French club cycling vocab

There are lots of guides to French cycling vocab out there, with the familiar phrases such as grimpeur, rouleur, pédaler avec les oreilles, etc. There are lots of guides to vocab that you see relating to the Tour or racing, but less that is used in everyday situations. I’ve been trying to infiltrate the local club scene in Brittany, where I spend my summer holidays every year, and even with good French it can be tricky.

I’ve found that local road clubs tend to fall into one of two types, the ‘Vélo Club’ type, which seems to be more race oriented, and the ‘Cyclo Club’, a touring/road riding club more oriented to sportives and leisure riding. I haven’t got in with any race clubs as yet but I’ll post a bit more in due course.

Cyclo Club St Méen club hut

Une sortie en groupe is a club run or a group ride, where you’ll ride two-by-two, and prendre le relais is to take a turn at the front. In the group I rode with, the riders at the front moved off one at a time, rather than both together- the format I’m more used to at home. If you don’t want to prend le vent (take the wind) then it’s better to reste dans la roue, but beware, you might be derided as a suceur de roue (same phrase as in English- take a guess).

In Brittany, where I have been riding, the terrain is vallonné, or rolling. Un cote, or hill is smaller than the cols that you see in the Alps or Pyrenees, and when they say ca monte,it also mean the road climbs while c’est pontue or raide, means that the hill is steep.

Une route sinueuse is a windy road while une route en lacets (ie like shoelaces) refers to the kind of hairpin bends you see in the high mountains.

Wind always plays its part too, whether tu as le vent dans le dos (tailwind), dans le nez (headwind) or un vent de coté (side wind).

Other terms (to be updated)
Se mettre a bloc – to go full gas

  • Dave Hamilll

    Nice post Owen. I’m hoping to join a club run in Aube this August so this helps. If I manage to find one then I’ll come back and tell you if I heard any calls I understood.

  • Anonymous

    Cheers Dave. This is far from comprehensive so any additions will be appreciated. We all know ‘en danseuse’ and those type of things but I’d like to build up more knowledge on the more day-to-day stuff, that you can use on the road.

  • Dave Hamill

    Well, I was ignored in all of my attempts to contact Les Etoiles Baralbines about a club run so couldn’t report any new terms. I did pass a couple of them on the road when I was out on quite a fast run and they looked a bit startled to see me. Must have been the tartan kit :0)

  • Dave Hamill

    That should be Les Etoiles Cyclistes Baralbines I think. Do I need to pluralise all of those words Owen? Help me out here.

  • Anonymous

    Ah shame. Can be a bit hit and miss I think. At least the local Velo Club (a racing club) gave me a polite ‘no’. But I found the Cyclotouristes to be very welcoming.

    Not 100% sure about the pluralisation… maybe not the ‘Etoiles’