A Buffoon’s Guide to… Cycling

I thought I’d run a new feature, in which I step outside my comfort zone and look at pastimes other than running. Obviously, actually having a go at these things would be time-consuming and expensive, so instead I’ll just have a crack at describing them by using what’s already in my brain. How could that possibly go wrong? 


First up is cycling. Running and cycling have always been closely linked. We all wear garish technical gear and chase after personal bests, and we all swear when we get to a hilly bit. Many runners will at some point gravitate towards cycling, and cyclists will sometimes have a go at running, but usually only if someone has just nicked their bike. Anyway, let’s have a look at some common terms you’ll come across in the world of cycling…


This is part of a bike. I’m not sure which part exactly, but what I do know is that my cycling friends get very excited whenever one of them talks about getting a new one. Maybe “groupset” is just cyclist code for “puppy”. 

 Silly shoes 

 If you’re serious about cycling, you MUST get yourself some silly shoes.   The main reason I prefer running over cycling is that we don’t wear silly shoes.


I don’t really understand gears.

It’s all smoke and mirrors anyway. What the big companies don’t want you to know is that a bike only really needs three gears: “forward”, “reverse” and “a bit hilly”. The extra ones are purely for show, like with kidneys. 




This is the term used to describe a pack of cyclists. It’s very important that every cyclist in the pelican is riding in the same general direction. 


One of the main advantages of riding in a pelican (see above) is that the cyclists can take it in turns to tuck in behind one another in order to cut out a significant amount of wind resistance. Elite cyclists get so good at this that they can actually draft themselves.


Like running, cycling has its fair share of  acronyms. MAMIL, for example, stands for “Mountains And Mud: I Like!” which is a motto of many off-road cyclists. Actually, it might be “More And More Intricate Levers”. I genuinely have no idea about any of this.


Oh yes, lots. They love all that stuff.

Lance Armstrong 

I think he’s basically the Skeletor of the cycling world.

Bottom bracket



Short for “aerodynamic”, a very important trait in cycling. This is why you never see people winning the Tour de France with a lilo strapped across their handlebars. Some of my cycling friends have started using the term “aero” as a general term to describe something good. Example: “I was out grouse-hunting with Father last Tuesday, and I happened upon Miss Pottinger from the lawn tennis society. She was looking most delightfully aero, I must say”.

Things you’ll find on serious bikes:

Lots of carbon, cog things, confusing antler-like handlebars.

Things you’re unlikely to find on serious bikes:

Spokey dokeys, me.

I hope you found that enlightening. Let me know if there are any other pastimes you’d like me to shine my lamp of buffoonery on.


8 thoughts on “A Buffoon’s Guide to… Cycling

  1. MAMIL – My Arse May Invoke Legalities – the exact tightness of Lycra in the pant department whereby your bottom may take you to court for cruel and unusual punishment, or viewers of said derrière may do the same, oddly for exactly the same reason.

  2. I only cycle (once a week) because cross-training is supposed to be good for running, and I hate it a bit less than anything else that’s not running. My bike is literally the oldest thing I own (circa 1992). I refuse to wear the silly shoes!

    • One thing I actually learned while “researching” this post was the term BSO, which stands for “Bike Shaped Object”. I bought a BSO from halfords for around £90 seven years ago. It weighs approximately half a ton. I have ridden it twice.

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