Understanding Motorcycle Terminology: Your Ultimate Guide

Every subculture has its unique language, and the world of motorcycling is no exception. From 'Ape Hangers' to 'Garage rot', the motorcycle lingo is as diverse and intricate as the machines and the riders themselves. But fear not, this guide is here to help you navigate these linguistic curvatures, whether you're a seasoned owner or a new rider.

motorcyclist thinking on the side of a busy road

The Basics

Bike: A universal term for a motorcycle.

Biker: This can mean any motorcycle rider, but among insiders, it may often refer to a member of a motorcycle club.

OEM: Short for Original Equipment Manufacturer. Refers to parts made by the motorcycle's original manufacturer.

Fairing: The protective plastic coverings at the front of the bike, including the windscreen.

Garage rot: The deterioration that occurs when a motorcycle is left unused and unattended for a long period.

Cc: Short for cubic centimeters, a measurement of engine displacement. Also see "ci" which is cubic inches.

Saddle: The motorcycle seat.

motorcycle seat close-up

Riding Styles

Cruiser: A style of motorcycle designed for long-distance comfort.

Sportbike: Built for speed and performance, often used in professional races.

Dirt Bike: A lightweight motorcycle for off-road riding.

Dual Sport/ADV: Combines elements of street and dirt bikes, and can be ridden both on public roads and off-road. Known as "adventure bikes."

Café racer: Vintage bikes modified for speed, with a history tied to racing from café to café in England.

Chopper: A cruiser bike with extended forks, often customized with features like a stretched gas tank, fat rear tire, and loud pipes.

Bobber: Customized motorcycles stripped down to their essentials, often with a minimalist aesthetic.

Naked Bike: A motorcycle without plastic bodywork, revealing the machine in all its glory.

Motard: A converted dirt or dual-sport bike for street use only, characterized by its lightness, speed, and maneuverability.

Hardtail: A bike without rear suspension. Early motorcycles were hardtails

Motorcycle parts

Motorcycle Parts

Ape Hangers: High handlebars positioning the rider's hands at or above their shoulders.

Fishtails: Exhaust tips flaring out like a fishtail.

Sissy Bar: A backrest for the passenger seat.

Stator: Generates power to charge the battery while the bike is running.

Panniers: Hard-sided cases on either side of a bike's passenger seat, common on dual-sport bikes.


Other & Etcetera

23. ATGATT: Acronym for "All The Gear, All The Time," a mantra for safe riding to avoid injuries and road rash.

24. Leathers: Protective gear that includes jackets, pants, or one-piece racing suits, often made of leather but can be textile.

25. Magic Button: The starter button, a more recent feature compared to the traditional kick-start mechanism.

26. Lane Splitting: Riding between lanes of slow-moving or stationary traffic.

27. Squid: A term for riders who don't wear protective gear or ride irresponsibly.

28. Twisties: Slang for a stretch of winding roads favored by bikers for their challenging turns.

29. Iron Butt: An extreme long-distance ride, often 1,000 miles or more in 24 hours.

30. V-Twin: A type of engine configuration with two cylinders in a V format, found predominantly in cruiser motorcycles.

31. Rat Bike: A motorcycle that's just for getting around. It may not be the prettiest, but its charm lies in its resilience and practicality.

32. Road Rash: Skin injuries from sliding on the road during a crash. Wearing proper gear prevents road rash.

Biker putting on her helmet

Navigating the lexicon of motorcycle enthusiasts might seem daunting at first, but understanding the lingo is part of the joy of immersing yourself in this subculture. Let this guide serve as your map through the intricate world of motorcycle terminology. Happy riding!