Common Ironman bike terminology is something you will learn very quickly as you begin your triathlon journey.

Learning the basic Ironman bike terms is an important part of the Ironman biking experience. It seems that every sport has words that express actions or equipment unique only to them.

Learning how to road bike for the Ironman includes being familiar with some of the basic Ironman bike terminology.

Here are a few cycling terms that come to mind from my triathlon days and very soon you will become familiar with them as well as you start out on Ironman biking trail.


This is what you are doing when you have a nice, smooth circular motion of the pedals. It’s not a gear that is difficult for you to maintain, but rather one that is comfortable and ideal for long distances.

Actually, to my way of thinking, the “Spin” is a key word to remember when it comes to Ironman bike terminology once you are actually out on the Ironman bike leg on race day. It’s a word you should take to heart and pay attention to.


This is when you push HUGE gears and try and go as fast as you possibly can. Usually it’s very hard to maintain this for very long.

Basically this it the opposite of the “Spin” and not really recommended for an Ironman bike course.

Ironman bike terminology


You do this in order to avoid the bulk of the wind hitting you in the face. You lean forward and bring your head down close to the handle-bars.

This way the wind passes over top of you. Going into a “Tuck” is also very important on the downhill portions of an Ironman bike course.

After all that work it takes to climb uphill it’s in your favor to make the most of the free ride downhill. By developing a good tuck position you will generate more speed going down the hill.

This is just as important to the pro trying to win the race as it is to the age-group trying to make the bike cut-off.

The minutes you save by getting down the hill faster may make all the difference as far as reaching your goal or not.


No, not a pint after the ride. “Draft” has a far different meaning when it comes to Ironman bike terminology.

To avoid drafting, the rule of thumb is to stay three bike lengths behind a rider. If you ride too close behind a rider or ride beside another rider you will be in his slipstream.

On average, the rider in the lead uses up to 35% more energy than the rider behind and that’s why it’s illegal to draft in an Ironman.

If you are catching up to a slower rider than you can pass, but you must continue the passing move and not slow down behind or beside him. If that rider picks up speed, making it too hard for you to pass then you must fall back out of the drafting zone.

Either you pass or stay out of the draft zone. There is no in-between. I repeat “drafting is not allowed” and the draft cops on motorcycles will penalize you and in some cases, even disqualify repeat offenders.


This is when you make a quick move to break away from another rider or a pack of riders.

This is more likely a term that might be used in a bike race like the Tour d’France where pack riding and drafting is allowed and is not a biking term associated with ironman bike terminology.

Drafting is not allowed in Ironman Triathlons, but on occasion one rider might try a attack and create a gap between another rider who is trying to stay close. It would most likely be the pros who would use this strategy.


You won’t be seeing this happen in an Ironman.

It’s basically a strategy where a rider makes an attempt to get in the way of some other riders.

This is normally done as a team tactic. You might see this in the Olympics as it is legal in the Olympic Triathlon to draft and block.


This is a water carrying system that you carry on your back.

Ironman bike terminology

camel-back water carrier

You can carry lots of water but it seems to me like it sure adds a lot of unnecessary weight out on the bike course. This is especially true when there are usually aid stations though-out the bike course where you can pick up more water. If there is lots of water available to you it’s in your best interest to avoid carrying the weight of a camelback water system.

Also, if you want to be as aerodynamic as possible on the Ironman bike course, than I don’t feel these are a great idea and it’s best to stick with water bottles.

The camelback system seems like a great system for long training rides where you may not have access to water for much of the ride.


You will see these bars on triathlon bikes. When you want to go into a full aerodynamic position, these are great.

In the early Ironman days there was no such luxury and it was about 1985 when they began to appear in Ironman Hawaii.

If you are planning on using a standard road bike in an Ironman, aero bars are perhaps one of the best improvements you can make.


This is a brand name of pedals that your cycling shoes snap into, much like ski quick release bindings. Look pedals were one of the first clip-less pedals to come along in the mid 1980’s.

There are many brands of “snap-in” pedals, but LOOK was one of the first brands to appear on the Ironman scene in about 1986. There were a few earlier models, but they were pretty basic and few of the early Ironmen used them.

This type of pedal is perhaps the second best improvement you can make to a standard road bike. Adding aero-bars and snap-in pedals to a road bike will make a huge positive difference to your biking results.


Okay, so I saved this for piece of ironman bike terminology for last. I used to do a lot of this in the early days out on the Ironman bike training course.

Actually this word has lost favor in recent years as part of Ironman bike terminology because of it’s other meaning in the U.K. that somehow pertains to sex. Not sure how, but it just does.

So call it an “Energy Crash” or “Hitting the Wall” if you like. It all means the same thing. Basically you burn up your glycogen reserves and have no energy left in the tank.

It was bad enough that I would do it in training but than I would do the same thing out on the Ironman Triathlon bike course on race day. Usually when this happens it means you have not taken enough food or drink supplements with you and have run completely out of energy.

If you are going on a long Ironman bike training ride, you simply cannot take too much food and drink.(within reason)

For example, if you plan on going for a 150k Ironman bike training ride on a hot summer day with two water bottles, a banana, and a power gel you are in for a day from Hell.

I would highly recommend about 4 water bottles with at least two being a replacement drink(or access along the way to more water)two bananas, an energy bar, two whole wheat bagels with peanut butter and honey, and about 5 gels in case of emergency.

At least that’s what I would take. You most likely will have your own preferences, but be sure to have a complex carb(for me that was the whole wheat bagels)for longer lasting energy.

“Bonk” or “energy crash” or “hitting the wall” are terms in ironman biking terminology that you don’t want to be associated with if at all possible.

Now you know where they got the name for Bonk Breaker Energy Bars from.


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