Mountain Biking Terms

Mountain Biking terms, slang, technical jargon and vernacular can be confusing for even experienced mountain bikers.  So, Key Pen Pirates mountain biking has compiled this list of common mountain bike terms and slang to help riders, parents and a few coaches understand the "language".....

We highlighted a few commonly heard terms for our riders, as well as a few recent ones from our youth riders!

That's a fun part of mountain biking (esp. coaching kids) - the language can be tribal and evolves with each rider generation. New words and terms are being invented with almost every ride!

Mountain Biking Terms and Slang


1+1=1: often used by single-speed riders (like Coach Nick) to describe their gear of choice.  1+1 is actually 1 gear in Mountain Biking math.

"1x" through "3x": typically describes the gears on the front of the drivetrain (i.e., 1 to 3 gears).

26, 27.5, 27.5+, 650B, 29: refers to wheel and tire size.



A-Frame: a span built to help riders navigate over obstacles (like a tree).

Air: Air happens when you get both wheels off the ground as a result of a jump or a drop off

Alien: a complimentary term for riders whose endurance doesn't seem to be humanly possible.

All-mountain: typically a bike that can hand all-purpose trails and obstacles.  Also can be a race format that includes a wide variety of obstacles and technical skills.

Apex (clipping-point): The apex is the geometric center of a turn that allows the rider to take the straightest line through the turn while maintaining high speed.

Armor: trail covered by hard materials (bricks, concrete, etc...) for erosion.  Also protection for riders, such as knee/elbow pads, etc...

Attack Position: a fundamental skill in mountain biking, The attack position is the body position a rider should have when entering into unknown and technical sections of trail. It is characterized by bent knees, rear above the saddle, elbows slightly bent, and a raised head.



Baby Heads: large round rocks on the trail.

Baggies: Loose clothing worn when riding.

Bail: to jump off your bike to avoid more serious crashes.

Bandit Trail: a trail built on someone else's property, usually without permission and illegally. 

Bark Tattoo: A mountain biking term for an abrasion when you graze a tree at high speed.

Bead (tire): the edge of a tire that connects (mechanically with pressure) to the wheel.  When inflated, this keeps the tire attached to the rim.

Berm: a banked corner or artificial ridge to help riders take turns at higher speeds.

Biff: wipeout (crash)

Boardwalk: a construction (or "feature) made to bridge areas typically unsafe or un-ridable by most riders.

Bomb: to speed down a downhill trail as fast as possible with disregard for the results....

Booter: A large jump that requires a lot of commitment.

Bonk (ed, ing): when a rider runs out of energy.

Boost: a spacing standard for rear axles that extends the axle wider and allows engineers to push the rear wheel closer to the frame. Boost axles are typically much stiffer.

Bottom Bracket: on a bike, the bottom bracket is where the crankset connects to the frame and the pedals rotate.

Brake modulation: brake modulation allows for brake power to be applied slowly, as opposed to more abrupt on/off power or feeling.

Brap: A mountain biking term for the sound of knobby mountain bike tires on the trail.

Bridge:  A constructed, er, bridge over obstacles such as streams or ditches.

BSO (Bike Shaped Object): A cheap bike that looks like a mountain bike but has no real off-road use.

Bunny Hop: a fundamental technique to clear "features" (roots, rocks, etc...) while riding. Riders literally "hop" the bike over the obstacle.

Burp: some tires are "tubeless" (much like modern car tires), and a burp is when the tire parts from the rim. It sounds like a burp and includes a dramatic loss of tire pressure.



Cadence: a rider's pedaling rate, or basically the number of rotations of the crank (pedaling) per time.

Camber:  Camber refers to the angle or pitch of a trail.

Carbon (fiber): high tech materials used in lightweight mountain bike construction. Much like fiberglass in construction, except carbon fiber is magnitudes stronger.

Chain Ring: the front cog that connects the chain to the cranks.

Chain suck: When your chain is jammed, typically with the frame.

Chain Tattoo: That greasy stain left on a rider's leg after touching the chain while riding.

Chatter: A mountain biking term for a section of trail with loose rocks.

Chainstay: A part of the bike that connects your bottom bracket to your rear axle.

Chamois, or “shammy”: a liner in bike shorts that pads your private areas on the seat and helps prevent chafing.

Chunder: Rocks, roots and technical features that make a trail bumpy. 

Chute: Steep, narrow and straight section of trail.

Clean: To ride through a section without crashing, stopping, or taking your feet off of the pedals.

Clipless (aka clipped or clipped-in): simply, a riders are mechanically attached to their pedals.  Yes, a confusing term!

Clown Bike: a bike with 29" wheels.

Cockpit: area a rider uses to control the bike - handlebars, stems, and everything attached.

Contact Patch: the surface area of a tire's contact with the ground.

Cover: to keep a finger (or two) on the brakes at all times. I.e., "covering your brakes".

Coward levers: Brake levers.

Crank: The part of the crankset that connects the pedals to the spindle (more simply, the arms connecting the pedals).

Crankset: The parts of a bicycle drivetrain that include the spindle, chain rings, and the crank arm.

Cross-Country ("XC"): Cross-country is a disclipine of riding (and racing) that covers various types up terrain, typically "single track" and includes uphill, downhill and technical segments. In a race, it's timed from beginning to end, usually +5 miles.

Crunchy: typically a trail covered with loose rocks (and somewhat more technically challenging).

Cutty: To slide into a turn and kick up dust and dirt.

Cyclocross: a mix of road and mountain bike racing on a mix of surfaces (pavement, dirt, etc...).

Cycologist: A bike mechanic or rider who knows mostly everything about repairing or setting up bicycles.

Cycolopath: Someone who enjoys from cycling-induced pain and suffering.



Dab: To take a foot off of your pedal and lightly touch the ground keep from crashing.

Dialed (or dialed-in): Either when a bike is perfectly set-up, or when a rider is doing very well on a trail.

Danger Noodle: A snake.

Derailleur: the mechanical arm on the back of the bike that moves the bike chain between cogs, or basically changes gears....  Depending on the bike, there can be front and rear derailleurs.

Ditch: either a ditch or "bailing" from a bike to avoid injury.

Dope: awesome. Good.

Dork disk: Plastic disk that sits in between the spokes and the biggest sprocket on the cassette.

Double: A gap jump (a jump with space in between that a rider must clear).

Doubletrack: two side-by-side trails, or often a road upon which riders can ride side-by-side. Duthie, for example, has an excellent doubletrack for riders.

Downhill: a mountain bike discipline of riding literally downhill on steep includes, rough terrain and over features such as rocks, drops and technical obstacles.

Downshift: Shifting to a lower gear.

Downside: A downwards-facing slope designed for building speed.

Drift: When a bike slides, or “drifts”, as momentum pulls the rider to the outside of the corner - especially on loose or wet terrain.

Drop: when the trail abruptly changes to a steep enough angle that you cannot easily (or not at all) roll down to the lower elevation.

Drivetrain: The front cranks, chain, derailleurs, and rear cassette on a bike.

Dropper (or Dropper Post): A seat post that's raised or lowered by pressing a lever.

Dropping In: a rider's call (and warning) to other riders that they're beginning a descent onto the trail.

Dropout: on a bike frame, the place where a wheel's axle slides in and out (for removing the wheels).

Dual Suspension (dualie): A full suspension bike with both front and rear suspension.

Dude (or Dood): a common and endearing term between mountain bikers, typically American. While traditionally used among guys, it's now almost universal among both guy and girl riders.



Endo: when the rider crashes and goes over the handlebars.

Enduro: another primary mountain bike disclipline and race format. In a typical Enduro race only the downhill sections are timed, and while the uphill or more transit cross-country sections are not.



Face Slappers: Tree and bush branches that have overgrown the trail and slap you as you ride.

Fat Bike (Fattie): a bike with tires usually 3 inches wide or wider.

Feathering: a braking technique when a rider modulates their pressure on a brake level to control speed (as opposed to stopping).

Fire Road: a rural road built for purposes of fire control and remote park access.

Flat cornering: navigating a corner without a bank or berm.

Flow: becoming one with the trail, that feeling when the trail, bike and rider seem to fit perfectly together.

Fork:  the part of the bicycle that holds the front wheel.

Front Triangle: the part of the frame - the top tube, down tube, and seat tube—that form a triangle.

Full suspension: a mountain bike with suspension on both the front and rear wheels.



Gap (Gap Jump): a jump constructed with a space, or gap, between the takeoff and landing that the rider must clear (safely).

Gassed: Exhausted.

Gear Smasher: someone that rides in too high of a gear and they have to mash the pedals.

Geometry: the basic shape of the bike frames and angles between the major components. A bike's geometry affects performance.

Gnar: A difficult trail or trail features.

Gnar-Gnar: Very difficult trail or trail features.

Gnarly: trails or features that are difficult, dangerous, and challenging.

Granny Gear: the easiest gear on a bicycle.

Gravel Grind: long gravel roads.

Grease the brakes: when an over-zealous rider (or parent) splashes chain oil on the brakes or rims.

Greenway: a wide, flat trail in which there is little to no elevation change, and no technical obstacles.

Grom: a young mountain biker, typically under the age of sixteen.

Grunt: a very difficult climb.



Hanger: a metal attachment between the rear axle and the derailleur.

Hardtail: a bike without rear suspension.

Head Tube: a part of the frame where the front fork steering tube is mounted to the bike.

Hip: A hip jump is a type of jump that transfers you from one side of the trail to the other, or forces you to change direction.

Hero Dirt: when the soil is the perfect consistency for riding, especially "just right" between moist and dry.

Huck: to ride a large jump, drop or trail section with questionable features and without regard for the consequences.

Huck and Hope: to Huck and hope for the best.

Huck with Confidence: a recent and admired term from one of our riders, and the ultimate expression of self-confidence and training.



IMBA: The International Mountain Biking Association.

Involuntary Dismount: a crash



JRA: Just Riding Around.

Jump: er, a jump, when the bike leaves the ground on a feature and goes airborne.



Klunker:  an old mountain bike that has been kept in somewhat ridable condition.

Kicker: A steep jump that give massive air time. It can also refer to a jump that leads to a part of the trail with higher elevation.

Kick-out: A bunny hop where the rider will kick out the back wheel to the side.

KOM: King of the Mountain. A guy who has the fastest time recorded on Strava on a particular segment.

Knobby Tires: off-road tires with deep treads or protrusions to increase traction.



Ladder Bridge: A boardwalk section that changes in elevation.

LBS: Local Bike Shop.

Lid: Helmet.

Line: A chosen path through a particular trail section.

Lip: The edge of a takeoff or landing

Loam: Dirt that is soft and moist. Loamy soil is especially prevalent on our PNW trails, grippy and great for creating a roost.

Lock out: Locking out the suspension.

Log Ride: A feature where a rider rides along the top of a log.

Log Roll / Pile: A pile of logs constructed into a ramp or A-frame type shape that can be ridden over.

Loose: (1) trail conditions in which there is loose gravel or rock sitting over hard-packed soil. (2) To ride hard, fast and stylish, and with a higher chance of crashing.



MAMIL: Middle-aged Man in Lycra.

Manual (wheelie): Lifting the front wheel off the ground while in motion, and staying in motion to maintain momentum and balance.

MTB: short for Mountain Bike or Biking

Mud Diving: when a bike slows abruptly in mud, throwing the rider into the mud.



N+1: Refers to the number of bikes you need. Simply, you always need 1 more....

Neutral Position: a fundamental riding position for when the trail is flat or non-technical. A good neutral position allows the rider to move into attack position quickly.

Northshore: Raised wooden board walks. This is named after the North Shore of Vancouver from whence this style of riding came.



Off-Camber: An off-camber segment of trail describes a section where the outside edge of the trail is lower than the inside edge. 

OTB: Over the bars. A crash in which the rider is sent over their bike’s handlebars.

Over-cook: To carry too much speed into an obstacle or a turn.



Pimp: Extremely nice mountain bikes or components.

Pinch Flat (snakebite): Pinch flats happen when a bike is using inner tubes, and the tube gets pinched between the wheel rim and the tire and punctures the tube. A pinch flat can create two small holes in the tube a that resembles a snakebite.

Pinned: To ride very fast.

Plus size: Can refer to tires (or bike with plus size tires) with a width of 2.8-inches and 3.25-inches.

Poach: To ride a trail in an unauthorized manner. Typically using private trail without paying an entrance fee, without the land manager’s knowledge and permission, or when restricted for use.

Presta Valve: The type of value typically found on high-pressure road and most mountain bike inner tubes. Presta valves are longer and about half as wide as the car-tire-style Schrader valves. Unlike a Schrader valve, which uses a check valve that allows airflow in only one direction, a Presta valve seals based on the pressure in the tube or tire.

PSI: The amount of air pressure in a bike’s tube or tire measured in Pounds per Square Inch.

Pump:  1. A fundamental riding technique which allows a rider to gain speed without pedaling. 2. A device for inflating tire.

Pump Track: A dirt-track or off-road surface track that consists of a loop of banked turns and roller coaster type features designed to be ridden by pumping rather than pedaling in order to gain and control speed.



QOM: Queen of the Mountain. A female who has the fastest time recorded on Strava on a particular segment. Also see KOM

Quick Release (QR): A mechanism used to attack a wheel to a bicycle frame.



Racing Stripe: When mud is flung up your back by your rear tire by riding on a muddy section of trail.

RAD, “radical”: If something is rad it is considered to be much better than something that is simply cool or awesome.

Rail (to rail): Riding a corner so quickly as if you are “on rails.”

Ratchet: A pedaling technique in which your pedal with partial strokes in order to clear obstacles where a full pedal stokes isn’t possible.

Reach: The horizontal distance between the center of the head tube and a vertical line that runs down through the center of the bottom bracket.

Rear triangle: The part of a bike frame that connects the rear wheel to the main part of the frame.

Rigid: A bike without front or back suspension.

Rock Garden: A section of trail covered with rocks.

Rock Roll: A large boulder or rock face that can be smoothly descended without either wheel loosing contact with the ground.

Roller Coaster: A section of trail that features several short ups and downs where the rider feels like they’re riding a roller coaster.

Roost: Dirt that is kicked up behind a rider as they ride sideways into a corner.

Rooster tail: When water flies off your back tire while riding a wet surface.

Rotational velocity (angular velocity): the amount of rotation that a spinning wheel undergoes per unit time. Simply, a larger tire is harder to accelerate.



Saddle: a bike’s seat.

Sag: The amount your suspension compresses under your weight.

Schrader valve: The type of tire air valve found on automobiles.

Scrub: (1) Staying low and fast over a jump. (2) adjusting speed, especially slowing.

Sealant: Liquid chemical concoctions that help seal tubeless tires to the rim and seals small punctures in the tires.

Seat Stay: The part of a bike frame that connects the seat tube to the rear wheel.

Send it (or sent it): To ride a trail aggressively, particularly a difficult section. To go for it.

Session: To repeatedly practice riding a particular technical trail feature or difficult segment until you can ride it cleanly.

Shred: To ride a trail at a high skill level, or to ride a trail very fast. Also, to go ride and have fun.

Shralp: Shredding the trail at a whole ‘nuther level. It’s a cross between shredding the trail and ripping it.

Sick: Good.

Single-Speed: A mountain bike with only one gear.

Singletrack: The most common type of mountain bike trail, so called because it is narrow and much be ridden single file.

Sketchy: May refer to a section of trail that was particularly difficult, but due to conditions outside that particular trail’s not ideal.  Sketchy also refers to features that are rickety, old, or feels or looks unsafe.

Skid: Locking up your wheel, which typically means you're losing control.

Skinny: A man-made feature, typically made of wood, that is extremely narrow—not much wider than the width of the average mountain bike’s tires.

Slack: Describes a head tube angle where the front fork is raked outward, closer toward parallel with the ground.

Sled: A general term for a mountain bike, either hardtail or full-suspension

Slop: the side-to-side wear of the bike chain that leads to slow, inconsistent shifting.

Snakebite: Slang for a pinch flat due to the pinching of the tube between the tire and wheel rim.

Standover clearance: The distance measured from the ground to the top of a bike’s top tube. Most riders look for 2 to 4 inches of clearance between the top tube and their crotch when standing over the bike.

Steel: Bikes constructed of steel (versus aluminum or carbon).

Steezy: Riding in such a way that it looks effortless, stylish, and elegant.

Step-down: A feature on a trail where the rider jumps down to a lower elevation from a higher section of the trail.

Step-up: A type of jump that sends a rider up from a lower section of trail to a higher elevation.

Stoked: Excited.

Stomp (ed): To successfully land a trick or run – often a very, very difficult one – from great height, without flaw.

Stoppie: Essentially a reverse wheelie where the front brake is carefully applied and the back wheel is lifted so that the bike is ridden only on the front wheel.

Strava: Popular GPS tracking service used by road and off-road mountain bikers alike.

Switchback: Switchbacks zig-zag the riders up the hill through a series of S-curves.



Table/ Tabletop: A jump with a flat section of dirt in between the takeoff and the landing.

Taco: When a wheel is bent in a catastrophic crash and takes the shape of a taco shell.

Tandem: A bike built for two.

Technical Feature (TTF, Technical Trail Feature): Any feature on a trail in which the trail is no longer flat and offers additional challenges to the rider, or require additional skill to navigate properly. Such technical trail features include drops, rock gardens, berms, and jumps.

Teeter-Totter: A type of boardwalk where a biker rides up one side of the apparatus and their weight on the far end causes it to dip back down to the ground.

Tomahawk: When a rider goes flying and somersaulting though the air after a crash.

Trackstand: a fundamental skill when a rider maintains their balance on their bike while standing up on the pedals and either keeping the bike stationary or only moving around very little.

Trail Dog: A dog you bring to the trail to run ahead, behind, or alongside you as you ride.

Travel: The distance from the bottom of your suspension’s stroke to the top of the stroke.

Tree Gate: A technical trail feature where two or more trees have grown very close together and the trail path flows directly between those trees.

Tubeless: Setting up a bike’s wheels to run without the use of an inner tube.



Unicycle: a bike with only one wheel. Yes, there are mountain bike unicycles!

Upshift: Shifting into a higher gear.



Vintage Steel: older bikes (often from the early days of MTB) made of steel.



Wallride: A wooden technical trail feature built at a very steep angle—almost perpendicular to the trail surface—in which a rider can treat like a berm.

Wash out: When a bike's wheels completely lose traction and slide laterally out from under you.

Weight-weenie: A rider who is more concerned with how much minuscule weight a certain component saves off the bike's total weight than with how to be a better rider.

Wheelbase: The measurement of distance from the center of a bike’s rear wheel to center of the front wheel.

Wheelie: Lifting the front wheel off of the ground while pedaling.

Whip: A trick performed during a jump while the bike is in midair. The rider stylishly pushes the bike sideways in the air and then whips the rear wheel back in line before making contact with the ground.

Wipeout: A particularly spectacular crash.

Wonky: When something on your bike is not working properly or feels wrong.



XC: Cross-country.



Yard Sale: When a rider crashes and all of their stuff—water bottles, nutrition, backpack, seat bag, etc.—goes everywhere.



Zone: When the flow is so good and your riding is so great if feels - perfect.