The Language of Cycling

The effect of Britain’s forthcoming withdrawal from the EU upon cycling in Britain has not yet been widely discussed. But a secret British Cycling report obtained* by the writer suggests that the impact will be more severe than one might imagine. Entitled “Strong and Stable: Sovereignty of Language in Cycling”, the whitepaper recommends a vigorous overhaul of cycling’s lexicon as the move away from our European cousins is formalised.

Far Too Foreign

Some changes will be easy to accommodate and may be welcomed by the cycling community. For example, when it is considered necessary for our Great British cyclists to prove their superiority on the world stage, the events in which they compete will be referred to by their British names: Race Round France, Race Round Italy and so forth. Meanwhile, a mandatory prison sentence will be introduced for anyone continuing the absurd practice of referring to perfectly adequate Yorkshire hills as “cols”.

Other changes may prove more controversial. Elements of cycling jargon considered by the report to be “far too foreign” include “soigneur” and “directeur sportif”, henceforth to be known as Pit Bitch and Gaffer respectively.


Among the Big Dangerous Mess (formerly “peloton”) you will find Drink Slaves (formerly “domestiques”), Classics Nutters (formerly “rouleurs”) and Steve Cummings (formerly “puncheurs”). Far behind them on the Bloody Great Hill (formerly “hors categorie”) will continue to struggle the Pottering Sprinters (formerly “grupetto” or “autobus”)

Not even cycling’s darker side will remain unaffected. The phrase “bien preparee” will be replaced by the English “jacked up to the eyeballs”, although “buzzin’ off me tits” would also be considered an acceptable substitution; whilst the confusing “paniagua” will be replaced by “pie and mash”

U Watt M8?

Turning its attention to units of measurement, the report recommends that “kilometers”, “meters” and “celcius” should be replaced immediately by Miles, Yards and Farenheit. This will be a relief to users of Garmin devices, which frequently default back to these units of measurement (among others), despite all efforts to the contrary.

The watt will continue as the accepted unit of power measurement for the time being, despite being widely used by the continentals. However, the report suggests the development of a “good English unit” of power may be required, so that something invented by a Scot need not be given too much credit for too long.

In order to reflect the expected change in mentality following Brexit, it is suggested that certain supporter terms of encouragement may fall out of use entirely. No replacements are therefore mooted for “allezallezallez!” or “chapeau!”, but the report’s authors suggest that exclamations such as “You don’t pay road tax!” and “You should be single file!” may organically find their way into general use.


However, in a concession to the preservation of cycling culture and despite being invented by the Belgians, Cyclocross is to remain almost untouched. “Riding round a mudbath in the rain followed by chips and beer sounds exactly like the sort of thing we British should be doing,” the report notes, “although mayonnaise will be strictly forbidden. Red or brown sauce or go hungry.”

The report’s authors concede that these changes might lead to a certain hostility towards British cyclists when riding abroad. However, fans of the sport in France seemed unmoved by the memo. “They should worry less about changing our words and more about designing a parapluie du pipi for Froome,” said one, with a shrug. “Stick that in Google Translate.”

*replaces “imagined”

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