Motorcycle Terminology

Motorcycle Glossary Of Terms

Motorcycling is a great sport. Just as in almost everything else in life, it can sometimes have its own lingo. We have compiled some of the more common (and sometimes uncommon) terms that are used. We have tried to include as many terms as we can but if you notice one that we may have missed, feel free to leave us a comment down below and I will add it.

ABS– Antilock Brake System

Aftermarket– Anything you buy for your motorcycle that did not come from the Original Equipment Manufacturer

AMA– American Motorcycle Association.

Ape Hangers– Motorcycle handlebars that extend into the air with the handgrips at or above your shoulders

Apex– The middle or center point of a turn

Armor– Foam Padding located in strategic spots within riding gear. An example of this gear could be but is not limited to jackets or pants.

Baffle– Material used inside a muffler to deaden the sound

Bagger– Motorcycles that have touring accessories such as trunks or saddlebags

Big Slab– An Interstate Roadway

Binders– Brakes

Blip– To Quickly Rev and Than Release The Throttle

Boxer Twin– a horizontally mounted engine with the pistons opposing each other

Brain Bucket– Motorcycle helmet

Busa– Abbreviated for Hayabusa/ Suzuki GSX1300R

Cage– A car, truck, or van.  The name stems from being all cooped up inside a closed shell, with no contact with the outside air.

Cager– A person driving a car, truck, or van. Cage operator, or driver.

California Stop– Phrase often used by motorcyclists meaning to stop, typically at an intersection, without putting a foot down.

Cam– Metal shaft with lobes that rotate to open the valves in a four-stroke motor

Carbon Fiber– A high-tech material favored in many motorcycle applications because it is extremely strong, light and expensive.

Carburetor– Mechanical device that mixes fuel and air to create a mixture that gets ignited in the engine

Carving– Refers to hard fast cornering on roads with many curves, stems from laying the bike down to a nearly horizontal position and “carving” a line through the road like a knife.

Catwalk– A wheelie

CC– Cubic centimeters. A 1000cc engine = 1000 cubic centimeters in volume.

Center of Gravity– The point in or near a body where the force of gravity appears to act. If a body is balanced at any point on the vertical line through its center of gravity, it will remain balanced. The center of an object’s mass.

Centerstand– The mechanical stand attached to the frame that holds the motorcycle vertically upright (as opposed to leaned over on the side stand) when parked.

Chain Drive– A chain is transferring power to the rear wheel. As opposed to the two alternatives, shaft or belt drive, the chain is a lightweight solution and does not cause lag in throttle response or elevation effects.

Chaps– Chaps are a clothing accessory designed for protection and fashion. Usually made of leather and are fastened around the waist, with an open butt area/back. They snap at the ankles and zip down the legs.

Chase Vehicle– Van or truck that follows a pack of riders on a run to assist or haul any bikes that might break down

Chicken Strips– Since aggressive riders lean harder into their turns they wear the tread on the sidewall. Chicken Strips refer to the remaining treads on the sidewall. The more tread there is, the more “Chicken” the rider is

Chopper– Motorcycle with an extended front end

Counterbalancer– A weight in the engine that spins with the RPM’s to smooth out engine vibrations

Counter-steering– The act of turning the handlebars away from the direction you want turn

Crash Bungs– Bumpers (usually plastic) that are used by stunt riders to avoid costly

Crotch Rocket– Sportbike

Cruiser– a style of bike usually equipped with a low seat and pull back handlebars.

Decreasing Radius Corner– A turn where the arc gets sharper as you progress through the curve.

Dirt Bike– Bikes intended for off-road use that is not legal to ride on public roads.

Displacement– Size of an engine/total volume found in the cylinders

DOHC– Dual Overhead Cam

Doughnut– Rider who performs a burnout and carefully moves the motorcycle to encompass a 360-degree circle thus leaving a circular mark of rubber on the road surface.

Do-Rag – Cloth coverings that are used to cover the rider’s hair and forehead in an effort to keep sweat from dripping into the eyes and to avoid ‘helmet hair.

Dresser– also known as full dresser is a large bike that is made specifically for long distance rides. It is usually equipped with a storage and a windshield. See also Bagger & Geiser Glider

Dual Sport– Type of bike that is street legal but also provides off-road capabilities

Endo– The art of stopping a motorcycle and having the rear wheel lift off the ground, a reverse of the catwalk.

Engine Cut-Off Switch– A switch that allows a rider to turn off the engine without removing his/her hand from the handlebar. Also referred to as a “Kill Switch”

Engine Guards – Metal tubes bolted to the motorcycle’s frame that should protect the engine from damage in the event of an accident. They are not designed to offer the rider or passenger any protection in the event of an accident.

Ergonomics– Body Posture. A technique of combining the bodies posture and the positioning of the gauges/instruments to create a good fit for the rider.

Fairing– The bodywork and Windshield at the front of the motorcycle used to deflect wind

Feathering the brake– Gently applying the brake.

Feathering the clutch– See also Slip the Clutch and Friction Zone – Gently allowing the clutch to engage. This makes for a slow smooth start.

Footpegs– The resting place for the rider’s feet on a motorcycle during riding.

Forks- The sprung metal tubs holding the front wheel to the rest of the motorcycle using the triple-tree.

Four Stroke Engine- The number of times a piston has to move up and down through each power cycle

Fuel Injection- A device that performs the same duty as a carburetor but uses computer-controlled jets to inject the fuel into the air stream going into the engine

Geiser Glider– Fully dressed touring bike

High Side- when a motorcycle crash is caused by the rear wheel starting to slide in a turn and then suddenly grips tossing the bike sideways

Hole Shot- A racing term for when a rider goes from a standing position to racing speed

Horsepower- a unit of measurement to describe an engine’s strength

Kill Switch- Same as engine cut off switch

Low Side- when a motorcycle crash is caused by a wheel losing traction allowing the bike to fall sideways

Motocross Bike- a lightweight bike designed for racing on a track

Naked Bikes- a bike with minimal bodywork, fairings, or windshields

Petcock- a type of valve used typically used to turn your fuel on/off/reserve

Off-Road Bike- a bike designed to use off-road or in the dirt and are generally not street legal

Pillion/ P-Pad- a cushion designed for carrying a passenger mounted behind a solo seat

Rake- The angle that the forks are perpendicular. Measured in degrees

Rat Bike- a bike put together or kept running from mismatched parts

Red Line- the maximum number of revolutions per minute an engine can run before damage occurs

RPM- Revolutions per minute. How fast an engine is turning

Roost- 2 meanings: 1- To leave someone behind;  2- the debris kicked up/coming off a spinning rear wheel

Shaft Drive- A final drive system that utilizes a shaft to transmit power to the rear wheel used on some motorcycles

SOHC- Single Over Head Cam. A single camshaft found in the head or top of the engine that activates the valves.

Spoke- One of the small, straight metal rods that connect the wheel’s rim to the hub.

Sport Tourer- A motorcycle that combines some of the handling and power of a sportbike, with some of the amenities of a touring bike, like saddlebags, comfortable ergonomics, etc.

Sportbike- A focused motorcycle designed for speed and handling. These machines are usually equipped with aerodynamic bodywork.

Sprocket- The parts of the motorcycle that deliver and receive the power to the rear wheel, creating the final drive. The front sprocket runs off the transmission shaft. The rear sprocket is bolted to the hub of the rear wheel. They are connected together by a chain.

Squid- A derogative term generally associated with a new or reckless motorcyclist seen riding erratically and/or beyond his or her capabilities. Also used to refer to those who ride (usually poorly) performance-oriented motorcycles with no protective gear

Standard- A motorcycle intended for general, all-around street use, typically with an upright seating posture and higher handlebars.

Stretch- Used by customizers, an expression of how much a tank or frame has been elongated from its stock design.

Supermoto- Generally, a style of motorcycle usually built around, and looking like, off-road machines with street tires.

Tachometer- A gauge that measures how fast an engine is spinning. The measurement is usually expressed in revolutions per minute.

Tank Slapper- What happens in rare cases when a motorcycle’s handlebars slap back and forth at high speed, often due to alignment, road or trail conditions, or suspension issues.

Tar Snake– An uneven, slippery patch in a road crack

Target Fixation– When a rider’s eyes focus on a point in the distance, line or debris on the road, causing them to inadvertently steer the bike toward that area rather than in the intended path.

T-CLOCK (see also T-CLOCS)– An older term used to help remember your Pre-Ride inspection – Tires, Controls, Lights (and electronics), Oils, Chassis (and chain) and Kickstand (make sure it’s up). See our Pre-Ride Checklist Blog

T-CLOCS (see also T-CLOCK)– An updated term used to help remember your Pre-Ride inspection – Tires, Controls, Lights (and electronics), Oils, Chassis (and chain) and Stands* (make sure it’s up). *Both the side and center stand. See Our Page On Pre-Ride Checklist

Thumper- A single-cylinder, four-stroke motorcycle engine.

Torque- A unit of measure describing the twisting force, or leverage, an engine can exert on the rear wheel.

Trail- The distance from the front axle’s vertical position on the ground, to the spot in front of it created by drawing a straight line from the angle of the forks.

Triple Clamp- The two metal plates that connect the fork tubes to the steering stem, sometimes also used as a handlebar mount.

Triple Trees– The two pieces that attach the bike’s front end to the frame, named after the three positions on each piece; one for each fork tube and a center for the steering stem. See also Triple Clamp

Two Stroke Engine- A once-common type of engine now found almost exclusively in off-road motorcycles. A two-stroke motor fires once with every two strokes of the piston. 1) Once fired, the downward stroke of the piston delivers power and then draws in a mixture of fuel, air, and oil which displaces the exhaust gases in the combustion chamber; 2) the upward stroke compresses the mixture for ignition.

V-Twin– A 2 cylinder motorcycle engine with the cylinders arranged in an angled V This configuration can allow for optimum torque for a given displacement. An engine designed in a “V” configuration.

Vapor Lock– Condition where fluid expansion into a vapor state prevents a system from working, traditionally the fuel delivery system.

Vespa– Italian scooter manufacturer.

Vintage-A motorcycle 20 years of age or older.

VROC– Vulcan Riders and Owners Club

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