Category Archives: Cycling humour

(Scottish) Cycling vernacular: testers

In a previous post I referred to Scottish rouleurs getting a chance to test themselves in an early season time trial, and someone queried my terminology, suggesting the correct phrase for this type of riding should be testers. As we head towards March, time triallists will be looking to the first classified 10 of the year, the Corrieri’s Classic.

A tester is the British slang for a pure time triallist, and wikipedia lists this as “slightly derogatory” – a time-trialist who tends to over-specialize in the discipline. What do you think of this? I’ve heard time trialling devotees refer to themselves as testers as well as roadmen use the word in a slightly disparaging way.


On the continent, a rouleur (or passista if you’re Italian) is a general term for a rider capable of fast riding on the flat. This phrase does seem to encompass a workhorse cyclist who can drill it on the front, chase down breaks and crank up the pace ahead of a lead-out, but as the Euros don’t have as much of a tradition of time trialling as we do, they don’t seem to have specialist terms for against-the-clock specialists. Before the RTL-l’Équipe podcast was cancelled, I remember the (French) panellists bemoaning the lack of French time trial specialists and referring to them as ‘rouleurs’.

The Bunch

Much of our cycling slang comes from continental terms and a few French slang phrases exist for types of rider that we don’t seem to have names for, such as the puncheur – a punchy rider? – and the barroudeur – a swashbuckling all-rounder who loves the solo break.

Voeckler, the people's champion!

Also worth a look is a glossary of European cycling terms on one of my favourite sites, The Inner Ring.

Scottish Cycling Foods IV: Marzipan

“We have evolved to eat food” said Graham Obree at a recent talk at Look Mum No Hands cycling café in the East End of London. He was speaking to Jack Thurston of The Bike Show to promote his new training manual, The Obree Way.

Energy drinks can be indigestible– you’re bypassing the first stage of digestion which takes place in the mouth, and with energy bars you end up breathing in crumbs.

So his ingeniously low-fi solution for energy food is a lump of marzipan in the cheek, hamster-style, that can dissolve and be munched on gradually as you ride. “How can you not like marzipan?” he asks, rhetorically, at the talk.

Marzipan is yummy!...

It is well worth a listen, click through to the Bike Show website and scroll to the bottom for the audio. It’s also availble on iTunes as a podcast download.

Scottish cycling foods III: Tunnocks
Scottish Cycling foods II: Irn Bru
Scottish Cycling foods I: Oatcakes
Euro Foods

Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist: Bottles

29. Water bottles shall preferably be freebies from sportive rides or found at the side of the road when watching pro races. Under no circumstances should they be discarded until completely spent, even when not matching bike or clothing colours.

The aspiring Euro cyclist is instructed not to leave his water bottles on the bike while transporting bikes via bike rack- this is an obvious faux pas for the the Scottish cyclist, as they would simply fall off due to the bumpy Scottish Roads.

Official rules- full list

Packing tape aero helmet

I did a post on David Millar’s aero helmet that he sported on the Champs Elysees in this year’s tour. Here is my own, somewhat lower tech prototype.

Part inspired by the delightfully eccentric Fun Run Robbie’s packing tape disc wheel, and part by another friend who mentioned naively turning up to the Tour of the Meldons without a scrap of aero kit on him. There, guys had taped up the holes in their helmets – “Not such a daft idea after all?” I thought.

Packing tape aero helmet @funrunrobbie
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Official rules of the Scottish Cyclist: pedals, coffee and music

These ‘official rules’ were a fun thing that I used to get me going when I started the blog. They were intended as a tongue-in-cheek antidote to the Euro Cyclist rules. At that time I was getting into road cycling, and was perplexed by the myriad traditions and quirks of style of the roadie. Ironically, less than 3 years on, I am a proponent of many of the Euro rules such as leg shaving, white saddle and bar tape, espresso coffees and matchy-matchy kit.

26. Road pedals (e.g Shimano SPD-SL) are preferred, however mountain bike SPDs are acceptable should the Scottish Cyclist need them for practical reasons- e.g. in order to wear commuting shoes for the daily ride from Lochgilphead to Glasgow, or should the rider want to switch easily from his/her road bike to mountain bike to get a quick ride home to Fort William along the West Highland Way.

27. While strong black coffee is fine, tea or white instant coffee is a much more Scottish drink. Better yet, the Scottish Cyclist shall drink Irn-Bru with a shot of his single malt whisky of choice.

28. Motivational music during training shall consist of whatever motivates the Scottish Cyclist! Suggested tracks include:

500 Miles – The Proclaimers

Caledonia – Rod Stewart

Why Does it Always Rain on Me? – Travis

Take The Long Way Round – Teenage Fanclub

Official rules of the Scottish Cyclist- full list

Official rules of the Scottish Cyclist #25

25. The Scottish Cyclist should never feature his/her personalised nameplate on his bike. The bike should be significantly individual to distinguish it from other bikes, even of the same make and model (preferably through customised parts). Ideally the bike should be completely unique. See rule 9.

Official rules- full list.

Background: I haven’t posted any of these for a while. They are my attempt on the kind of lists seen on the Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist, The Rules by Velominati and the kind of style laws laid down by the Two Johns. As I was getting into road cycling a few years ago I quickly became fascinated by the style customs and etiquette beneath the surface, so tried to have a bit of fun with it and build up a caricature of a ‘Scottish Cyclist’.

Official rules of the Scottish Cyclist: gearing

24. The use of 25- or 27-toothed cogs are acceptable due to the propensity of ridiculously steep mountainous training routes that the Scottish Cyclist rides. British and Scottish road engineering does not tend towards the gentle ‘hairpins’ that the Euro Cyclist enjoys. The roads instead go straight up 10-20% inclines, rather than winding their pretty way up the mountain.

25 and 27 tooth cogs may also be necessary for the Scottish Cyclist that fuels himself on Irn-Bru and sausage rolls.

Alternatively, if you are man enough, a single fixed gear is preferred. Graeme Obree won the Tour de Trossachs mountain time trial, over the Dukes Pass and the Braes of Greenock on a fixed gear- nuff said.

Official rules- the full list

Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist: mudguards

23. Mud guards are necessary that the rider can ride through winter and foul spring/autumn conditions.

Mirrors are not allowed unless one is too old or infirm to to turn one’s head. It is true that the mirror is highly practical and incredibly unstylish but in practical terms, what is it’s use to the Scottish Cyclist? He is usually too far ahead of his rivals to be able to see them and for viewing traffic it would be a waste of time. Scottish drivers treat cyclists with as much respect as… well, you fill in the blank there.

Official rules: the full list

Official rules of the Scottish cyclist: seat bag and frame pump

22. Where the Euro Cyclist eschews these items for resons of style, the Scottish Cyclist carries them for their practicality. The seatbag and frame pump are essential pieces of equipment. These are needed when the Scottish Cyclist punctures in the middle of a 200-mile training ride through the Highlands, hours from civilisation.

I have often heard that the most appropriate and stylish place to keep pump and spares are in the back pocket. These pockets tend to be stuffed full of flapjacks and tablet, not to mention the countless arm warmers, gilets and rain jackets that are inevitably called into action when the Scottish conditions change from balmy 15°C sunshine to howling gales and driving rain in a matter of moments.

Official rules- the full list