Given that we appear to be about evenly divided between UK and US folks (and given that "Britain and the United States are two countries divided by a common language"), there should be a dictionary of regional differences in bike terms. The main differences seem to be American English and UK/AU/NZ English.

This was discussed on meta a bit, with some ideas there.

Definitely worth looking at https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/784/translating-cooking-terms-between-us-uk-au-ca-nz for ideas how to format well.

I'll make this a community wiki, please simply edit the one answer.


1 Answer 1


I think we can safely ignore trivial spelling differences like tire/tyre and curb/kerb, and concentrate on differences in terminology that tend to confuse people.

Roads and surfaces

  • US: pavement: concrete or any hard surface used for vehicles or pedestrians. Suggest using "road" instead.
  • UK: pavement: a walkway for pedestrians, especially a sidewalk. Suggest using "walkway" instead.
  • UK: tarmac: road surface, same as US asphalt. (In full, tarmacadam (itself short for tar-bound macadam) but asphalt (bitumen) has replaced tar as a binder.)
  • US: asphalt: road surface, especially a tar-binder concrete
  • US: cement: commonly mis-used in US to mean concrete, especially for structures


  • UK: block, US/rest of world: Cassette, though this is becoming rare.
  • UK: "mech" short for mechanism, US/Europe/ROW: Derailleur
  • US/CA: fenders: Devices that fit over the wheels to keep things from splashing onto the rider or the bike, called "mudguards" in the UK.
  • UK: mudguards: fenders
  • US/CA: Crankset / UK: Chainset (though crankset is also used in the UK)
  • UK: Seat Pin (but "seat post" is normal UK usage) / US/CA: Seat Post
  • Short form for Campagnolo (an Italian component manufacturer); US: Campy, UK: Campag


  • US/CA: Wrench / UK: Spanner -- grabs the outside of a bolt head
  • US Crescent wrench -- Crescent is a branch name, known for adjustable wrench/spanners, but not in the UK.
  • UK Mole grips/Mole wrench / US Vise-Grips -- Locking pliers (brand names which are used generically, but not across US/UK)
  • US: Channellocks -- Channellock is a brand best known for their multi-position slip-joint pliers. Always plural: "Pass me the Channellocks."
  • US: Hex Wrench / Hex Key / Allen Wrench / UK/CA: Allen Key -- a hexagonal tool inserted into a bolt head, often L-shaped
  • UK: track pump / US: floor pump -- In the US, "track pump" is usually only used for a specific style of pump seen at a track, while in the UK it's commonly used to refer to any kind of floor pump. In Canada both are commonly used, although floor pump may be more familiar to those new to cycling.


  • US/CA: Spandex = UK: Lycra -- They're different brand-names for the same fibre (elastane)
  • US: wind vest or vest / UK: gilet (said "jee-lay") These are generally armless.


  • US: water bottle / UK: bidon (said "bee-don").


  • US/CA: public transit / UK: public transport. Suggest using "public transportation".
  • US/CA: Yield / UK: Give Way
  • US/CA: Flat / UK: Puncture -- In the US "puncture" refers only to tire/tube damage from piercing, such as a nail. In the UK "puncture" is also used for pinch flats, valve failures, etc.
  • Interesting, being Canadian, we use about 1/2 UK words, 1/2 US words.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 2:00
  • I hear "puncture" used in the US when the cause of the flat is something large like a nail. Also with sidewall punctures. Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 15:19
  • 1
    FWIW, it was always "Allen wrench", when I was growing up in Kentucky. ("Hex wrench" would have drawn strange stares.) Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 20:13
  • 1
    I'm English and would count a pinch flat as a puncture, because it makes holes in the tube, but wouldn't count a valve failure as a puncture, because it doesn't. But valve failures are rare enough that a flat might be assumed to be because of a puncture.
    – armb
    Commented May 4, 2013 at 15:14
  • 3
    There's a very important signage difference: in the UK they use an open red circle with a bicycle in to indicate "no cycling" (signservicesuk.com/online/p/1860/1/…) while in the US it would always have a slash through. This may make the cyclist from the US riding in the UK go where it is not allowed. Further, in the UK a triangular version of the same sign serves as a caution to motorists, not to cyclists, and means "cycling is allowed here." It is highly confusing for American cyclists in the UK at first! Commented May 9, 2013 at 12:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.