On your bike… and other cycling phrases to put you in a spin

Cyclists in a cycle raceInspired by the OVO Energy Tour of Britain 2018 cycle race, which whizzed through leafy Warwickshire this week, I thought I’d check to see how many cycling phrases, idioms or other expressions I could find.

Quite a few, as it turns out. Admittedly one or two are somewhat tenuous, because they could apply to other sports or activities… not just cycling. But I’ve included them anyway.

So, on your marks, get set, go!

Cycling-related phrases

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link = the ‘weakest link’ referred to in the proverb is figurative and usually applies to a person or technical feature

Along for the ride / For the ride = joining in with something for pleasure or interest, rather than because of any serious involvement

A rough (or easy) ride = a difficult (or easy) time doing something

At a push = if necessary; in an emergency

Bums on seats = the paying audience at a venue with seating, e.g. a theatre or cinema

By the seat of one’s pants = by instinct rather than logic or knowledge

Change gear = begin to move or act differently, usually more rapidly

Come a cropper = fall heavily; suffer a defeat or disaster

Get off one’s bike = become annoyed (Australian/New Zealand slang)

Give someone the push = dismiss someone from a job; reject someone in a relationship

Grease the wheels = make things run smoothly

Hot on the heels of = in close pursuit of someone/something; immediately after some event

In the saddle = in office or control

Lead from the front = take an active role in what one is encouraging others to do

Let something ride = take no immediate action over something

On your bike / Get on your bike = Go away!; take action

Ride for a fall = act in a reckless or arrogant way that invites defeat or failure

Ride on someone’s coat-tails = undeservedly benefit from another’s success by associating oneself closely with them

Spin one’s wheels = waste one’s time or efforts

Squeaky bum time = the tense, final stages of a competition

Take someone for a ride = deceive or cheat someone

The wheel has come full circle = we’re back to the point of departure

To wheel and deal = engage in political or commercial scheming

Toe the line = conform to an established standard or political programme


And I couldn’t write a post about cycling phrases without including the infamous proverb: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

In short, this feminist slogan humorously expresses the view that a woman can live her life perfectly well without a man. You can read the full story about its origins here.

Over to you

Can you think of any cycling phrases that I’ve missed? Or do you have a favourite among the ones I’ve included?

My fave out of these has to be squeaky bum time, as that was a new one on me and appeals to my infantile sense of humour!

(Image courtesy of Phil_Bird via Freedigitalphotos.net)

Posted in Idioms, Language Tagged with: , , , ,
2 comments on “On your bike… and other cycling phrases to put you in a spin
  1. Grace says:

    Gearing up (for) – getting ready for

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