GO Blog | EF Saudi Arabia
The latest on travel, languages and culture by EF Education First
MenuFree Brochure

Pedal power: 10 English cycling terms you should know before the Tour de France

Pedal power: 10 English cycling terms you should know before the Tour de France

EF Education First does not only specialize in language courses abroad. The company also has its own team of cyclists who will be present at the next Tour de France. The Tour de France annual cycling race captivates millions of people worldwide by showcasing the incredible athleticism and determination of the world's top cyclists.

Whether you're a seasoned biking enthusiast or a total newbie to the sport, familiarizing yourself with some essential English cycling terms will help you appreciate the buzz and excitement of this global event held in France every year.

About the Tour de France

Cyclists in the Tour de France race compete for 23 days in July, covering roughly 3,600 kilometers in France and occasionally dipping into nearby countries with much of the route along mountainous and steep terrain. Its riders are truly international and hail this year from more than 25 different countries.

Like other international sporting events, the Tour de France takes the world by storm yearly. Netflix is even releasing a documentary, called Tour de France : Unchained, about the highs and lows of the action-packed event (keep an eye out for the EF Education-EasyPost team while you watch!). Since cycling fans often speak a language of their own, knowing the lingo is a key part of enjoying the fun.

From the dynamics of the “peloton” to the courage of “breakaway” riders, knowing the language of cycling will enhance your Tour de France experience, so start with these 10 key words and phrases and you’ll sound like a pro in no time.

1. Bidon

When cycling long distances, hydration is crucial. A bidon is a water bottle used by cyclists to stay hydrated during the race. These bottles are often filled with water or specially formulated sports drinks to replenish the riders' fluids and electrolytes.

2. Breakaway

Picture a daring cyclist suddenly accelerating and distancing themselves from the peloton—that's a breakaway! A breakaway occurs when one or more cyclists decide to take the lead and break free from the main pack. It requires a blend of skill, strategy, and sheer determination to maintain the lead and stay ahead of the pack.

3. Bonk

This term is used to describe a cyclist's worst nightmare—the sudden loss of energy due to inadequate nutrition or poor pacing. When a cyclist "bonks," they hit the proverbial wall and experience extreme fatigue, making it challenging to continue riding.

4. Cadence

Cadence refers to the rhythm or rate at which a cyclist pedals. It is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). Finding the right cadence is crucial for optimal performance, as it helps maintain a steady pace and prevents muscle fatigue.

5. Domestique

In the Tour de France, every team has its star cyclist, but behind every successful rider is a team of dedicated domestiques. Derived from the French word for "servant," a domestique is a cyclist who selflessly supports their team leader by fetching water bottles, providing protection, and even sacrificing their own chances of victory for the greater good of the team.

6. Drafting

Drafting is a strategic technique used by cyclists to reduce wind resistance and conserve energy. By closely following behind another rider, cyclists can take advantage of the slipstream created by the lead rider, which allows them to pedal more efficiently and maintain higher speeds.

7. King of the Mountains

The Tour de France is not just about speed and endurance—it's also about conquering the mountain terrain. The King of the Mountains jersey is awarded to the best climber in the race who excels at ascending steep inclines with determination and speed.

8. Lanterne Rouge

The Tour de France isn't just about winning; it's about the triumph of the human spirit. The Lanterne Rouge is awarded to the cyclist who finishes the race in last place. This seemingly dubious honor carries a spirit of perseverance and determination, celebrating the efforts of every cyclist who completes the grueling journey—even if they finish in last place.

9. Peloton

Imagine a swarm of bees buzzing together—the peloton is a similar sight in the world of cycling. It refers to the main group of riders cycling together in a pack during a race. The peloton not only provides a sense of camaraderie but also plays a strategic role, offering cyclists protection from wind resistance.

10. Time Trial

In a time trial, individual riders race against the clock, aiming to complete a set course in the fastest time possible. This intense event tests cyclists' stamina, speed, and ability to maintain a consistent pace. Time trials often play a crucial role in determining the overall winner of the Tour de France.

With this key vocabulary, you’re ready to grab your cycling gear or cheer for your favorite team (may we suggest rooting for EF Education-EasyPost)!

Broaden your vocabulary and perfect your English with EFExplore
Get the latest on travel, languages and culture in the GO newsletterSign up

Test your English in minutes

Learn more