Much cycling jargon can seem mystifying if not downright baffling. What is 'through and off'? What's a 'sportif' anyway? On this page, we try and explain some of the more common terms.
For explanations of what the various parts of a bike are (e.g. "top-tube", "quill stem") we can't do better than Sheldon Brown's glossary of words. Here we'll try and explain both the more general things and UK specific words:
Audax. An audax is a non-competitive event, usually with an emphasis on longer distances (starting at 100km and going up to 600km events and more). Riders are not timed, but there is a minimum speed that must be achieved. To stop riders racing, a maximum speed is set as well. These are generally sociable events, with cafe stops a good chance to talk to other riders.
British Cycling (BC): cyclesport's biggest governing body (our equivalent to the FA if you like). They are the umbrella organisation for most domestic road racing (but see also LVRC and TLI) and are responsible for the development of elite level riders as part of the Great Britain team. BC set the rules under which their road races are run and arrange insurance. They can provide individual insurance for their members and legal back-up. In order to compete in BC races it is necessary to be an individual member and hold a current racing licence (day licences are usually possible but expensive in the long run).
Club Event: an event restricted to riders of a particular club
Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC): has been around even longer than the Clifton and support their members with insurance, legal cover, touring/travel/technical advice and are the most visible organisation when it comes to campaigning for cyclists' rights both on and off-road
Cycling Time Trials (CTT): govern the time trialling side of the sport and were formally known as the Road Time Trials Council (RTTC). In order to compete or organise a CTT event you have to be a member of a CTT affiliated club for insurance reasons but you do not have to be an individual member of the CTT. Clifton CC are of course affiliated to the CTT.
First Claim Member: Cyclists are allowed to be a member of more than one club, but can be a first claim member of just one. The rider can usually only race in the colours of the first claim club and that club's name should be used in results. Other memberships are second claim. Riders can have various reasons to take out second claim memberships. Sometimes it's to stay in contact when the move away or it may be gain access to the club events of another club.
Half-wheeling is the phrase given to riding half a wheel in front of your mate on the front in an attempt to encourage them to ride quicker and quicker. This is bad form, but usually a sub-conscious act.
Open Event: an event open to all riders with the appropriate affiliation either individually or through their club.
Sportif. A sportif is superficially like an audax in that it is a mass start event over a fixed route, but is not a race as such. Unlike an audax however, all riders receive a time, stops are short and speeds (at the front at least) can be very high. Many riders find these events a good addition or alternative to road racing, and they can be both very challenging and very enjoyable. In the UK, the most well known event is probably the Etape du Tour, which each year follows a stage of the Tour De France.
The League International (TLI): an alternative governing body for cyclesport. Most competition is through age groups and/or handicapping of one type or another and events are lower key than those organised through BC.
Through and Off. A technique where riders work together to go faster than any one rider could individually. By taking turns at the front in a rotating line, no rider has to work in the wind at the front for more than a few seconds and so high speeds can be achieved.
Vet (or Veteran). Rider of 40 years old or over. League of Veteran Racing Cyclists (LVRC) road race events are only open to vets, and many other types of events (including TT's and sportifs) usually have categories for older age groups - for example V40, V50 etc in time trials.