A to Z Guide to Mountain Bike Slang & Terminology

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Learn the ins and outs of mountain bike slang & mountain bike terms so you can sound cool like your mtb loving friends.
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If you’re just starting out (or even if you’ve been mountain biking for a while), you know that mountain bikers tend to talk in mountain bike slang. What the heck does sandbagging mean and why are people saying send it!? Just like most other sports, there are dozens of mountain bike terms thrown around on and off the trail and it can be confusing to know what they all mean.

So to help you demystify what your trail buddies are saying, below is a complete glossary of mountain bike terms and slang to help you keep up with your friends. At least verbally.

Get in the know with this complete glossary of mountain bike slang used


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1X

Pronounced “one by”, this refers to having only one chainring at the front of the drivetrain as opposed to two or three. Most new mountain bikes (although not all) will come as a 1X since it makes shifting smoother and easier.

Santa Cruz Bronson mountain bike
There is only one chainring on the front of this bike’s drivetrain, making it a 1x (one-by)

27.5”

Refers to a bike with 27.5-inch wheels.

29er

Refers to a bike with 29-inch wheels.


A

Armor

1. Protective gear worn by mountain bikers such as neck braces, torso armor, knee and elbow guards, or spine protectors.

2. A section of trail, particularly the banks of washes or areas prone to erosion, that are covered by a layer of rocks. These sections are commonly referred to as ‘armored’.

Attack Position

This refers to the body position of a rider as they are going down a steep or technical trail. Attack position – also known as ‘ready position’ usually involves being up and out of the seat, dropper post all the way down, chest lowered to the handlebars, elbows out wide, and eyes looking ahead.

Female mountain biker descending technical and rocky section of trail.
In attack – or ready – position as I’m descending down a technical section of trail

B

B Line

The alternative to the main, obvious route down a trail. The B Line is usually the easier option that avoids a bigger feature like a drop or technical rock garden. See also line

Baby Heads

Round rocks in the middle of a trail that look like, well… the size of baby heads…

Bail

When a mountain biker ditches their bike to avoid a more serious crash.

“He bailed when he saw that it was a gap jump and not a drop.”

Berm

A banked corner formed out of dirt and/or rocks. Bermed turns can be ridden much faster and smoother than a flat corner because there’s less concern of washing out. Most flow trails are constructed of linked bermed turns.

Learn the ins and outs of mountain bike slang & mountain bike terms so you can sound cool like your mtb loving friends.
A nice, big berm at Angel Fire Bike Park

Boardwalk

A boardwalk is a manmade (usually wooden) bridge that spans a depression in the ground or elevates the trail over marshy areas. Boardwalks can be wide or they can be narrow. See also skinny.

Bomb

To go as fast as you can down a trail.

“You bombed down that! I bet you got a PR.”

Bonk

To run out of energy on the trail.

“I bonked massively today. I couldn’t even pedal up the last small climb.”

Booter

A small little jump either in the middle of the trail or off to the side. Booters tend to form from natural objects that are already on the trail like roots, tree stumps, and rocks. See also kicker.

Breakaway

A style of helmet that has a removable chin guard. They can be used as a typical ‘half lid’ helmet or as a ‘full-face’ DH helmet depending on the terrain. Simply snap on or remove the chin guard based on what you plan to ride. See also lid, half-lid, and full-face.

Brown Pow

Also known as ‘hero dirt’, brown pow refers to optimal riding conditions like grippy loam and slightly damp soil. See also hero dirt.

Bunny Hop

A mountain bike skill that involves first lifting the front wheel off the ground and then the back wheel while the front wheel is still in the air. It’s used to hop over trail features and it definitely makes you look cool.


C

Case

When a rider doesn’t clear a jump completely and their back tire clips the top of the landing. This can be no-big-deal or it can pitch the rider over the handlebars.

“He just totally cased that jump. Glad he was able to ride it out!”

Chain slap

The noise and feel of the bike chain hitting the chainstay.

Chain Suck

When the chain either falls off the big ring into the spokes or falls off the small ring between the frame and crank.

Chatter

Used to describe rocky, loose trail conditions. Often refers to the sound the bike makes going down rough sections of trail. See also chunder.

“That section of trail was loose and chattery.”

Chunder

A term used to describe rocky and loose trail conditions, typically at a higher level than chatter. If a trail is chundery, it has a lot of rocks and loose debris.

Chunky

When a trail has a lot of embedded rock (as opposed to chundery, which refers to more loose rocks).

Chute

A steep and narrow descending trail feature.

Clean

To ride through a tough section of trail without crashing, stopping, or taking the feet off the pedals.

“She just cleaned the hardest part of this trail!”


D

Dab

When you put a foot down, but don’t actually stop the bike when you’re either riding up or down a technical section. It usually happens when you lose balance, but not so much so that it halts your effort.

Danger Noodle

A snake.

DH

Short for downhill. DH trails tend to be highly technical and require advanced skills. This style of riding is the most extreme and high stakes.

Dialed

Dialed is similar to using the word ‘impressive’ in a mountain biker’s vocabulary. A ‘dialed bike’ could have custom components and an awesome paint job. A ‘dialed jump’ could be built so well that it’s easy and effortless. A ‘dialed rider’ could be someone who nails every turn and corner without making one mistake.

Doubletrack

Refers to a wide trail that may have once been an old road (or still is). Typically they’re used to connect other mountain bike trails. See also singletrack.

Downslope

The landing surface of a jump, tabletop, or drop. This is usually slanted downwards to prevent the rider from landing on flat ground (which does not feel good).

Drop

A trail feature that has a flat entrance that then drops away abruptly. Drops can be several inches or several feet and they can be manmade (ex wooden ramps) or they can be natural (ex a rock drop). See also feature.

Becky riding off bike wooden drop on mountain bike

E

Endo

When a mountain biker crashes and goes over the bars. See also OTB.

Enduro

A style of riding that includes a mix of both cross-country trails and DH (downhill) descents. Enduro racing involves multi-stage – and sometimes multi-day – segments with untimed climbs and timed descents.


F

Feature

A notable obstacle on the trail such as a jump, drop, rock roll, tabletop, rock garden, etc… Features vary widely in technicality from easy rock rollers to steep rock faces.

Flatted

When a tire loses air due to a puncture.

“I flatted… thankfully I have a spare tube!”

Flow

When corners and other downhill features fit together so well that there is little need to pedal or work to keep the momentum going. It often feels like both rider and bike are floating down the trail. New-school style of trails are often called flow trails. See also new-school.

Full Face

A style of mountain bike helmet that has a chin guard for full-face protection. These are typically worn at lift-served bike parks and on rowdy DH trails. See also lid, half-lid, and breakaway

Full-squish

Refers to a full-suspension mountain bike that has both a front fork and a rear shock. See also fully rigid and hardtail.

Fully Rigid

A fully rigid bike has no suspension at all. Some people think this is fun. See also full-squish and hardtail.


G

Gap/Gap Jump

A type of jump that has no central surface. There is a lip to take off from and a downslope to land on, but in the middle, there is a gap. As opposed to a tabletop, which has a flat central surface between the takeoff and landing. See also lip, downslope, and tabletop.

Gnarly

The most widely used mountain bike slang to describe something that is difficult, dangerous, terrifying, or exceptionally exhilarating.

“That drop was gnarly! I literally almost died. Let’s do it again.”

Greasy

When mountain bike trails are wet, slippery, and muddy.

Grom

A young mountain biker who is gung-ho about ripping down trails.


H

Half Lid

A bike helmet that isn’t a full-face. In other words, a ‘typical’ bike helmet. See also lid, full-face, and breakaway

Hardtail

A bike that only has front fork suspension. Hardtails do not have a rear shock, making them harsher, but faster, to ride.

Hero Dirt

Another term for brown pow. Hero dirt refers to optimal riding conditions where the soil or loam is grippy and fast. Hero dirt often comes a day or two after a rain. See also brown pow.

Hip Jump

A form of jump that requires the rider to change direction or orientation of the bike in mid-air.

Huck

When a rider propels themselves off a jump or drop. It usually refers to something big and consequential.

“I can’t believe he just hucked himself off of that drop and landed it!”


I

Italian Pit Stop

When the fastest members on a group ride take a break on the trail and then immediately leave when the slowest rider rolls ups.


K

Kicker

A small or large jump with a steep take-off. Kickers usually involve hang-time in the air. See also booter.

Kit

More widely used in the road bike community, kits are the outfits that bikers wear. Racers usually have custom-made kits that announce their sponsors and last name.

Klunker

An old and outdated mountain bike. Watch a great video about klunkers – and the crazies who rode them – here.

KOM

Stands for “King of the Mountain”. This is a Strava term for the fastest male rider on a specific Strava segment. See also QOM.


L

Ladder Bridge

A manmade trail feature like a bridge or boardwalk that gains or loses elevation. See also boardwalk.

“That ladder bridge up onto that rock is so sketchy.”

Lid

Slang for a helmet. See also half-lid, full-face, and breakaway.

Lift-served

Trails at a bike park that are accessed via a gondola or chairlift.

View from chairlift at Angel Fire Bike Park in New Mexico

Line

The path a rider takes through a technical section of trail. Sometimes lines are obvious and other times there are several different lines through an obstacle. For larger features and obstacles, there’s usually an “A line” that goes through or over the feature and a “B line” that goes around. See also B Line

Lip

The edge of a jump’s takeoff or landing.

Loam

A form of grippy dirt that is often found in forested areas like the Pacific Northwest and parts of the UK. Unlike brown pow or hero dirt, which appear after rain, loam is the normal riding condition. #jealous


M

Machine-built

Trails that were built with a machine. These tend to be smooth, flowy, and fast and might include bermed turns, rollers, and small kickers. See also new-school.

Manual

A riding skill similar to a wheelie, but instead of pedaling the bike forward, the rider maintains balance on the back wheel while riding downhill. Skilled riders can also manual or over trail features like roots and dirt rollers, which helps maintain speed and also looks super cool.

Mechanical

A ‘breakdown’ on the trail which usually refers to a flat tire, but could also include a broken chain, twisted bars, or a dropped chain. Usually a mechanical can be fixed trailside.

Mullet

A bike that runs a 29-inch wheel in the front and a 27.5-inch wheel in the rear.

Find the best tips on how to buy a mountain bike including what questions to ask yourself, how to choose a wheel size, where to shop, & more!
My beautiful Santa Cruz Bronson ‘mullet’

N

New-school

A style of trail building and riding that usually includes machine-built tracks and bike park-style features like wall rides, dirt jumps, boardwalks, and berms.


O

Off-camber

Refers to the slant of a trail or feature. Many slickrock trails have off-camber sections that drop away to one side.

Old-school

A style of trail and riding that encompasses more raw and rough terrain. Features tend to be natural like rock drops and rock rolls. As opposed to new-school riding which tends to include machine-built flow trails and bike park features. See also new-school.

Over-cook

To overshoot a jump so much so that you miss the downslope on the landing.

OTB

Mountain bike slang for ‘Over The Bars”. When a mountain biker crashes and goes over the handlebars. See also endo.


P

Pedal strike

When a pedal hits the ground or a rock/obstacle while riding. This could be no-big-deal or it could cause you to go flying 10 feet into the bushes.

Pinch flat

A flat that occurs when a bike’s tire gets so compressed that the inner tube gets ‘pinched’ between the wheel rim and the tire and the tube is punctured. It’s also sometimes called a snakebite because the puncture is actually two small holes that look like a snakebite. You can’t get a pinch flat with tubeless tires because there are no inner tubes.

Pinned

Typically refers to a group of riders that are moving at speed along (usually down) a trail and keeping a tight formation.

“We were pinned coming down that! If any one of us had crashed it would have been bad news.”

Poach

Mountain bike slang for when a mountain biker illegally rides a trail that is either closed for maintenance or not open to bikers at all (ie a hiking trail). It can also refer to riding a private network without paying the entrance fee. Please don’t poach trails.

PR

Short for Personal Record. This is a Strava term for your fastest time on a specific Strava segment.


Q

QOM

Stands for “Queen of the Mountain”. This is a Strava term for the fastest female rider on a specific Strava segment. See also KOM.


R

Rail

To ride into a berm with such force and speed that you actually gain speed coming out of it. Almost like the rider is on rails.

Ratchet

A riding skill where you use half-strokes on the pedal to maneuver your way through an obstacle. This is often used when full pedal strokes aren’t possible due to risk of pedal strikes.

Rock Garden

A trail feature that includes lots of embedded rocks.

Rock Roll

A rock that you can roll on top of and then off of.

Blurry photo of mountain biker riding up rock and rolling down the other side

Roost

To kick up dirt and sand from the back tire after whipping around a loose turn. The term ‘roost’ is derived from rooster tail.

Rowdy

A term to describe rough and technical riding.

“That trail was rowdy! I almost endo-ed on the last rock roll”


S

Sag

The amount of dip a front fork and rear shock depress when a rider is sitting casually on a bike.

Sandbagging

1. Saying something is easier than it actually is.

2. Racing in a category below your level so that you have a better chance of winning.

Scrub

When a rider purposefully stays low over a jump. Typically racers scrub jumps to save time. Scrub can also refer to slowing down before turns to make them smoother and faster.

Send it!

When a mountain biker aggressively rides a trail feature such as a jump or drop.

“She sent that drop like it was no big deal!”

Session

To stop and work on riding through a section of trail or intimidating feature.

“We got back late because we sessioned a few of the harder features.”

Shred

The acceptable term for riding mountain bike singletrack. It usually refers to fast descents.

Shuttleable

Trails that can be accessed via vehicle.

“Can we shuttle to the top today? I’m feeling tired.”

Sidehill

A section of trail that is cut into the side of a hill. One side of the trail is typically a steep drop off while the other side typically is a steep mountainside or hillside.

Singletrack

What most mountain bike trails are: narrow and require riders to ride in single file.

Single-speed

A bike that only has one gear. Some people think it’s fun.

Sketchy

A trail feature or section of trail that makes you think twice.

“That line is so sketchy! I don’t know how you managed to ride it without going over the bars.”

Skinny

A skinny piece of wood or log along the trail that you can ride on.

Slickrock

A style of trail that is found mostly in the western United States like Moab or Sedona. Riding on slickrock basically means riding on large swaths of uninterrupted rock.

Mountain biker riding on red slickrock in Moab Utah
Moab is known for its red slickrock riding

Steezy

Mountain bike slang for when a rider makes a feature look stylish and easy. Steeezy.

Step-down

A trail feature where a rider jumps down to a lower section of trail from a higher elevation. Kind of like a drop…

Step-up

A trail feature where a rider jumps up to a higher section of trail from a lower elevation. This could also include jumping up from a dirt jump to a wooden feature, which is common at bike parks.

Stoked

The feeling you get when bombing down an awesome trail!

Strava

A phone app that records ride data such as mileage, GPS, elevation gain/loss, speed compared to other riders, and more.

Stravasshole

Someone who rides with only one thing in mind: getting a Strava PR. This usually involves asshole-type behavior on the trail.

Switchback

A hairpin turn on a trail that makes climbing and descending more moderate. Switchbacks zig-zag riders up and down steep sections of trail.

Mountain biker turning around switchback on forested trail
Switchbacks can make climbing easier and descents flowier

T

Tabletop

A jump with a take-off and a downslope landing with a flat surface in the middle. There’s much less risk on a tabletop than a gap jump because if you land short you’ll still land on solid ground. See also gap jump.

Taco

Mountain bike slang for when the wheel folds in on itself to form a taco shape. This usually happens after casing a jump or hitting an obstacle straight on.

Teeter-totter

A manmade feature that looks and performs like the teeter-totter’s of your youth. After reaching the apex, the weight of you and your bike will cause the teeter-totter to fall back down to the ground.

Trackstand

A bike skill that involves standing still on your bike without pedaling. It’s a great skill to learn for tackling slow-speed tech.

Travel

The amount of change the front fork and rear shock experience after riding a trail or feature. A lot of travel means you used most of the suspension on your shocks while less travel means you didn’t go through much travel. Travel also refers to how much suspension a bike fork or shock has (ex 150mm in the fork and 140mm in the rear).

TTF

Technical Trail Features. See also rock garden, rock roll, or chute

Tubeless

A tire setup that doesn’t involve inner tubes. Instead, sealant is injected into the tires. When a tire is punctured, the sealant ‘seals up’ the hole and congeals to form a plug.


W

Wall Ride

A manmade, slanted wooden ramp feature with one side close to or touching the ground and the other side elevated in the air. Wall rides ride like giant berms.

Mountain biker exiting wall ride at bike park

Wash out

When the bike tires wash out from under you due to wet or slippery conditions. This usually occurs around a corner or when landing a jump.

Wheelie

When a rider picks up his front tire and pedals the bike while balancing on the rear wheel. See also manual.

Whip

A mountain bike skill where riders ‘whip’ their back tire to the side when in the air over a jump.

Wonky

Mountain bike slang for when something doesn’t feel or work right on your bike.

“Something’s wonky with my shifting. I can’t get it to go into the lowest gear.”


X

XC

Short for cross-country. This style of riding involves a variety of terrain including big climbs and minimally technical descents. It is the least extreme form of mountain biking and also the most popular.


Y

Yard Sale

Mountain bike slang for when a rider completely wipes out on the trails and all his or her belongings like water bottles and sunglasses go flying.


What mountain bike slang or mountain bike terms did I miss? Which ones do you use the most? Leave a comment below!

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Learn the ins and outs of mountain bike slang & mountain bike terms so you can sound cool like your mtb loving friends.

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