rim,” which you probably saw coming because tacos seem to be the taco-the-town everywhere you go these days. A “taco rim” occurs when your rim bends in half. If this ever happens to you, understand that the phrase is unavoidable and may be all you taco-bout with your buddies for a while.
If you are new to mountain biking and have questions about your bike and how it works, don’t be afraid to ask a fellow rider! If you aren’t ready to ask, but don’t want to sound like a newb (we’ve all been there), try to remember the following two terms that can be easily confused – “travel” and “components.” If someone asks how much “travel” your bike has, they are really asking how much your fork and shock compress when pressure, your body weight, is added (for mountain biking, this number is generally between 80 – 220mm for the fork, and 100 – 160mm for the shock). If “components” comes up, this is an umbrella term for your shifters, brakes, crankset, bottom bracket, front and rear derailleurs, chain, and cassette. If someone asks you something specific about your components like what shifters you have, you can always just say “the best one.”
Finally, if you ever find yourself struggling to remember any of these phrases or terms, you can default to our GRRASS acronym:
These 6 words are timeless mountain biker favorites and can get you through a lifetime of riding!