Like the proverbial flowers that bloom in the spring or bleary eyed animals emerging from a long winter of hibernation, the recent uptick in temperatures in NYC has brought out the hibernating bike commuters. As tulip bulbs crack the top layer of soil and spring to life, bicycles relegated to storage closets or storage racks have been dusted off, tires pumped up (in most cases), and my once sparsely populated bike path to work has sprouted a menagerie of cyclists. So much for the days of sub zero temps and a bike path shared by the few deranged year round commuters. This increase in the riders I am now encountering reminds me of a Bike Hacks Classic entry . . .
This dictionary started in my mind while commuting and seeing some of the same riders day after day. I began to give them names in my head and thought to myself, "Why not create a dictionary of bike commuter slang?" It then expanded with different terms for bike related objects, sites, etc.
I certainly welcome others to make suggestions over time - this is by no means the end all (many of the entries below are suggestions from readers and a few come from other sites that are referenced). The more the merrier. Hopefully the dictionary will be an enduring contribution to the cycling commuter community lexicon.
Suggestions, recommendations, additions, advice, and rebukes welcome! Simply comment or send us an email. Remember when reading, laughter is the best medicine.
DEFINITION(S) Needed (suggestions welcome in comments): a rider who wears headphones over the top of his/her helmet.
The Annoying Samaritan: Motorized human that cedes right of way to a cyclist when said right of way should not be ceded. The annoying Samaritan does not please the cyclist, who was fully prepared to wait his turn, but rather annoys other motorized humans who direct their ire at the cyclist.
Athenian: a barefooted runner.
Artefacts: bike parts left locked to an object after a bike has been stolen.
Babe Ruth: Youth baseball leagues do not always have extensive budgets and thus an entire team may be forced to share 3 or 4 batting helmets. This leads some players to wear their hats under the helmet to make it fit. Some cyclists do the same thing, wearing a baseball hat under their bike helmet. Thus the term, Babe Ruth (after Babe Ruth Youth Baseball leagues).
Basket Case: This is the rider that is rocking a front basket with all sorts of stuff in it, most often including a helmet. The Basket Case must believe that as soon as s/he starts to fall or gets hit by a car, that in the split second before hitting the ground s/he will be able to, in one swift motion, reach down into the basket, scoop out the helmet, fling it up on to the head and snap the buckle before his/her dome meets the ground.
Beausage: scratches, scuffs, nicks, chips in paint due to heavy use.
Bicicle: a bike just poking out of a mount of snow (see also, Han Solo).
The BIKE DORK (reader comment addition): people who make up slang for other types of riders. Note: One person suggested this addition with the note that Matt is a bonehead and a loser for thinking up such as list, let alone publishing it for public consumption. As an FYI, the list was posted in March of 2010 and as of June 2011 May 2014 Matt has only received two three comments from people (all anonymous), who probably take themselves too seriously, calling me a loser who should find something better to do with my time. The dictionary is meant to be lighthearted, and Matt himself fits several of the descriptions =) One offended reader did leave a great addition . . . See also, Spokehole.
The Bike Salmon: Complete credit goes to Bike Snob NYC. This is when a rider "swims up stream" by riding the wrong way down a one way street.
Breeder: This is the rider who is transporting more than one small human. This person is dedicated to raising a family and is not going to let breeding stand in the way of an established bike lifestyle. On a side note, kids being transported on bikes always seem unusually happy.
Brutus - (n.) a motorist with a bicycle rack who endangers the lives of cyclists on the road. (et tu brute?).
Bubba: A rude driver, most typically found in the southern U.S. A bubba most commonly drives a pick up truck or other off road vehicle and likely has a gun rack.
Calvin Klein: A rider wearing a t-shirt that flaps in the breeze, exposing his or her choice of underwear. Calvin Klein seems to be the most common although Jockey, Hanes, and GAP brands are also well represented.
Canadian Air Force: a group of Canadian Geese
Captain Dashboard: Cyclist who has grown a forest of doodads on his handlebars. Bells, lights, mirrors, brackets that go to gizmos that are now broken. See also, Handle Bar Ent.
The Chameleon (reader comment addition): a biker who uses the crosswalks to turn left on a red. Annoying to pedestrians, unless they dismount. Also may ride intermittently on the sidewalk.
Chamois Ass (reader comment addition): A weekend warrior on a road bike in full regalia who races from home to Starbucks.
Cliptastrophy: When someone riding with clipless pedals either cannot click in or click out.
Cluipless: adj. describing a situation or accident caused by a cyclist who was unable to operate their clipless pedals.
Cobweb Catcher: A bicycle shaped object, often seen hanging from a hook or leaning against the wall in a garage or basement. Often seen with flat tires and rusty chain.
Curb Cut Campy: The guy on the high end road bike that’s worth more than all my earthly possessions who rides faithfully on the sidewalks, weaving to hit every curb cut.
Crop Duster: A motor vehicle that leaves huge clouds of exhaust, making you feel like you an insect as you ride in the cloud.
Cyclotourist: Rider on a bike share bike who is thoroughly unprepared to a ride bike in an urban environment. Give the cyclotourist lots of space as he or she is likely to unexpectedly bob and weave without notice or cause.
Curbsploosh: see Drive By Baptism.
Dale Earnhart, Jr.: This is the driver of a car who believes they belong on the NASCAR circuit and thus do not need to use turn signals. This can often lead to running commuters off the road or running into a commuter, knocking them off their whip. You are free to substitute any famous NASCAR driver's name, although Mr. Jr. seems to be the most prominent spokesman of this "sport."
Death Star: an oncoming rider with their light aimed right in your eyes.
Drive By Baptism: the splash coming from motor vehicles that hits cyclists.
Dudley Do-wrongs: Police officers who break laws and challenge common sense while riding, for example riding down a crowded sidewalk when an emtpy road with a nice shoulder is just a few feet away. See also - Hiccops.
Dumbtour: Bicycle infrastructure that's not quite up to snuff, a three-mile multi-user path with an unsigned 200-yard continuity break along the way, for instance.
Eye of Sauron or Eye of Mordor: The patch of skin exposed on a rider's back when wearing a shirt not designed for cycling (see end of green arrow)
Fate of Civilization Guy/Gal: What this guy/gal knows is obviously key to the survival of civilization because s/he can't wait until arriving at his/her destination (or heaven forbid, temporarily stopping) to speak on his/her cell phone. S/He has to endanger to themselves and everyone around by riding while talking on the phone and riding at the same time.
Felon Bars (reader comment addition): Traditional Drop Bars that have been reversed bull-horn-style on an ancient ten-speed being ridden by an individual who is obviously cycling because he is not allowed to drive any longer.
Fire Fighter: This is the rider who wants everyone, and I mean everyone, to know s/he is coming. This rider will approach a group of pedestrians taking up the path and will ring a bike bell so quickly in rapid fire fashion that it sounds like an old school rapid fire bell used in a firehouse.
Firefly: A rider with an extremely bright neon shirt, jersey, or jacket. If you stare at a firefly too long you might just see spots.
Flipper: A rider wearing flip flops.
Fred: A rider with excessively expensive equipment, equipment that is really designed for professional cyclists. A Fred's ability/experience will never catch up to the technology purchased.
Free Ranging: Riding over a surface covered in animal waste. This could include but is not limited to Goose and Duck droppings or horse manure.
Frodo: An adult riding a folding bike with tiny wheels (elf wheels) that exclaims the virtues of his/her tiny steed at the least provocation.
Frogger: When a commuter weaves between cars that have created traffic gridlock.
Fresh fish/new fish/Trout: Borrowed from prison terminology for inexperienced person. I won't take it any further ;).
Gerbil (or Hamster): A rider constantly in the lowest possible gear, on flat ground, spinning madly and who looks like a gerbil spinning on a wheel. It's comical in that the legs are spinning at mad RPMs, but s/he is barely moving forward (the 10 second mark in the video is classic . . . )
Glass-wash: any glass on the bike lane or a broken bottle.
Grasshopper: This rider's seat is as far down as it can go and when pedaling the knees achieve chin level, mimicking the bend seen in the rear legs of grasshoppers.
Guided Missile: Doesn’t get the “as far to the right as practicable” line, and thus rides as close to the right as physically possible. Frequently seen engaged in curb-hugging, weaving between parked cars, and crossing intersections in the crosswalk (and not executing a box turn).
The Goose (reader comment addition): The driver who, even though they have 20 feet of clearance from the cyclist, will honk their horn, apparently for the sole purpose of announcing their existence.
Gutter Bunny: bike commuter.
Gym Rat or Gym Bunny (as appropriate): This rider is wearing clothing most often associated with the gym rather than cycling. For example, baggy basketball shorts, a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, wrist bands, and one of the 100's of renditions of high top Air Jordan basketball shoes if a gym rat. If a gym bunny, tights and leg warmers might be a part of the outfit.
Handlebar Ent: Cyclist who has grown a forest of doodads on his handlebars. Bells, lights, mirrors, brackets that go to gizmos that are now broken.
Hang Loose Guy/Gal: This is the rider who has the energy and good intention of keeping his/her dome from exploding on the pavement so a helmet is adorning said dome, but s/he does not have the wherewithal to actually buckle it. Thus the helmet straps hang loose. Good luck my friend . . .
Han Solo: a bike barely poking out of a mound of snow (see also, Bicicle)
Hasselhoff, or simply "Hoff": A male rider that chooses to go shirtless, also see Pool Boy. A "Hoff" is set apart from a simple pool boy because of copious chest hair.
Hiccops: Police that don't quite follow the law. As in "Sorry, but we have a case of the hiccops right now." Given that this isn't a sustainable practice, the practice could also be phrased as the Badge to Nowhere. See also - Dudley Do Wrong.
Hodge Podge Guy/Gal: This rider's bike is an amalgamation of bike parts that might not match and various and sundry things that were probably not meant for a bike, but have been modified to serve a purpose, are zip tied or affixed in some other random manner. Maybe something like this.
Hopscotch (reader comment addition): When you pass a city bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off passengers, only to pass the same bus again a few blocks later at the next stop. Sometimes this game of hopscotch can go on for many miles.
Hummer: This is the rider who is seriously into off-road weekend riding and decides to commute on a dual suspension downhill bike with 2.5 inch wide tires with huge knobbies on them. You typically can hear this rider coming because of the hum of the knobbie tires on the pavement. Sometimes this rider will replace the huge downhill tires with narrow slicks and the bike will look extremely out of proportion because of this - then I guess you could call the rider "Slick."
Ice-like Expletive Drip (IED for short): Garbage trucks in NYC leave behind huge puddles of garbage juice which can be a great danger to cyclists. It is extremely slippery and can catch you without warning, causing a crash. I commonly refer to this as garbage "drip". So an example of IED usage when referring to commuting is, "On the way to work this morning I hit lce-like F*@#%*@ Drip and almost went down for the count!" You can choose the expletive of your choice to make it personal. Ice-like Extraterrestrial Drip can also apply since some of the garbage juice resembles that used in Hollywood films featuring horrifying extraterrestrial monsters.
Interpedalers: People who spend more time writing online about bicycles than riding an actual bicycle.
IPOs: Another word for newbies, such as people who are new to the urban riding environment. Short for Initial Pedal Outing.
iRider: A rider sporting an iPod with both ears plugged with white headphones. One wonders how iRiders are supposed to hear what is going on around them.
Ir-ratio-nals: Fixie or single-speed riders with a wildly impractical gear ratio for the topography of the commuting area. Typically unwitting propagandist of the “more work = better!” camp (the opposite is rare).
IronMan: A rider that commutes on a triathlon bike and and you half expect to see an oily number painted on an arm or leg when you pass one another.
Jack Lalanne: An older rider that is "ripped" or "rocked out" meaning every single muscle fiber in the legs is visible. Kinda like Jack Lalanne, if he was not wearing a full body suit.
Jersey: The commuter donning race garb to ride to and from work.
Joe the Plumber (reader comment addition): The driver of a utility truck who's out on a job and in a hurry, and who sees himself as a regular blue collar Joe, the natural enemy of the supposed "fancy-pants" cyclist type.
Juggernaut: car parked in a bike lane.
Kamikaze: I don't despise many things, but I despise the commuter Kamikaze. This is the rider who passes at the worst possible time. It is the worst when you are riding on a path that is just wide enough for two riders to pass each other when going in opposite directions and the Kamikaze darts out from behind the approaching rider into your lane and you have to squeeze your breaks for all you are worth to avoid a head on collision. The Kamikaze sometimes also tries to pass you from behind and when right beside you realizes s/he has bit off more than s/he can chew and slams on the brakes to avoid the oncoming rider and almost swerves into you in a mad attempt to get back behind you to let the oncoming rider pass.
Kathunky: the state of a bicycle with poorly adjusted index shifting that rattles between gears then kathunks into one or the other.
KCs (reader comment addition): Bikes with way too many lights.
King of the hill: a bike parked on top of mound of snow
La-Z-Boy: A commuter on a recumbent bicycle. There is an eerie similarity between the position of someone on a recumbent bicycle and someone reclining in a La-Z-Boy chair.
Latte Lizard: Like a reptile on a cold day, the latte lizard is slow to gain full functionality. They can be seen wobbling side to side, a venti half-caf with "room" for chai and soy milk desperately clutched in the right hand leaving the off-hand to guide them down the sidewalk amidst disgruntled pedestrians. Can often be seen Salmoning, prepping for Organ Donation and Grasshoppering.
LBS: local bike shop.
Left overs: bike parts left locked up after other parts have been stolen.
Lemmings: Pedestrians who huddle on the edge of the sidewalk and when one goes off the edge, usually without looking, the rest follow. Typically occurs when you as the cyclist have a steady green light.
Lord/Lady Rattygrips: One in possession of a perfectly functional bike that has totally hosed grips or grip tape.
Lumber jacked: when bike locked to a tree is stolen.
Lycra Clad Warrior (LCW): Someone who either breaks their expensive bike out only nice on nice weekends or commutes in race gear, wearing as much Lycra as they possibly can, and complains when the "average" rider is in front of them. Often seen "taking a lane" when no one is around and, more often than not, refuses to use whatever bike route, path, or trail, that happens to be right next to them.
Mad Max: Not a commuter, rather a food delivery rider. Typically Mad Max rides the wrong way down one way streets, is not wearing a helmet (except for the Dominos Delivery guys), and is riding a bicycle that look they could immediately be used for a Road Warrior film.
Making do: A rider on a bike obviously not meant for them. For example an adult on a childrens bicycle.
MAMIL: Middle Aged Man (or Men) in Lycra.
Marathoner: This is the rider who takes exercise quite seriously, but does not always get it right the first try. A marathoner will be riding a brand new bike that cost in excess of $1,000, is sporting brand new Lycra shorts and a riding jersey, but is wearing shoes meant for running a marathon (i.e. beat up New Balance running shoes) and is riding with platform pedals. Just seems a tad out of place to me. Perhaps this rider should have spent $800 on the bike and $200 on shoes and pedals.
Margarita: a bike covered in salt (see also NaCL cruiser).
Mary Poppins: A rider brandishing an umbrella while riding.
The Messiah: This rider is certain bicycling can save the planet. Doesn't live well in tanks with racers or drive-to-the-wilderness mountain bikers. Can often be seen leading critical masses, intended to persuade anyone and everyone that bikes are better than cars. If the Messiah does meta-morph into a Self-Righteous Political Snob in his or her late 20s or 30s, he or she is susceptibale to recruitment by fundamentalist cults or aggressive marketing companies. If the rider survives metamorphisis without conversion, can often be seen later in life riding the same old 70s road bike - and spending whatever disposable income he or she earns on bike parts.
Minotaur: This is the rider who appears to have the calves of a minotaur. They are freaking huge, almost as out of proportion as Popeye's forearms . . . and yes, you are jealous.
Motorbator or Drive-by Penis (reader comment addition): as a female rider, i have gotten a lot of weird sexual stuff directed at me over the past 16 years. motorbators are out there--dudes who masturbate while driving--usually in old beater cars that they pull up in alongside you just so you can take in the full glory of their erect man parts. i am not partial to anonymous penis, however, and usually will complain to friends about having been drive-by penised.
Mountaineer: The rider who is in a too difficult gear, struggling to peddle on flat terrain. They appear to be climbing an epic mountain while on flat terrain.
Muffler: A cyclist that smokes while riding.
Musher (reader comment addition): A rider who is walking their dog at the same time. Sometimes they're holding the leash, sometimes the leash is attached to the bike.
NaCL cruiser: a bike covered in salt.
Bike Ninja: This is the guy who sneaks up on you at night because he has not one iota of reflective gear and his bike is void of lights and reflectors. These people frequently appear out of nowhere and scare the bejesus out of me.
Notnows: People who say they favor improving the bicycling environment, but point out obstacles to progress, such as the number and speed of cars on the road, budget restrictions, budget priorities, lack of public support (not to be stopped by the absence of polling data), safety, etc.
Obliterati: motor vehicle operators focused on anything but the task of safely and responsibly piloting a vehicle.
Officer Fred: n. bicycle-mounted police officer failing to follow traffic laws.
"On your left" Guy/Gal: Pretty simple here, although intonation may differ according to rider.
Oompa-Loompa: On some commutes you will encounter parents with small children learning how to ride on tiny bikes. The tiny bikes are typically very colorful and I have encountered a few children who are singing as they ride.
Optimus Prime: A rider on a folding bike, or what might be called a Transformer bike. In NYC an Optimus Prime can often be seen entering or exiting a subway entrance, transforming for the ride on the train or transforming to ride on the streets.
The Organ Donor (reader comment addition): Helmet-less rider who cruises stop signs and red lights, requiring cross traffic to slow or stop.
Orphan (reader comment addition): a small child in a helmet, often riding on a tag-along or in a trailer, and always in the company of an Organ Donor.
Pavement Raider: a cyclist who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to cycle at speed on the pavement/sidewalk with little regard given to the safety of pedestrians.
Pool Boy: A male rider that chooses to go shirtless, also see Hasselhoff.
Protein Cloud: swarm of gnats
Racing Stripes (reader comment addition): seen on wet days, the line of mud/rain spatter up a rider's back whose bike lacks fenders.
RAD rider: Middle school to high school aged human attempting to use a BMX/trick bike to actually go somewhere. Low seat position leads to splayed legs and erratic swerving movements (see Grasshopper). So named because of the classic (guffaw) movie, RAD.
Referee: A referee whistle is firmly implanted in this rider's pursed lips, waiting for a game of bike polo to break out . . . or perhaps to freak out pedestrians seen as threats to unimpeded forward progress.
Ralph Lauren: a rider on a bike polo bike - indicated by the polo mallett
Resticle: when you get up off your saddle for a few seconds.
Rimgrinder: Rider with extremely low or flat tires.
Rim Rocker: A rider that has no clue that their tires have no air in them.
The Saturday Night Special (reader comment addition): The drunk pedestrian.
Stagecoach: bike with a trailer.
Tootsie Plops: Goose crap.
Treehugger: Bike locked to a tree.
UFO: a bike with bright lights of some kind in the spokes.
SBS: Sweaty back syndrome. Most commonly associated with riding while wearing a backpack.
Share Hazard/Share Hog: n. Person with no knowledge of cycling safety, rules, or etiquette who has decided to try out a bike share bicycle.
(1) Sniper or to get Snippered: When a rider returns to a bike to find one of the tires flat. "Damn, I got snippered!"
(2) Sniper or to get Snippered: Getting nailed in the face by a bug or other flying object. The most vicious attacks involve the eyes or mouth.
Snail: cyclist who has no storage facilities on their bike. So has to resort to carrying everything on their back in a rucksack.
Solar Panel: A shirtless rider.
"So you think you are better than me?" Guy: This is the rider who you pass and within a short time s/he passes you back, only to slow down his/her pace once again. Rarely do I pass a person with the intent to make a statement. However many people, perhaps due to competitive nature, feel you are dissing them by passing them and obviously say to themselves, as Izzy Madelbaum does, "So you think you are better than me?" Ironically once the rider passes you, often s/he assumes the previous pace and you pass him/her again. Depending on the size of the rider's ego, this might happen until you decide to pump the big beat and put him/her behind you for good.
So you need to learn how to ride!” Guy/Gal: Rider who cranks along at a good pace but keeps it legal, and gets passed at reds by wobbling neophytes, who blow the light at slow speed, then in turn get passed 2/3 across the intersection shortly after the light changes. Frequently at odds with “So you think you are better than me?” guy/gal.
Sorority Sister: She can be spotted cruising down the bike path near a university on a beach cruiser, cell phone clamped tightly between one ear and shoulder, with a large handbag full of books dangling dangerously on the handlebars and occasionally banging into the front wheel. There is a male version as well, sans handbag, of course. (Also see Three Speed Terror).
Spandex Army - (n.) a group of recreational cyclists riding together, all clad in spandex riding gear, in a cluster similar to or larger than the footprint of a city bus. Often seen chatting and laughing amongst themselves whilst oblivious to the line of 10 or more irate motorists stuck behind them.
Spokehole: a pompous prick who makes up demeaning terms for bicyclists who don't look or ride like he does (Man, someone really does not like Matt's idea of this dictionary! Maybe he or she needs a hug?)
Squirrel: A rider who is very unpredictable. Squirrels rarely ride in straight line.
Stagecoach: a cyclist with a trailer.
Stock Broker: This is the rider who looks ready to buy low and sell high and does not want to change outfits so he rides in his business suit, tie flapping in the wind. No attempt at humor here, I'm all business on this one.
Stud Muffin: A rider tearing it up in a fresh 2-3 inches of snow and ice, blasting aggressively through ridges in the snow, feeling invincible due to his studded tires.
"Suicidal Overtaking" Challenge: a car parked in a bike lane (or just "A challenge").
Superhero: Every inch of this rider, from head to toe, is covered in skin tight clothing, making it appear that an audition for the lead role in a superhero movie is pending (see also Twinkie).
Suicide Commando (reader comment addition): the guy that goes out salmoning on a rainy night after removing all reflectors, dressed all in black, he is on a mission he does not expect to return from.
Tasmanian Devil: A dog off of a leash that is running around wildly in an area clearly not suitable for such, thus endangering cyclists, annoying pedestrians, and endangering the dog.
Tea Party: A group of riders or pedestrians who take up the whole path, thus impeding your progress.
Third Eye: cyclist with a helmet mirror.
Three-speed terrors: Taken directly from a comment by Bike Snob NYC in The New York Observer, in reference to "beautiful bicycle girls of New York" - “I call them three-speed terrors because they’re always going the wrong way, they’re always on the phone, they’ve always got like a Marc Jacobs bag hanging off the handlebars."
Tin Man: This is a person riding a bike that is crying out in agony for lubricant.
The Tourist (reader comment addition): The motorist who just drove into town from the suburbs, where bikes are a rarity. Upon spotting a bike on the street, they stop cold, mouth agape, unsure of what to do.
Twinkie: This is the rider who is obviously involved in some sort of competitive racing because s/he is sporting shoe covers, but not the winter kind to protect you from the cold - rather very bright (often pink, yellow, or white) that I guess are meant to reduce drag . . . and make their feet look like Twinkies. You can also say a rider is "Twinkied Out" - meaning s/he looks like a giant Twinkie due to brightly colored, tight garb.
Valley Girl: A female rider that dons a low cut shirt to ride in. The result? When leaning forward while riding there is a valley of cleavage exposed. This is sure to catch the eyes of male riders coming in the opposite direction. While impossible to place a statistic on it, I am very sure that many of the accidents that male riders experience each year are due to cleavage gawking when Valley Girls pass in the opposite direction.
Velocinoobs: See also - Velookers
Velookers: Rider on a bike share bike who is thoroughly unprepared to a ride bike in an urban environment. Give the cyclotourist lots of space as he or she is likely to unexpectedly bob and weave without notice or cause.
Washboard: A particularly rough patch of road.
Water Hazard: A puddle that turns out to be a deep hole that causes major disruption to your forward progress. Water hazards often look so innocent, yet can be vicious.
Wintrippers: People exercising their out-of-place competitive urges. Riding to win though not in a race and not quite winning, either (tripping up).
Whip (n): a bicycle.
X-Ray: Motorized human who can look directly at a cyclist without seeing him or her.
The Yellow Submarine (reader comment addition): A school bus driven by someone who has absolutely no concept of the length and height of the vehicle they are driving, and who took the part-time minimum wage gig of driving a school bus to earn a little extra money for pot.
Zombies (reader comment addition): people who cluelessly use the bike lane as an extension of the sidewalk.