Friday Group Ride #111

I was sitting in my buddy Mike’s office this morning talking about the weekend and a potential ride. There is a 100km brevet going off tomorrow afternoon, which is enticing but for the forecast of low 40s (F) and a probable rain/snow mix. For those of us who rode through an admittedly mild winter, an afternoon spinning through frigid precipitation is about as enticing as a long drink from a Belgian water fountain (see below).

It’s time for the Belgian classics, but we’re over crappy weather here.

That’s when Mike said he was sick of everything being described as Belgian something-or-other, as in Belgian toothpaste (i.e. mud) or Belgian tan lines (i.e. legs coated in dust), etc., etc. You can make up your own versions of these too, for fun and entertainment.

Belgian car wash = mud puddle. Belgian pen = a pencil. Belgian water fountain = the spray off your buddy’s rear wheel. Belgian mayonnaise = um…mayonnaise. Anyway, you get the point.

I said to Mike that I was sympathetic. I believe that wherever enough people are riding bikes there is enough cycling culture to stand on its own. We don’t need, here in New England, to borrow all sorts of Euro-isms, because we have unique riding and weather conditions of our own.

We were Belgian, when Belgium wasn’t cool.

But listen, I am NOT in favor of proscribing language. If people want everything to be Belgian or epic or PRO or whatever, it’s not for me to tell them it shouldn’t be. It’s hard enough to express yourself while employing every bit of cliché or cultural shorthand at your disposal. Life has enough rules. Use whatever words you want.

We are lucky that cycling is rich in idiom. One of my favorites is the French expression for the bonk (itself a great term), which translates to ‘the man with the hammer.’ There are also the ones commentators come out with. I’m fond of Phil Liggett’s description of a rider bridging across to a breakaway, “He’s gone across like a flea jumping on a dog.”

Hell, I even like some of the technical terms we use like torsional stiffness and vertical compliance. Or how about, brake chatter and chain slop?

This week’s Group Ride is about cycling terms and expressions. What are your favorites? Which ones are you sick of? Make some up and share them with the group. Someone come up with a meaning for ‘Luxembourg Handshake.”


Follow me on Twitter: @thebicyclerobot

Image: Photoreporter Sirotti


  1. Tom

    Lux handshake – waving a fist as you finish second – again!

    My favorite right now? ‘I’m fit! Share the road!’

  2. DavidA

    I like some of the Belgian slangs and sayings in races…seeing “black snow” before your eyes…a really bad bonk. Keihard…pronounced like kay-hard= tough as flint as in describing a tough rider. “Op kop sleuren” on the front of the race making the pace unbearable and my favorite De Tempobeul….sounds like Tempo bull..or Tempo Torturer….Cancellara would be a good example of a tempo torturer. And “klasbak”= real classy rider.

  3. Noel

    Phil: “and they’re coming to the line. Oh, there’s a bit of argy-bargy going on!”

    Even though Phil and Paul are wrong 90% of the time, everything that comes out of their mouths is pure gold.

  4. Matthew

    Out of date favorite: “Straight block” As in, “He drove up from Boston to race Sunapee but realized that his race wheel still had the straight block he used at Wells Ave last week.” Back in the day, that meant trying to ride a 2-mile climb with a 13-18 “freewheel” and a 42 small up front. Forget the big ring, a straight block was the ultimate in hardware machismo. Now, you can cover most of the country with a 12-21.

    Is it even slang? “Chamois” Causes clenching to think about buttering up genuine chamois, all dried out and cracked, about as appetizing as sitting on matzo. The word “pad” elicits a sigh of relief even if sucks all the machismo right out of the room.

  5. Jesus from Cancun

    We have some good ones in Mexico. They might lose some of it with the translation and without the right context, but these are some of them:

    Lo deje poste! (I left a pole behind:I passed him as if he was a pole)
    Mazorca (corn cob:straight block casette)
    Vengo cagando (I am shitting myself:the pace is too hard)
    Se me acabo el twinky (ran out of twinky:I bonked)
    Estoy bien queso (I am very cheese:I am so tired I feel like melted cheese)
    Arroz y frijoles cubanos (Cuban rice and beans:PEDs)
    Rehileteando (fanning:spinning legs as fast as a fan)
    Traigo un tocinote (I got a huge piece of bacon:road rash)
    El chamuco me jalo el asiento (the devil pulled my seat:I felt heavy and got dropped)
    Me descularon (they ripped my ass off:they dropped me off the back)
    Lo plancharon (he got ironed:hit by a car)
    Esta pedaleando my bicicleta (he is pedaling my bike:messing with my girl)

    And there are so many more that I have no idea of how to translate into something understandable.

    One thing is true. When bike buddies meet and talk, nobody around has an idea of what we are talking about.

  6. michael

    my all time fav;

    sprint à la Belge – whereon a stronger friend you are riding with challenges you to a town-line sprint. as the faster rider goes past, said riders pulls down shorts to moon you all the way to the line.

    sprint à la belge. i have no idea where this originated and indeed, if any walloons have ever pulled their trousers down just for shits and giggles on a ride.

    oh, and any expression Bob Roll has ever coined pre-versus career.

  7. @Pub_Cap_Scott

    “The elastic has snapped!” – Phil
    “Oh look, a flamingo!” – Paul

    Paul, Phil, and Bob come up with some good ones.

    Lux Handshake – When the 2nd place rider congratulates the leader during the race, conceding defeat. Even without the handshake, this rider would be “Schlecond”.

    One we used today. Shelled – Riders being shot out of the back of the group.

    Jesus – I like the Cuban Rice and Beans. Maybe that explains why I ride better with a burrito in me. Not sure why, but I do.

  8. Cat4Fodder

    I must admit – there is a fetishistic mentality recently relating to Belgium, and I can only attribute much of it to a kind of re-awakening of cycling fans in the US to something other than the TdF and Lance Armstrong,..but much also is due to the growth of Cross, and the fact it is a clear Belgium-centric discipline (read: see most recent top-7 at Worlds).

    What is sad, is that in places like New England and the Pacific Northwest, the weather, terrain and people who ride in conditions those of us in the Front Range would never put up with should allow for them to create their own terms, and create a new culture unto-itself.

  9. grolby

    Cat4Fodder – you’re right of course, the climate of the PNW is broadly similar to that of Belgium, albeit probably a bit milder, so the winters are pretty similar – wind and rain. And winter in New England is probably far worse, though that’s mostly thanks to sheer cold and snow-covered roads. But with a history of hard Belgium racing stretching back for a hundred years, it’s hard to fight the Belgianisation in American cycling. But I don’t think that’s a problem, we have the unique aspects of our local cycling cultures, and they’ll emerge more fully over time.

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