Oui, j'aime faire le velo!

Here's a brief description of how I got ready for a ride the other day. Along with the usual preparations, I put on a gilet for added insulation, along with a warmer casquette under my helmet, and I made sure my bidon was filled to the top. Say what?


Just trying to inject a little culture into my riding experience with a few words in French. After all, cycling and France go hand in hand, so why not practice my language skills? Having ridden a bike in that country back in 1982, who knows someday I might make a return visit.


What's a bidon?

My two times studying French — one year in high school and another in college — didn't do me much good on that trip. A couple of incidents that stand out to this day were when I studied the images on packages in a Normandy supermarket in order to select food, and also the day I found myself in the middle of a Sunday morning 50-bike peloton, managing with only a "bonjour" as the well kitted-out cyclists whizzed around me.


The theme that I'm presenting today is that I love pedaling a bicycle and the people of France truly embrace the sport, so let's mix in a bit of their diction to enhance my joy of cycling. Translating the second sentence in the first paragraph results in the following: "Along with the usual preparations, I put on a vest for added insulation, along with a warmer cap under my helmet, and I made sure my water bottle was filled to the top."


Hold on, class isn't over with just yet. Here are other French words and their meanings commonly utilized in cycling circles:


— Brevet — A long, timed cycling event.

— Chamois — Once bib pads were made from chamois leather. Now modern fabrics are used, but the name has stuck.

— Derailleur — Early on, riders had to stop, undo their wheel and flip it over to change gear. Then Simplex came up with the first rear derailleur as we know it today. The word itself comes from the French expression for a train derailment.

— Domestique — A helper on the team, their purpose is to take the wind, run errands, and hunt down breakaways.

— Directeur sportif — Often shortened to DS, he or she is the head person of the team. They're the ones in the team car shouting orders to riders.

— En danseuse — To stand up on the pedals, like a dancer.

— Flamme rouge — Named for the red flag that marks the last kilometer of a stage.

— Grimpeur — A fancy word for a natural climber.

— Lanterne rouge — The red lantern originates from the backs of train carriages, which always had red lights. The rider in last place in the Tour de France earns this infamous and surprisingly affectionate title.

— Maillot jaune — The yellow jersey designating the overall leader in the Tour de France.

— Musette — The bag containing a rider's lunch obtained from a feed zone.

— Palmarès — The achievements of a rider's career.

— Peloton — The main group of cyclists; the literal translation is platoon.

— Soigneur — From the verb to take care of, it literally means caretaker. The soigneur looks after riders' needs and provides general support.

— Velo — The word for bike, it comes from one of the original names for a bicycle, the velocipede.


Anyway, French class is finished; time to go spin my wheels. As today's blog posting headline suggests ... yes, I love riding a bike!

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