The language of mountain biking or more precisely the “MTB slang” can be very confusing. But don’t be alarmed, that’s normal. Even veteran riders are sometimes baffled with what their mates are saying. Like some other sports, mountain biking has developed its own language over the years, and it’s always evolving.
Here, I won’t cover terms like bike parts or tricks name, but terms riders are using most often. Terms to describe their riding, the trails, and their feelings. Also, this is not an exhaustive dictionary, but more of an amalgam of the most common terms you will hear on the trails.
About Your Riding
The language of mountain biking includes a lot of specific terms to describe one’s riding style. Let’s drop in on those terms:
AIR – The space between both tires and the trail when you leap over obstacles or jump. You get or catch air.
BOMB – Riding a descent very fast without minding what might happen as a result.
BUNNY HOP – A technique to get over obstacles without stopping. You get both wheels off the ground, but not at the same time. A great skill to have to be able to clear technical features such as rocks, logs, and potholes without stopping.
CLEAN – To negotiate a trail or a tricky section successfully without putting your foot down (dabbing) or crashing.
CUTTY – To slide into a turn, bank, or berm, kicking up a good amount of dust and dirt as you catch your rear wheel on the berm.
DAB – To lift a foot off your pedal and touch the ground to keep your balance or prevent crashing. This will mostly happen in a berm.
DIALED – 1. Riding a section of trail super smoothly or extremely well. 2. When your mountain bike is set up so well that it feels perfect and allows you to ride to the top of your ability.
DROPPING IN – What a mountain biker yells to let other riders around know they’re starting their descent into a steep angled section.
FLAT CORNERING – When the rider navigates a corner that does not have a bank or berm at speed.
HUCK – To attempt a large jump or drop blindly and without any thought for the outcome.
MANUAL – Lifting the front wheel of your bike off the ground while in motion. This also implies staying in motion without pedaling.
NEUTRAL POSITION: The riding position for flat or non-technical trails. You keep your weight evenly over the pedals and bend your knees and elbows slightly. This position allows launching into attack position quickly.
OVER-COOK – To carry too much speed into a turn, technical feature, or obstacle.
PINNED – To ride a trail section superfast.
POACH – 1. To ride in a race without paying. 2. To ride a private trail without paying an entrance fee, or without the land manager knowing, or when otherwise restricted for use.
PUMP – 1. A device for inflating tires. 2. A riding technique permitting gaining speed through body movements and without pedaling.
RACING STRIPE – When mud flies up your back tire while riding a muddy section and leaves a trace on your back.
RAD – Short for “radical.” When something is very cool, it’s not just super cool or awesome, it’s rad.
RAIL – To ride a corner smoothly and quickly like if you were “on rails”.
ROOST – To ride a berm with speed and kick up a lot of dust and dirt with your back wheel. Accomplished by riding sideways into a berm or banked at high speed.
ROOSTER TAIL – When water flies off your back tire while riding a wet surface and leaves a trace on your back.
SCRUB – 1. Staying low and fast when jumping. 2. Making small corrections to your speed.
SEND IT – To ride a particularly difficult section of trail aggressively. To go for it. Same with SEND ‘ER.
SESSION – To ride over and over a technical trail feature or difficult section until you can ride it cleanly.
SHRED – 1. To ride a trail section very fast. 2. To ride a trail like a pro-rider. 3. To simply go ride and have fun.
SHRALP – To not just shred a trail but ride it at a whole other level.
STEEZY – To ride like it looks effortless and stylish.
STOPPIE – A front wheelie. To lift the back wheel off the ground.
TRACKSTAND – To maintain balance on your bike while standing up on the pedals and staying on the same spot.
WHEELIE – To lift the front wheel off the ground while pedaling.
WHIP – Jump trick consisting of pushing the bike sideways while in the air and getting the rear wheel back in line before the landing.
About the Least Fun Part of Your Riding
Unfortunately, there is a side to mountain biking that we would all prefer to never encounter. However, it still exists. Here’s the language of mountain biking for those days we want to forget.
BACON – Scabs on a rider’s body. Most likely on its knees or elbows.
BAIL – To purposely jump off your bike to avoid a serious crash.
BARK TATTOO – The abrasion left on your hand, arm, or leg by a tree when you brush against it at high speed.
BIFF – To wipeout. To crash.
BONK – To suddenly run out of energy and be unable to go on while in a ride.
DITCH – To bail. To jump off your bike to avoid serious injury.
ENDO – To crash and go over the handlebars. Same as OTB.
FACE PLANT – To hit the ground face first.
GASSED – To be exhausted. Completely out of energy.
GRAVITY CHECK – A crash.
INVOLUNTARY DISMOUNT – A crash.
OTB – Stands for “Over the bars”. To crash and flip over the handlebar.
OVERCOOK – To come into a turn or obstacle too fast. Which often leads to a crash.
SUPERMAN – When you crash and go flying over the handlebars for a distance Superman style.
TACO – When a wheel is bent in a crash and folds over like a taco shell.
WASH OUT – When your wheel or wheels completely lose traction and slide from under you. Most likely going to happen on a flat corner or a very loose section.
WIPEOUT – A particularly big or spectacular crash.
WONKY – When something on your bike feels wrong. Or when it’s not working right.
About the Terrain
Like the weather, the terrain you are riding is constantly changing. So, in the language of mountain biking there are specific words for it. I know they can seem strange at first, but they all make total sense.
To be able to understand each other when describing the trails, you absolutely need to know these terms. Or at least, these most common ones.
BABY HEADS – A round-shaped rock on the trail the size of a baby’s head. Can also be a section of trail with loose rocks the size of babies’ heads.
BANDIT TRAIL – An unsanctioned trail. A trail which has been created on a private property without the knowledge and consent of the property owner or land manager. Such trails can be discovered or built.
BERM – A common trail feature that consists of a small or large raised banked that can be ridden faster than a flat corner.
BOOTER – 1. A huge jump. 2. A structure built and designed to jump you up to a higher section of the trail.
CAMBER – The angle of a section of trail.
CHATTER – A trail section with tons of loose rocks.
CHUNDER – An extremely rocky, technical terrain. Particularly a rock-covered downhill.
CRUNCHY – A trail that is covered in lots of loose rocks making it more technical and treacherous.
DIRT JUMP – 1. The practice of riding over jumps made of dirt. 2. The dirt jump itself.
DOUBLE – A gap jump. Which is a jump with an empty space between the take-off and the landing.
DOUBLETRACK – Two trails running parallel to each other allowing riders to ride side-by-side. Most likely created by vehicles or fire roads.
DOWNSIDE – A downwards-facing slope after a jump designed for building speed.
DROP – A technical feature where the trail’s elevation abruptly changes, and where you cannot continue rolling down. The elevation change is steep enough to need to drop to the lower section.
ELEVATED TREAD SURFACE – A wooden boardwalk, bridge, or other kinds of same feature.
FACE SLAPPERS – Tree branches, bushes, and vines grown enough that they are unavoidable and slap you in the face as you ride.
FLOW – When the berms, rock gardens, downhill, and all obstacles on the trail fit together perfectly and you almost feel like floating and can ride super smoothly at high speeds.
GAP/GAP JUMP – A jump in which there is an empty space (gap) between the takeoff and the landing.
GNAR – 1. A very difficult technical feature. 2. A very rocky or rooty trail section.
GNARLY – A very challenging or dangerous or extreme section, that is yet super fun and thrilling.
GRINDER – A long climb.
GREENWAY – An easy and wide trail that has no technical section and little elevation.
GRUNT – An extremely hard climb. The easiest gear is required for this one.
HERO DIRT– The kind of soil that is the perfect consistency. It allows for perfect flow and excellent traction. Hero dirt happens when a trail reopens after a rainstorm. But has a very short lifespan.
HIP JUMP – Any jumps that require you to change direction/orientation midair. Any jumps that are not a straight-on jump.
JUMP – A technical feature where you get both wheels of the bike off the ground at the same time. There are small jumps, big jumps, long jumps. In short, there are a whole lot of different kinds of jumps.
KICKER – A steep jump that will give you a lot of air-time. A kicker can also be a jump that will send you towards a higher elevation of the trail.
KICKOUT – A riding technique where you kick the rear of the bike towards the side as you ride a switchback or turn.
LADDER BRIDGE – A technical feature made of wood to get over streams or a section like it, and that changes in elevation.
LINE – The path through a trail section. Can refer to both a good and a bad line.
LIP – The edge of a takeoff or a landing.
LOAM – Soft, moist, and almost powdery dirt. Loamy soil offers the perfect balance between traction and flow.
LOG RIDE – A trail feature where you ride on top of a log. It can either be a fallen log with a flattened top, or a man-made one that has been leveled for grip.
LOG ROLL/LOG PILE – A stack of logs that has been arranged in such a way so you can roll over them and keep the wheels in contact with the trail.
LOOP – A unidirectional trail that starts and ends at the same place.
LOOSE – 1. Riding on the edge of control. 2. Trail conditions where there is lots of loose gravel or rocks on top of a hard-packed soil.
NORTHSHORE – Trail features of raised wooden boardwalks (skinnies). They are named for the North Shore area of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where they were made popular.
PUMP TRACK – An off-road loop track made of banked turns and roller coaster type features. They are made to be ridden by pumping and not pedaling.
ROCK GARDEN – A technical section of trail that is covered with rocks.
ROCK ROLL – A technical feature consisting of a huge boulder or rock face that you can roll over smoothly with both wheels staying on the surface.
ROLLER COASTER – A section of trail consisting of a series of short ups and downs made of dirt or boardwalk. Pump tracks are an example of a roller coaster.
SINGLETRACK – The most common type of mountain bike trail. It’s a narrow trail designed to be ridden in single file.
SKETCHY – 1. A section of trail that has become more difficult due to atypical conditions. 2. A feature that has become unstable or looks shaky or unsafe.
SKINNY – A man-made wooden feature that is extremely narrow. They can also be elevated or not. But they are made for testing your balance and bike handling skills.
STEP-DOWN – A technical feature where you jump down to a lower elevation from a higher section of the trail.
STEP-UP – A technical feature where you jump from a lower elevation to a higher section of the trail.
SWITCHBACK – S-shaped turns on a hill that is too steep to be climbed straight up.
TABLE/TABLETOP – A jump with a flat section between the takeoff and the landing.
TEETER-TOTTER – A technical man-made wooden feature consisting of a plank balanced on a central pivot where you ride up one side and your weight makes it tip back down on the other side.
TTF – Abbreviation for “Technical Trail Feature”. Any feature, natural or man-made, on a trail that requires more skill or offers a challenge. For example, drops, rock gardens, big berms, and jumps.
WALLRIDE – A technical man-made wooden feature built like a kind of very steep almost perpendicular berm that is difficult and needs to be ridden at high-speed.
About the Riders
We’ve talked about the riding and the terrain, but what about yourself? Yes, indeed there are specific words in the language of mountain biking to describe riders. Because, of course, there are different types of riders.
BETTY – Any female rider.
CYCOLOGIST – A bike mechanic, a specialist or someone who knows pretty much everything about repairing, maintaining, or setting up bikes.
CYCLOPATH – A person riding in extremes or riding in an aggressive manner. A person who enjoys cycling-induced pain and suffering.
DUDE – An endearment term granted to close riding buddies.
GROM – A young mountain biker under the age of sixteen.
TRAIL DOG – A dog you bring to the trail to run with you as you ride. Indeed, a well-trained trail dog knows how to stay out of others’ way. It can also help scare off wild animals that could potentially cause you harm.
About Your Attitude Towards Riding
When you talk about people, you have no choice than to also talk about their attitude. Of course, it might surprise you if I say that not everyone feels the same towards riding. But that’s the truth. So, here are a few basic slang words from the language of mountain biking you ought to know.
BAGGER – A person who always agrees to go riding but fails to show up.
BIKEOHOLIC – A person addicted to mountain biking or cycling. Likewise, a person who’s always talking, thinking, or riding their mountain bike.
DEPRESSION – The feeling you get when all the trails in your area are closed, and you can’t ride.
DOPE – Very good or awesome.
JRA – Short for “Just Riding Around”.
N + 1 – “How many bikes do you need?” N + 1 is the only answer. Which translates into “n” being the number of bikes you currently own, and your endless need for one more. And this regardless of if you already have 6, 10 or 15 bikes.
SICK – Another word for “very good”.
STOKED – Excited. Feeling of euphoria.
ZONE – When your riding is good and smooth, and you’re having a great day on the trails. When everything feels perfect; you’re in the zone.
Now, with your new dope chat, you should be stoked to drop in and shred the gnar steezy. See you on the trails!
Let me know which other terms you often hear or use and should be included in this language of mountain biking glossary.
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