5 Mountain Biking Terms Explained

[Charlie] So a couple of weeks ago we posted a blog about our mountain biking trip to Fruita, Colorado and Moab, Utah. Throughout the description of our trip Malorie and I both used words that have quietly snuck into our vocabulary and some of these words confused people. My task today is to pick out some of those mountain biking terms and break them down for those of you that don’t understand what shredding the gnar means (I’m kidding).

  1. The first word I think of is Chunky. Chunky is used to describe rocks. Not little pebbly rocks, but we’ll start with rocks the size of a baby’s head and up. Chunky isn’t used to describe a smooth and fast trail typically. Chunky can be used for a lot things in the English language and my favorite variant of the word is CHONKY, like, “look at that fat little dog’s rolls, he sure is CHONKY!” Mountain biking just uses it for rocky rides. I hope that clears things up.


  2. If you’re not familiar with the skiing difficulty rating system (which is also used for mountain biking) then hearing something along the lines of, “can you ride blacks?” might catch you off guard. That might sound like some sort of sexual innuendo or it might not sound like anything at all to you, I guess that just depends on your personality. For those of you that don’t know there are typically 3 to 4 basic ratings for a trail. There are variants of these trails where two colors are combined or used twice. The easiest trail on the ranking is a green. These are wide open bike paths that don’t have any kind of challenging terrain. These are beginner trails. The next is a blue trail. Blues naturally are a step up from green in difficulty. There may be some challenging spots, but these are mostly easy. Think of blues as an intermediate level. The next step up is a black diamond.  These are typically much more challenging and the jump from blue to black can be more daunting than green to blue. Blacks are challenging trails that might have jumps, really rocky sections or steep spots. When you’re an experienced rider, the challenge is extremely fun but these trails are NOT for beginners. The last step is the double black diamond. Think of a challenging trail on steroids. These have mandatory jumps, extremely steep parts, roots, rocks, robbers, guns, rabid dogs, really anything that terrifies you, its on the double black. Trail builders that build these have access to people’s nightmares and they use those as inspiration for these bad boys. Only masochists enjoy these. 
  3. One of my favorite words we use in mountain biking, at least on the Front Range of Colorado, is kitty litter. Some rocks are really fragile and erode easily as is the case on the East side of the Rockies. This constant state of erosion produces ball-bearing like gravel that sits on top of the majority of single-track (trails) where we typically ride. The locals have coined the phrase kitty litter for this gravel. I always imagine a cat poopin’ on the side of the trail and kicking all of this gravel onto my beloved trail and the mental image always makes me giggle.giphy.gif
  4. [Malorie]When we started riding together I would always try to remember my butt pants. What the fuck are butt pants? Well, they are actually called chamois, pronounced “shammy.” These are short liners that cyclists wear in order to cushion their booties and other *sensitive* parts. Anyone who cycles, whether road or mountain, wears these shorts either under their shorts or sewn into Lycra. Personally, we have found that Novara and Pearl Izumi make excellent shammy’s that stay in place for long rides. I’m not sure why I call them butt pants, but that is what we call them now!
  5. Another term used in the mountain biking industry refers to the pedals on a bike. Depending on preference, riders can choose to ride with flat pedals or clip-less pedals. Flat pedals are self explanatory. They are simply a flat foot plate with tiny spikes to help grip your shoes. Clip-less can be confusing to new riders because it is actually a pedal that requires the rider to clip into the pedal. There are some advantages to both. Flats allow the rider to quickly place their foot on the ground or bail if there is a crash. Disadvantages to flats is the pedal stroke efficiency; not to mention the gouging lacerations that can happen if the pedal strikes your leg. flat pedals
  6. Advantages to clip-less pedals is the connection with the bike. The pedal efficiency is better because the rider is able to pull up on the crank as well as push down. This gives the stroke more power and makes it twice as efficient. One disadvantage to clip-less is the fact that the rider is clipped into the bike. In order to get out of the clips the rider needs to have muscle memory to quickly twist their foot out of the pedal. This is a personal choice that each rider has to make. Malorie and I ride clip-less on our road bikes and flats on our mountain bikes.clipless[Charlie] So that’s a few of our favorite and most commonly used mountain biking terms. There are far more out there but those tend to be our most frequently used. If you have anymore questions, feel free to ask and we’ll do our best to explain what the fuck everyone is talking about. Hopefully next time you’re out cruising with your comfy butt pants on and your sweet flat pedals digging into the bottom of your shoes, your feet stay on the pedals for that black trail and the chunky trail with kitty litter doesn’t ruin your day.

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