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A Glossary Of Motorcycle Terms

Motorcycle training requires you to know the most important motorcycle terms. Here is a list of all the key phrases.

Motorcycle Terms

Air-cooled – When excess heat is transferred from the engine to the air through cooling fins.

Ape-hangers – Frequently seen on choppers, these are handle-bars that are tall and force the rider to reach up to ride the bike.

Bikini Fairing – Café Racers tend to have a plastic wind deflector around the headlight and a small clear windshield on top.

Beanie Helmet – This is often worn by cruiser and chopper riders. It is a smaller helmet that mainly covers the crown of the head.

Belt Drive – A common feature on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. This is a rubber belt that generates power from the transmission to the rear wheel.

Bobber – A phrase used to describe a custom-made motorcycle with no rear fender. There is usually no passenger seat.

Boxer – An engine that has a cylinder on each side of the motorcycle. The cylinders are on opposite sides and connect to the main part of the engine. Another name for the boxer is “flat-twin engine”.

Café Racer – A sporty motorcycle that is lightweight and powerful. It has low handlebars and is not the most comfortable. But it is super fast and perfect for short-distance rides.

Caliper – A caliper helps the bike brake effectively. They consist of brake pads that push against the brake rotors to slow down the motorcycle and bring it to a halt.

Center Stand – This is a stand used to hold the motorcycle in place when parked. It acts as a pair of legs underneath the bike that makes it easy to get the rear wheel off the ground.

Chain Drive – The chain drive connects from a small sprocket on the transmission output shaft to a bigger sprocket at the rear wheel. This allows power to be generated from the front to the back of the motorcycle.

Chopper – Another custom motorcycle that has long front ends with lengthened forks to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

Clip Ons – Short handlebars are a common feature on race bikes. They exist on each side of the motorcycle and connect to the fork tubes.

Cruiser – An old-school styled motorcycle that is inspired by the 1930s to 1960s. Characteristics include tall handlebars, a low seat and footpegs at the front of the bike.

Counter Steer – A technique used by riders to turn the motorcycle at high speeds. It involves turning in the opposite direction to go the intended way. For example, turning left to go right and vice versa.

Drag Bars – A common feature of drag racing motorcycles. These are short, straight handlebars that are similar to those on mountain bikes.

Dual-Purpose – This is a motorcycle ideal for off-road riding. It has a sporty appearance and some models include BMW, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

Dual Shocks – The most common motorcycle configuration with a shock absorber and spring. Both are located on each side of the frame to control the rear suspension and underpin the bike’s weight.

Faceshield – A feature of motorcycle helmets that prevents dirt, dust and bugs from going into the riders’ eyes.

Fairing – Plastic bodywork on the motorcycle that allows sports bikes to be streamlined and achieve maximum speed.

Footpeg – Short pegs on the side of the bike to allow the rider and any passengers to firmly place their feet.

Fork – This provides suspension to the motorcycle. It consists of sliding telescopic tubes that connect the front wheel to the bike’s frame.

Full Face Helmet – A helmet consisting of both a chin bar and faceshield that offers increased protection against crashes, collisions or bad weather.

Handgrip – The handlebars have a rubber handgrip that makes it easy for the rider to hold on to the motorcycle.

Hardtail – A motorcycle that is similar to a bicycle in its configuration. The rear wheel is connected to the frame with no sprung suspension.

Helmet Hair – Flat, matted hair that results from wearing a helmet and riding a motorcycle.

High Side – A term used to describe a situation where the motorcycle propels the rider in the opposite direction they were leaning. It usually involves the rider being thrown off the bike which can lead to serious injury or fatality.

Inline Four – This is an engine architecture that includes four cylinders in a line. It was initially installed on the renowned motorcycle Honda CB750 in 1969.

Kickstarter – Not to be confused with a jump starter, this is when the rider starts the engine by pushing the lever with their foot.

Lane Splitting – The term used to describe weaving in and out of cars to escape busy traffic.

Low Side – The opposite of the high side where the motorcycle falls in the direction it is leaning.

Master Cylinder – Cylinders that connect to the brake clutch levers. This allows the brakes of the motorcycle to have strong stopping power.

Master Link – Located in the drive chain and can easily be removed and replaced when needed.

Open Face Helmet – A less safe helmet that does not have a chin bar or a face shield.

Overhead Cam – This is part of the motorcycle engine that opens and closes the valves. As a result, air can enter the combustion chamber and then the exhaust to exit.

Parallel Twin – A type of engine where the cylinders are positioned side by side. It is also known as a straight-twin engine.

Exhaust Pipe – Every motorcycle has an exhaust pipe that releases waste gases from its combustion engine.

Pushrod Engine – Otherwise known as overhead valve engines, the pushrod engine consists of the camshaft being located in between the cylinder heads.

Rat Bike – A worn-out motorcycle that is falling apart. These can be upgraded and repaired, however, they are mostly an option for low-budget riding.

Rotor – A term for the spinning brake disc that the brake pads rub against to bring the bike to a halt.

Scrambler – Another motorcycle that is built for riding off-road. Key features include wide handlebars, small headlamps, high exhausts and short seats.

Shaft Drive – A system used to generate power into the rear wheel. The shaft is connected to a gear inside the rear wheel. Whereas, the other part of the shaft connects to the transmission.

Side Stand – A stand that the motorcycle can lean against when parked. It is very similar to a traditional kickstand used for bicycles.

Single Shock – This is a type of suspension on a motorcycle where a single shock absorber is linked to the rear part of the bike’s frame.

Slip Ons – A kind of exhaust that gives your motorcycle a customised look. It makes your bike louder and is commonly used on sports bikes.

Sport Bike – A motorcycle that is made for racing with its speed, acceleration and mobility. Not to mention, enhanced ability to steer and turn with ease. However, they are less comfortable to ride and more costly concerning fuel economy.

Standard – The epitome of a regular motorcycle that is comfortable and gets you from A to B. Characteristics include a flat seat and easy-to-reach handlebars.

Steering Head – Also known as the “head tube”, the steering head is located at the front of the bike frame and attaches to the fork.

Stoppie – A skill performed by accomplished riders to lift the back wheel and maintain complete balance on the front wheel by using the right amount of brake pressure.

Streetfighter – A motorcycle that has no bodywork and appears “naked” when compared to other bikes.

Swingarm – A term used to describe the primary element of the rear suspension. Spring and shock absorbers control its movement to allow a motorcycle to ride smoothly on the road.

Swingarm Stand – A further variation of a stand to help park a bike. The motorcycle is lifted with a pin that connects to the rear axle.

Target Fixation – When a rider is too focused on an object that they crash into it.

Touring Bike – Pricey motorcycles that are designed for long-distance journeys. Features include massive fuel tanks and built-in luggage.

Twist Grip – Riders adjust their engine speed by twisting the right handgrip.

UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) – The name used to describe motorcycles from Japan that had inline-four-cylinder engines before the 1970s.

Unitized Transformation – A term for a bike’s transmission and engine built together instead of separately.

V-Twin – An engine with a v-shaped angle. It is otherwise known as a twin-cylinder engine.

V-Four – This relates to a four-cylinder engine where cylinders are on either side, creating a v-shaped angle.

Water-Cooled – A phrase to describe motorcycles that cool their engines with liquid to shed heat efficiently.

Wheelie – A skill performed by motorcyclists where the front wheel comes off the ground and the bike keeps riding forward.