Dave Moulton

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I just read a letter in a newspaper where someone described themselves as an “Avid Cycler.”

I’m sorry, if you call yourself a “Cycler” you are not an avid bike rider, which I think is what you are trying to say. The term is “Cyclist.”

You could be an Avid Recycler if you collect old newspapers, and plastic bottles; but that’s a whole different story.

Then I read an ad on Craig’s List where a person selling a bicycle described it as having:

“Covers over the wheels, so you won’t get your clothes wet when riding in the rain.”

They are called “Mudguards.”

Some still call them “Fenders,” which is mildly acceptable. At least we know what you are talking about; in this case I never would have known had there not been a photograph of said bike, sporting mudguards.

When I first came to the US in 1979, there was a whole different vocabulary for bicycle parts that drove me crazy.

People called a handlebar stem (Left.) a “Gooseneck.” If I ever saw a goose with a neck shaped like that, it was one sick bird.

A spanner was called a wrench; now some call it a spanner wrench. One of those words is obsolete.

Before we had freewheel cassettes, the old screw-on five and six speed freewheels were called a freewheel “Block.” In the US they called them a “Cluster.” And Americans would insist on calling a saddle, a “Seat.”

Now the fact that a saddle was attached to a seat post, which in turn slid into a seat tube on the frame, was neither here nor there. I wasn’t around for that planning meeting.

Some terms have never changed; Campagnolo was always abbreviated to “Campag” in the UK, in the US it is “Campy.” I never abbreviate the name, that way I am correct on both sides of the pond.

Tubular tires, (Or is it Tyres?) in the UK are “Sprints and Tubs.” Sprints referring to the sprint rims, and tubs being short for tubulars. In the US they are “Sewups,” which no longer drives me crazy, although it does make me a tiny bit uncomfortable.

Now the “Hipster” crowd have started calling them “Tubies,” which is kind of ‘cute,’ but what does drive me stark raving bonkers, is the fixie element referring to toe-clips as “Cages.”

They have always been “Toe-clips,” on both sides of the Atlantic. It was the one word that didn’t get bastardized in translation.

They have been abandoned by most branches on the sport for clip-less pedals. (There is a clue, right there.) Anyone who calls them cages should be locked up in one.



Reader Comments (19)

Dave, that is strange. Here in the US we've always called it a "seat pin" not a "seat post." <G>

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHal Faulkner

The near-universal use of "platform" when referring to any pedal that's not a clipless pedal really rankles me. For that matter, the committee that decided "clipless" was the best way to differentiate from clips and straps needs to be hung by the toes until dawn.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott Loveless

I had forgotten about the seat pin vs. post thing. To make it even more confusing, in the UK some call it a seat pillar.

Also, how come we clip into clipless pedals?

February 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Mudguards? I don't know anyone who calls them that.

The rubber or plastic things you screw to the bottom of your fenders, to extend them, now those are mudguards.

Hey, you kids ... offa the lawn!

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRider

The rubber or plastic things you speak of are called "Mudflaps;" they attach to the mudguard. My car has fenders, a bicycle has mudguards. Google it, lots of bike stores sell them.

February 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Dave, you're making my head hurt with all this terminology. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go refill my bidon. ;-)

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Allen keys and Allen wrenches is another term that I've had to adjust to in the UK. ''let me just clip-in to my clipless pedals''

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbooka

Come on Dave, a fender is fending off the water, mud, oil, etc. It is certainly not guarding mud.
I would think your reaction, coming from England, would have been surprise at the lack of use of fenders on bikes where they would be most appropriate.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdvenable

Cyclists who use 'wheel', 'rim' & 'tyre' interchangeably never ceases to amaze and confuse, happens both in UK & France. My bugbear however is the use of 'biker' & 'biking', I immediately think of hairy, leather clad people riding Harleys.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Hennessy

The one from your list that especially drives me up the wall is "gooseneck". It's like fingernails on a blackboard.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLouis


February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

To me a "gooseneck" means a type of stem found on old American balloon tire bicycles, which rises and curves forward. When associated with those old heavyweight bikes, it's quite appropriate. However, when I lived in England in the 1950s, we called the handlebar stems used on lightweight racing-style bicycles "extensions", likely because they extended forward 2 or 3 or more inches, as opposed to the stems on roadsters. As for fenders, it took me a while to associate them with bicycles after moving to this side of the pond in the 50s. In England they called car fenders "wings", but nobody called bicycle mudguards that, no matter how big and heavy they were. A "fender" was something that surrounded the hearth of a fireplace, the primary mode of home heating back then. Anyway, it seems to me that the original British terms for bicycle parts are making a comeback on the west side of the Atlantic among the vintage crowd.

As for "cycling" vs. "bicycling" and "biking", the former brings up an image of riding a lightweight bicycle, while the other two are more about riding something with two wheels by someone not particularly good at it.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

John B,
You are right; I do remember in the 1950s we called a long stem an extension. But by the 1960s and 1970s top tubes on frames got shorter, and all stems were on the long side so the term got dropped.
A thought just occurred to me; if I was looking into cleaver ways to market a new handlebar extension, could that be described as “Stem sell research?”

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

Here in Bermuda we have to call the cycling body the "Bermuda Bicycle Association" so as not to confuse with motorbikes/motorbike riders which are referred to as cycles/cyclists. Always annoys me. "Bicyclist" rather than "Cyclist" always sounds naff to me.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

What happened to "Bicycle clips"? When I was a kid theywere the circular metal springy things you wrapped around the bottoms of your trousers (not pants) to stop them from getting caught in the chain.

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

My wife from Germany calls clipless pedals "click pedals". Sorry if it is sacrilege but I have adopted this name and find that it makes them less intimidating to people just starting to use cleated cycling shoes. Clipless sounds like something is missing and besides nobody knows what a clip is anymore.

February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

CHAINSET = Crankset? No one mentioned that! John Crump

February 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Well now dave I've always referred to toe clips as cages. At least since the early 80's. No ones ever shown me offense before.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

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