useful italian words for bike touring in italy

Next time you catch a bike race being announced on the TV by Italian's or when you are riding in the Italian Dolomites or a Veneto Gran Fondo, here are some Italian words to help you better understand what is being said.

Bike Parts Glossary:

Bloccaggio  - quick release skewer, plural bloccaggi
Borraccia - water bottle
Cambio  - taken from the word for 'change', in this context it means the rear derailleur
Camera d'aria - inner tube
Catena  - chain
Cerchio - rim
Comandi  ERGO o STI - shift/brake levers
Copertoncino - clincher tire, Italians always refer to their tires specifically as clinchers or tubulars
Deragliatore - front derailleur
Forcella - fork
Forcellini - these are the drop-outs, front and rear
Freni - brakes
Guarnitura - crankset
Manubrio - handlebar
Movimento Centrale - bottom bracket
Mozzo - hub, plural mozzi
Nipple - nipple
Pedali - pedals
Pignoni - sprockets, the whole cassette is the pacco pignoni
Portaborraccia - bidon cage
Raggi - spokes
Reggisella - seatpost
Ruote  - wheels
Sella - saddle
Serie Sterzo - headset
Telaio - bike frame
Tubolare - tubular tire

Terms for Types/Style of Bike Riders

Fondista - Fausto Coppi is considered the ideal embodiment of the fondista; agile, all-arounder that shines when the roads point upwards. The modern equivalent would be someone like Contador.

Passista - Francesco Moser is the historical Italian riders most utilized. The passista is a big, powerful rider able to maintain 50 km/h for an hour at the front of the peloton. Their strength and toughness make them naturals in the northern classics.

Velocista - Semi Legend, MARIO CIPOLLINI.

Scattista - The scattista is a quick burst rider, someone that has deceptively great speed, that can attack on short climbs or take a sprint victory from a reduced pack. Paolo Bettini is an excellent example.

Scalatore - Legend for Italians, MARCO PANTANI.

Dicesista - Describes a great descend-er like Paolo Savoldelli and now Vicenzino Niboli

Attacante - This is one of those guys that are always attacking, even when it doesn't make sense, see Johnny Hoogerland

Gregario - Italian for domestique, who serves the capitano - Matteo Tosatto is a great example of the spirit of the gregario. The car in the back with the director and mechanic is referred to as l'ammiraglia which translates as flagship.

*Often a rider has several characteristics, hence these terms can be combined, for example a Passista Scalatore would be a strong guy that defends well in the climbs. Or if the rider is a specialist, the term “puro” or pure is added, as in Scalatore Puro.

Italian Word that  are used to Describe The Peloton (il gruppo):

gruppo compatto - Compact group, when the whole peloton is together or when the peloton catches up to the breakaway.

attaccanti/contrattaccanti - these are the attackers and chasers that reel in the breakway cyclists.

scattare in faccia  - This translates to 'take off in your face' and means blowing someone away, see The Lance Look - ok, not a picture of the Look, but it happened a few minutes before this moment.

perdere le ruote - 'lose the wheel' means getting dropped

staccati - to break off, getting dropped

succhia ruota - Wheel sucking.

fare il vuoto - 'making the empty' means filling in the gaps that occur when riders are attacking.

gruppo frazionato - When the peloton breaks apart into smaller groups referred to as Primo Gruppo, Secondo, and so on. These smaller groups are called gruppetti

gruppo spaccato - the peloton has been blown apart.

ventaglio - After the group has been blown apart, this describes cyclists riding in a diagonal form as protection from cross winds

gruppo in fila indiana - Peloton in indian file.

i fuggetivi - meaning escapists, these are the breakaway riders

cambi corti e regolari - This describes riders taking turns with short and regular pulls. Usually this is in doppia fila or two rows.

fare l'elastico - 'Making the elastic' is the rubber band effect when a fast peloton goes around corners or other obstacles, the ones in the back have to brake harder and reach speeds of 80km/h to catch back up to the main group.

Italian words used to Describe Pedaling:

Pedalata rotonda - meaning round pedaling.


pedalata dura - dura means hard and is not a good sign, it can also be referred to as a pedalata legnosa (len YO sah) or wooden, also a bad sign


pedalata leggera - light pedaling


pedalata in scioltezza - taken from the Italian word for melted, in cycling jargon it means smooth, similarly a pedalata agile, describes the agility or ease of one's effort or the freshness of their legs. In fact, the 25 through 28 cogs are often referred to as rapporti agili.


tirare un rapportone - pulling or firing a big gear another variation is spingere un rapportone, pushing a big gear


spingere con le lunghe leve - 'pushing with the big lever' is an expression comparing legs to levers and means you're flying


punta di sella - if a rider is described as on the 'point of the saddle', he is positioned all the way forward on the saddle and is burning up the track


pedalata di punta - punta means point, or in this case, tip of your foot and refers to pedaling with one's feet pointed down. A pedalata piatta is flat, while a pedalata di tallone or tendon means the heel is lower than the pedal axle, a la Merckx.


pedalata a mani basse o a mani alte - pedaling with hands in the drop or on top of the handlebars


pedalare al coperto/allo scoperto - covered/uncovered pedaling refers to whether one is on the front pulling or resting behind


Italian Words Used to Describe Bonking or Running out of Gas:

crisi - crisis, means bonking. The reasons could be crisi di fame, failure to stay properly fueled or too often going full speed, called andare a tutta and finding yourself fuori giri or over-revved.


giornata no - A 'no day' means you're not winning this race.

impiantarsi - to plant oneself, also a bad thing, others include attaccato al chiodo, literally means hung up by a nail or similarly impiccato, impaled. Cooking terms like cotto, cooked, bollito, boiled, or lesso, steamed.


fatto - 'being made' in cycling refers to doping


la bomba - 'the bomb' was an amphetamine cocktail popular in Coppi's time, one memorable interview with him went like this. Interviewer: “Mr. Coppi, have you ever taken the bomba?” Coppi: “I only take the bomba when I need it.” Interviewer: “And when do you need it?” Coppi: “All the time.” He continued: “Everyone denies taking the bomba, but watch out getting near them with a lit match!”


andare regolari - riding at a nice, even pace, while andare con riserva means leaving something in the tank for the finale.

Italian Words Used to Describe The Route or Course to Follow(percorso):

percorso lungo/corto - long or short courses, many Gran Fondos offer these with varying lengths and difficulties


circuito - a circuit, for example races like the World Championship where the same course is repeated several times


cima Coppi - describes the highest mountain in the race, it awards riders the most points in the GPM or Gran Premio della Montagna classification


sali-scendi - literally 'raising-falling' refers to hilly roads where one is either going up or down all of the time, visit Tuscany to live it for yourself


piano/falso-piano - piano means flat terrain, whereas a falso piano is a “fake flat” these occur in climbs where the road flattens out for a brief stretch before returning to its normal rise.


muro/strappo - A muro is a wall, these are usually hard, yet short climbs, sometimes referred to a strappo meaning tear. A strappo can also be a stretch or section.

dicesa tecnica - a 'technical descent' sounds innocuous enough but in jargon it means it's a easy to get out of control, look out for steep, narrow roads with hard to read trajectories.


la volata - Meaning flight, in cycling it refers to the sprint finish. A volata corta means a short one taking place in the last couple hundred meters, while a lunga starts further back. Volatas can be referred to as corretta when everything goes smoothly or scorretta where things don't.


treno or trenino - Sprint leadout train or a smaller, reduced train.


vittoria a mani basse - 'victory with low hands' or winning the race with one's hands still in the drops is good, but not the most glorious way to win a race, better is vincere per una ruota/bici or wining by a wheel or a bike's length.

However, the best is vincere con distacco, winning by a good margin, with enough time to zip up that jersey, raise the hands and salute the heavens.

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