Why Do Mountain Bikers Say Yew?

Condensed answer: Mountain bikers say “yew” before a stunt to alert others, relieve pressure, generate more force, and express excitement.

The Functions of “Yew”

Below is a list of effects that “yew” screaming has:

  • Alarm

Shouting “yew” informs other riders of your existence and the fact that you’re about to do something challenging.

A yew scream can prevent a collision by telling others to get out of your way.

  • Clear mind

Screaming before a big attempt clears your thoughts.

The scream temporarily mutes the voices of doubt and fear in your head and helps you persevere. Hence why it’s so common for people to scream when doing extreme jumps.

When you’re screaming like a wild animal, you lose your ability to produce deep thoughts in your head which is a beneficial aftereffect in this case. (Thoughts kill action.)

  • Showing off

Some people like to scream when doing a cool stunt to get others’ attention and enjoy some admiration.

  • Habits

Screaming “Yew” is such an integral part of some riders’ routine that they feel off when skipping it.

Once the brain is wired a certain way, it’s difficult to break a habit.

In the past, I had a skateboarder friend who would touch his back pocket before every trick. The mini ritual was contagious – many began mimicking him.

  • Tension control (grunting)

Sometimes riders scream when exerting a lot of effort during a demanding trick (e.g., bunny hoping something high) as a way to generate more force. The practice is similar to grunting during weight lifting.

According to this study, forced exhalation increases force production.

Quote: Therefore, it is highly recommended that forced exhalation, rather than the Valsalva maneuver, should be used during maximal force production, whenever possible (cf. 21).

Why “Yew”?

The origin of the expression is unknown, but one could reason that the following properties are behind its adoption.

  • A High-pitch Sound

“Yew” is a high-pitch sound that acts a bit like a car horn. It’s annoying but also effective.

  • Short and simple

“Yew” is a very short and simple expression. Replacing it with a more coherent one would be counter-productive because longer, harder to pronounce words take too much energy and focus – an undesirable trait for high-adrenaline situations.

What Does “Yew” Mean?

When used as a scream, “Yew” doesn’t have a specific meaning. It’s a sound indicating that the person making it is in a state of high adrenaline production which is expected during MTB stunts.

The expression could be replaced by another word (e.g., “yeah”) without changing its purpose. It just happens that the vast majority of mountain bikers have chosen/adopted “yew”.

Having said that, there are species of evergreen trees known as yew, but this fact doesn’t seem to have a connection to the “yew’s” use in MTB.

“Yew” Isn’t Limited to Mountain Biking

Shouting “YYYEEEEWWWWWW” isn’t just MTB slang.

Surfers often scream “Yew” before going for a big wave. Skiers and snowboarders, skateboarders, and rock climbers say “yew” too before a jump or the beginning of a descent.

Mountain Biking Slang

Below you will find a list of words part of MTB lingo:

Hamburger hands – This term describes the look of one’s hands after crashing without gloves

Hike n’ Bike – Getting lost on a trail and hiking to get back home

Steeze – Performing a trick with style & ease.

E.g., His bunny hops are full of steeze.

Tacky – When the trail has the perfect amount of moisture for great traction

Taco – A destroyed wheel after a crash

Dab – Putting a foot on the ground when riding

Dialed – Something perfect or executed with perfection.

E.g., His bike is dialed.

Snakebite – A flat tire puncture consisting of two holes resembling a snake bite

Dude man – A rider with a nice bike and gear but no skills

Sniped – a quick, unexpected failure or fall

LBS – Local Bike Shop

Burb – Momentary air leak from a tubeless tire after a big hit or landing

Wagon wheels – 29-inch wheels

Squish – A full suspension bike with lots of travel

Bonked – Being entirely out of energy

Booter – A massive, scary jump or drop

Kicker – A jump that throws you high in the air

Bomb – Riding without paying attention to safety

Brain – Short for a biking computer

Brain bucket – Helmet

Death cookies – Small fist-sized rocks that throw the bike in an undesired direction

First blood – The first rider in a group to hurt themselves and start bleeding

Gear masher – A cyclist who always rides in high gear

Grinder – A long climb

Hammer – Riding fast and hard

Potato chip – A wheel that has been bent badly but not destroyed

Singletrack – A trail wide enough only for a single rider

Betty – A female rider

Sneakers – Tires

Wild pigs – Squeaking brakes

POD – Potential Organ Donner a.k.a. a rider who takes too many risks

Organ donor – A rider without a helmet

Engine – Another way of referring to the rider

Stomp – To successfully land a difficult trick

Roost – A cloud of dirt behind the rider during cornering

Granny gear – An extremely low gear that only a grandmother would need

Bail – Getting off the bike to avoid a crash

Anchor – A person or an event stopping you from riding as much as desired

Bra – Rim tape (the rubber strip that protects the inner tube from the nipples of the spokes)

1x drivetrain a drivetrain that relies on a single chainring

Gravity check – A fall

Shark bite – A cut caused by the large chainring after a fall

Grunt – A very difficult ride requiring the use of the easiest climbing gear

R&D – Research and Development

Tea Party – When a group of cyclists is doing more talking than riding

Winky – A reflector set or a light

Wrenching – Working on a bike

Bolt-on – Cyclist lingo for breast implants.

Fred – A cyclist who spends a lot of money on bikes and gear but has little skill

Buttery – Smooth execution of a stung

Bitch crank – A partial rotation of the cranks

Pedal bite – A cut caused by a hit of the pedal

Crispy – Performing a trick in a clean fashion

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