Ape Hangers

High motorcycle handlebars, often with handgrips at or above the shoulders. This causes the rider to look like they are hanging like an ape from a branch.


Sound deadening material inside the muffler. Materials used for this vary. Aftermarket motorcycle exhausts often allow the rider to add or remove baffles to adjust the back pressure to tune performance.


A motorcycle racer. The term is derived from the aggressive riding posture common to sport bikes that positions the motorcycle riders’ stomach over the tank.


Quickly rev then release the throttle.

Bronson Rock

Something that is not a standard tool that is used to repair a motorcycle. In the show Then Came Bronson, a rock was used to straighten out a bent fender so that he could continue the ride.


A Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa - a notoriously powerful motorcycle.


Riding a motorcycle hard and fast through curves and corners with the bike leaning near horizontal. Sometimes known as "canyon carving."

Chase Vehicle

A truck or van that rides behind a group of motorcycle rider on a long trip to haul any vehicles that break down along the way.


A motorcycle that has an extended front end with a greater angle than standard bikes. The term originates from the fact that early riders would cut away, or chop, unnecessary portions of the bike and frame to reduce weight. The raked front end makes for a motorcycle that is stable but not agile. Recently, choppers have gain attention through the popularity of Jesse James of West Coast Choppers and the Tuttle family's Orange County Choppers, featured on the Discovery Channel.

Counter Steering

At speed a motorcycle is controlled by turning the handlebars away from direction you want to turn. It is summarized in push the right handgrip forward to turn right, push the left handgrip forward to turn left. Motorcycle steering is accomplished by leaning and turning your front wheel to the left will make the bike lean (and turn) right and vice versa.

Crash Bungs

Plastic bumpers that attach to a motorcycle frame to protect the bike's fairing in case it is dropped. Often used by stunt riders to avoid expensive repairs to body panels. Also called mushrooms or frame sliders.


Displacement is the volume of space the piston travels through in one stroke of the engine. It is measured in cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic inches (ci). The greater the displacement, the more gas and air can be used during combustion and the more energy (horsepower) the engine can generate.

Drag Pipes

Low short exhaust pipes running along the frame.


A motorcycle with duals has two separate exhaust pipes (usually one for the front cylinder and one for the rear).


Stopping with the rear wheel off the ground (the opposite of a wheelie). Sometimes called a stoppie.


The dual cam V-Twin manufactured from 1999 - today.


Slang term meaning the engine is run rich (too much fuel compared to air). This can result in thicker exhaust, fouled spark plugs and occasionally engine bogging.

Four Banger

Inline four-cylinder engine. This engine is commonly used in cars and is one of the more powerful powerplants you will find in a motorcycle.


A toothed machine part that meshes with another toothed part to transmit motion or to change speed or direction. On motorcycles there are gears in the transmission, rear wheel and elsewhere.

Giggle Gas

Slang term for nitrous oxide. When nitrous is injected into an engine it provides an instant, though temporary power boost. This works since the engine can use the oxygen in the nitrous oxide in the combustion process. Nitrous systems come in wet and dry varieties with wet connecting to the fuel system and dry to the air intake.


This is one of the most respected of waterproof fabrics. The advanced membrane technology prevents water from penetrating but allows sweat and moisture to evaporate out. This material is used in popular motorcycle rain gear.

Hair Dryer

The spiral shape of a turbocharger leads to its nickname hair dryer or snail.

Hard GP Armor

Comprised of hard plastic shells mounted on foam, GP motorcycle armor is good at resisting hard impacts. It is used mainly in gear designed for motorcycle racing. Vanson has a derivative of the GP Armor that is secured with Velcro mounted on elastic to allow the armor more mobility, which adds comfort for the rider.


Horsepower is the unit of energy used to measure an engine's power. 1 horsepower is equal to 0.746 kilowatts.


Generally referring to something on the northern hemisphere (top) of the motorcycle. Opposite of rubberside.

Keep the dirty side down

A parting expression between bikers meaning ride safe.


This is an engine condition in which the usually smooth and controlled combustion process has a violent and out of sequence burst. This sudden spike in combustion can drastically increase the pressure in the cylinder but is too fast to effectively contribute to the engine's output. Instead, the combustion chamber itself must absorb the excess energy. This is a very good way to shorten the lifespan of an engine. The slang term "detonation" is often used to describe engine knock. Knock is closely related to pre-ignition.

Lane Stealer

A car driver who tries to squeeze by a motorcycle rider in his lane, merges in too close to him or passes him in a no passing zone. Maybe car drivers don't see motorcycle riders. Maybe they don't give them the respect they deserve as a motor vehicle because of their small size. Regardless, all motorcycle riders must expect drivers do things that range from rude to dangerous. A safe rider will learn to anticipate such behavior and adapt because of it.

Lay it Down

Most commonly used as another term for crash. A rider can also "lay down" his motorcycle intentionally when a danger ahead is even less preferable. In this case laying the bike down will be a little like a hockey stop on ice stakes with the bike low, sideways and sliding wheels first.

Memory Foam Armor

This motorcycle armor is made from special purpose foam that is soft and pliable when compressed slowly but on sudden impact the foam resists compression and is more rigid. This allows for a more natural and comfortable protection and superior freedom of movement while still maintaining good crash protection.

Mud Puppies

ATV and Quad riders


An acronym for "Original Equipment Manufacturer" which are stock parts (opposed to aftermarket parts).


A part that is custom fabricated one time instead of being mass-produced.

Pasta Rocket

Slang for an Italian-made sport bike such as Ducatis or Aprilias.


Acronym for Parked Motorcycle Syndrome .


A motorcycle's ability to accelerate quickly.


The force a suspension exerts after being compressed. The strength of the return stroke greatly affects the handling of the motorcycle (or any other vehicle).

Ride Captain

The ride captain is the leader of a group ride.

Rippin' it Up

This phrase describes fast, aggressive motorcycle riding.


Some motorcycles have a foot-operated clutch instead of the traditional handgrip lever. This pedal does NOT, however, function like the clutch in a standard transmission car. Instead the pedal pivots over a central fulcrum with the motorcycle rider stepping on the front end with his toe to disengage the clutch and pressing with the rear section with his heal to engage the clutch. The Rocker-clutch is not that common on modern bikes.


Motorcycle tires …or car tires …or bicycle tires…

Shaft drive

A shaft driven motorcycle gets power to the rear wheel via a rigid shaft as opposed to a chain or belt. Belts and chains wear out easier and require more maintenance but if shaft driven bike sustains damage to the shaft, repairs will be expensive. A shaft drive is also notably heavier than either a belt or chain.

Showed Him My Wheel

An expression meaning that you road behind another rider so closely that he could see your front wheel beside him. Most commonly used in a racing situation (on the track or elsewhere).

Skid Lid

Another term for a motorcycle helmet (usually an open faced half helmet)


Slang term for motorcycles.

Sparking the Pavement

When a motorcycle is leaned enough to drag the pegs, floor boards, exhaust or other metal parts on the road resulting in a shower of sparks.


The motorcycles in the sport-touring category are a mix between a sport bike and a touring motorcycle. They usually have sports power while adding comfort features necessary for long touring rides.


Static is a slang term meaning trouble. Usually it is in reference to problems with the law or being "hassled by the man" but static can arise between bar patrons, rival bike clubs or even husbands and wives.

Steering Aids

Gouges in the road that "guide" a motorcycles front wheel against the rider's wishes

Steering lock

To prevent a thief from taking your motorcycle and rolling it away locks are often built in that freeze the fork to the far right or left. It is usually a setting on the motorcycle ignition switch.

Straight Pipes

If the exhaust system on a motorcycle has no baffles in the muffler the exhaust is unrestricted and flows straight through. The lack of restriction boosts performance but is very loud. Many areas have laws against straight pipes and police officers will slid their nightstick in the muffler to test if there are baffles or not.


Springs and shock absorbers, usually front and rear, the soften the ride and make the motorcycle more comfortable. A good suspension also aids handling by ensuring that the wheels stay in contact with the road when going over rough or uneven pavement.


Non-rigid frames have an articulated rear portion that is connected to the rear suspension and facilitates the mounting of the rear wheel.


A tachometer is a gauge that displays the engine's level of exertion displayed in revolutions per minute (rpm).


A dangerous situation where the motorcycle's handlebars jerk back and forth causing the riders knees to slap against the gas tank. A motorcycle under power will naturally seek to roll upright and in a straight line so if mishandled, the handlebars can jerk back and forth trying to find the straight line. A tankslapper normally ends up with the rider laying the bike down.


Motorcycle riding gear made of fabric (Cordura, ballistic nylon, Kevlar, etc.). Generally cooler than leather gear and usually water resistant.


The control that adjusts speed and acceleration by regulating the amount of air and gas that enters the carburetor.

Touring Motorcycle

Touring motorcycles are larger bikes designed for comfort on long rides. Generally preferred by older riders and not gear toward fast acceleration or aggressive handling.


The result of a four-year German study, Tri-armor is CE approved motorcycle armor made up of a plastic membrane sandwiched between layers of dual density memory foam. This is an advanced armor that balances impact resistance, abrasion resistance and comfort.


Motorcycle riding gear often has foam pads in strategic areas called armor. Some jackets have motorcycle armor permanently built-in, while in other styles it is removable. The are many types of motorcycle armor including Dual Density, Memory Foam, GP armor, Molded Rubber & Core Comp varieties. There is currently no regulated standard in the US. The most trusted standard was developed by the European Commission and is marked CE approved.

Big Slab

The interstate highway.

Blown Bike

A supercharged motorcycle

Bubble Gum Machine

Patting the top of the helmet as a signal to other rides that police are ahead.


Another term for a wheelie.

Cherry Tops

Law enforcement squad cars.

Core-Comp Armor

A style of motorcycle armor made up of energy absorbing polystyrene cells sandwiched between layers of foam rubber then sealed in an abrasion resistant ballistic nylon. This is a very advanced style of CE approved armor.


A speeding ticket.

Crack It

Roll on the throttle.


Cruisers are low and long motorcycles including many motorcycles in the Harley-Davidson lineup. They tend to be big and heavy but usually have a pretty powerful engine to match.

Donor Cycle

Nickname most often used by medical professional or emergency workers (police and firefighters) to describe a motorcycle.

Dual Density Armor

This is the cheapest and most common form of motorcycle armor. As the name indicates there are two separate densities of foam sandwiched together. The difference in firmness between the two types of foam helps make the armor more versatile in protecting the rider from different types of impact.

Eat Asphalt

Slang term for crash.


An enduro motorcycle is designed for both on-road and off-road use. The term has lost popularity in recent years in favor of the term dual sport.


V-Twin engine manufactured from 1929 - 1972


An exhaust tip that resembles a fishtail.


First rider in a group ride.

Gear ratio

The number of teeth on each gear that are connected at a given time. If a gear with 60 teeth in use is connected to one with 30, there is a 2:1 gear ratio. The gear ratios in the transmission determines how hard the motorcycle must work at a given speed and gear. The gear ratio between the drive sprocket and the rear wheel can affect the bike's torque.


GSXR series motorcycles.

Grabbing a Handful

This term can mean either applying the brakes or rolling on the throttle quickly and firmly.

Hammer Down

Accelerate quickly.


Police Officer.

Horizontally park

To crash.


Side Kickstand.

Keep the shiny side up

A parting expression between bikers meaning ride safely. The same as keep the dirty side down…some people see the glass as half full, others half empty.

Lane splitting

Driving in a non-lane between cars. Generally frowned upon by the law but in some states lane-splitting is legal when cars are stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Lane splitting is legal and common in many foreign countries.


Motorcycle riding gear, including jacket, pants, gloves and boots, that are helpful in protecting a rider in the event of a crash. Many feel that motorcycle leathers offer more abrasion resistance then even advanced textile gear but on the downside, it can be hot and gets quite heavy when wet.


Acronym for Motorcycle Safety Foundation. This is an organization that exists to educate riders on how to safely operate their motorcycle on the road. Usually they offer two levels of classes: Basic Rider Course and Experience Rider course. The Basic Rider Course provides valuable information through classroom and on bike training. It covers everything from identifying motorcycle parts to lane changing and power braking maneuvers. Upon successful completion of the basic rider course in Illinois, a rider receives an exemption from the DMV riding test and qualifies for their M endorsement. More importantly, it offers a safe, controlled environment for training in practical situations. Weekend courses are 4 hours Friday, 10 hours Saturday & 10 hours Sunday. Week long courses are 4 hours per night Monday through Friday. Motorcycles are provided by the organization. The course I took, sponsored by Northern Illinois University, had a $20 fee to register ahead of time, which would be refunded upon completion or kept as a donation. If unable to register, walk on openings may be available at no cost. This course would be easily worth ten times the reservation fee and by far the best way to learn to ride a motorcycle. The Experience Rider course is a one-day class (half classroom, half on-bike) and goes in depth on more advanced techniques. This course requires a valid motorcycle license and the rider is expected to bring their own motorcycle.


Plastic bumpers that attach to a motorcycle frame to protect the bike's fairing in case it is dropped. Often used by stunt riders to avoid expensive repairs to body panels. Also called crash bungs or frame sliders.


Gauge that tracks distance traveled. Usually there is one odometer that tracks mileage over the life of the bike and cannot be adjusted and a separate trip odometer that can be reset at any time to track short term mileage. Many people reset the trip odometer each time they fill their gas tank so they can estimate how much gas they have left in the absence of a gas gauge (also can be helpful in determining fuel economy).


Acronym for "Over The Bars" which is rarely a good thing to do on a motorcycle.

Pavement Surfing

Sliding down the highway after laying down a bike at speed.

Poker Run

A road rally style motorcycle run where riders stop at 5 checkpoints along the route to draw playing cards. At the end of the run the rider with the best poker hand wins.


Slang for motor oil on the street.

Rice Burner

Slang term for Japanese vehicles.

Ride Lieutenant

The ride lieutenant is the last rider in a group ride and usually the most experience aka Back Door.

Road Gator

Road Gators are bits of shredded tires littering a road after a semi truck's tire blows out. They can look innocent enough, but steel bands can cause serious damage to a vehicle and are potentially dangerous to motorcycle riders.

Rolling Chassis

The rolling chassis is a milestone stage in building a motorcycle. Though not completely assembled, enough of the build has been completed to take the bike down off the lift and roll it. Usually the main mechanicals missing are the engine and transmission.


Generally referring to something on the southern hemisphere (bottom) of the motorcycle. Opposite of ironside.

Rice Burner

Slang term for Japanese vehicles.


A motorcycle with short gearing has a low final gear ratio. This results in a higher top speed but less torque and acceleration.


Acronym for Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide & Execute. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recognizes these as five critical behaviors for safe motorcycle operation. The concept applies just as effectively with all vehicles.


Skin refers to a vehicle's paint job.


The spiral shape of a turbocharger leads to its nickname hair dryer or snail.

Sport bike

A sport bike is a term applied to light weight, high horsepower motorcycles with designed with emphasis on acceleration, cornering and stopping power.


Acronym for Stupidly Quick, Underdressed, Immanently Dead. Reckless and inexperienced motorcycle riders who ride without proper gear and beyond their abilities, endangering themselves and others.

Stitching a line

This term refers to the art of slipping through traffic in a quick manner on a motorcycle. The term does not imply reckless weaving but controlled and deliberate maneuvers that allow a motorcycle rider to get through traffic as efficiently as possible.

Steering damper

A part mounted on a motorcycle's frame and fork to even out control and avoid wobbles.


A motorcycle that is unmodified the original factory specifications (no aftermarket parts).


A stretched motorcycle is usually a chopper with extended front fork.

Super Slab

Large expanses of open road - highways, interstates & expressways.

Tail Gunner

The last rider in a group motorcycle ride. This is conventionally the most experienced rider aka the back door or sweep.

Tar Snake

The material used to patch cracks in the asphalt have less traction than the original pavement and can be slippery. This material also has a lower melting point and will get soft or melt on hot days - this can be potentially hazardous.

The Ton

The 100 mile per hour mark.


A high displacement single cylinder bike (Honda XLR650, Kawasaki KLR650)


- This is a physics 101 term referring to rotational force (Torque = Force x Distance from the center of rotation) and is most commonly measured in foot pounds. This is the force that propels the wheel of a vehicle. People often compare vehicle power by horsepower but a vehicles ability to accelerate is more accurately measured in torque. High horsepower results in a high-top speed while high torque translates to strong pickup.


Trial riding is a motorbike sport that highlights uncanny vehicle control. The off-road bikes are used to traverse boulders and obstacles. It often requires the ability to effectively jump a bike from a standstill and land with precision and balance. Trial bikes are built specifically for these competitions and are exceptionally lightweight and lack seats.

Back Door

The last rider in a group ride. Customarily, the most experienced motorcycle rider. Also known as sweep or tail gunner.

Ballistic Nylon

A nylon fabric with a basket weave for added tear and abrasion resistance developed by Dupont. Often used in textile motorcycle gear .



Motorcycle brakes.

Brain Bucket

A motorcycle helmet.



Spinning out the rear wheel usually with the front brake locked. Done briefly before a race to warm up the rear tire or done for show that burns a lot of rubber and is a fast way to shorten the tire's life.

Caning it

To ride a motorcycle very aggressively.


CE Armor

Armor that has met the European safety requirements. There currently is no US standard for motorcycle armor.

Chicken Strips

The remaining tread on a sport bike. The more tread on the side of the motorcycle tire , the more of a "chicken" the rider is. More aggressive riders lean harder into the turns wearing the tread on the sidewalls.


Corn Snakes

At harvest time in rural parts of the country, dried cornstalks blow across the road looking like snakes.


A fabric manufactured by Dupont of high strength, textured nylon fiber believed to offer more abrasion and tear resistance than other textiles. Often used in the manufacturing of textile motorcycle riding gear .


Crotch Rocket

- A small sport bike with high horsepower, often with an aggressive riding posture.


This is an engine condition in which the usually smooth and controlled combustion process has a violent and out of sequence burst. This sudden spike in combustion can drastically increase the pressure in the cylinder but is too fast to effectively contribute to the engine's output. Instead, the combustion chamber itself must absorb the excess energy. This is a very good way to shorten the lifespan of an engine. Detonation is a slang term for the official condition called "knock." Detonation is closely related to pre-ignition.

Drag Bars

Motorcycle handlebars that are low and straight, not sweeping up from the risers.

Dual Sport

Dual Sport motorcycles designed for both on and off-road use like my Kawasaki KLR 650. The balance between the two uses varies with some basically being dirt bikes with necessary parts to be street legal (i.e. turn signals) while others are more or less standard motorcycles but with suspensions capable of handling the demands of the trail.


Acronym for Electronic Control Module is the computer that controls ignition, timing, fuel to air ratio and more. On cars it is often referred to as the ECU, the electric control unit.


The plastic body panels that protect the rider from the wind and rain and (to some extent) from other debris.

Fast Riding Award

A Speeding Ticket.

Flogging it

Riding hard with wide open throttle.

Gag it

Rolling on to wide open throttle in high gear from a rolling start of about 50 mph.

Get Off

Another term for dropping the motorcycle.


Late model Vulcan motorcycles had an unusual looking silencing chamber in the exhaust system fondly referred to as a goatsbelly.


A gumball is a nickname for a motorcycle's rear tire after a long burnout since much of the tread will have been worn off leaving smooth rubber.

Hard Tail

A motorcycle with no rear shock absorber. This rigid frame results in a stiff ride.

High Side

A particularly nasty type of crash where the can be bucked up and over the handlebars. Usually caused when the rear break is released after a rear wheel lock up. When under power a motorcycle naturally keeps the two wheels in line. If the rear brake is over applied and the rear wheel locks up it will often slip out of line. If that brake is released and power returns to the rear wheel it violently snaps back in line with the front wheel, often with catastrophic results for the rider.


Trashed, hopelessly broken.

Jockey Shift

Variation on the suicide clutch. A short lever is mounted directly on top of the motorcycle's transmission with the rider shifting near his left calf.


A fiber manufactured by Dupont (notice all these funky, freakishly strong textiles are made by the same company) which, by weight, is five times stronger than steel. Often blended with Cordura and other more elastic materials in the production of textile motorcycle riding gear. Kevlar is also used in the bulletproof vests and helmets that protect the lives of American soldiers and law enforcement professionals every day. If I remember correctly, Kevlar also has flame retardant properties.

Law Maker

Riders that engage in senseless and risky behavior that can lead to accidents, injury or death to themselves or others. Their reckless behavior causes restrictive laws to be imposed on all riders.

Mad Max

A burnout where the front wheel is stationary and acts as an axis around which the rear end of the motorcycle rotates.

Molded Rubber Armor

This armor is often nicknamed "turtle shell" because of its resemblance to the aquatic creature. It is generally longer and more oval shaped than other styles of motorcycle armor which can make it harder to fit into average armor pockets.


Acronym for Never Been Dropped.

On Rails

Expression meaning that a vehicle corners very well at high speeds.


Motorcycle packs or bags that hang over the rear wheel like saddlebags . Available in textile "soft" bags or "hard" packs made from metal or plastic. Care must be taken to make sure a pannier is kept off the exhaust.


Exhaust pipes


This is a condition in an internal combustion engine where the intake charge ignites before the spark plug fires. High compression engines can generate enough heat to cause an air/fuel mix that is lean or low octane to combust without the spark plug's help. This obviously can harm an engine since the combustion cycle designed for very specific timing. Other causes of pre-ignition include carbon deposits in the engine that retain excessive heat, a spark plug that gets too hot or improper jetting. Often closely related to knock or detonation.


The angle of the motorcycle's front fork. The extended rake on choppers make them stable but lacking agility.

Rice Rocket

Slang term for a Japanese sport bike.

Rigid or Rigid Frame

A motorcycle with a one-piece frame lacking a swing arm and suspension.

Road Rash

An abrasion that results from sliding along the ground after a motorcycle crash. Wearing proper gear can limit road rash but may not prevent it entirely.


Deriving its name from its resemblance to a rooster's tail, the roost is spray off a motorcycle's spinning rear wheel in wet mud. This is common to dirt bikes and mx motorcycles.


This term does not just refer to true scooters or moped but to any motorcycle or two wheeled vehicle.

Shotgun Pipes

A dual exhaust that resembles a double-barreled shotgun.

Sissy Bar

- A sissy bar is a passenger backrest found mainly on choppers and some Harleys but can technically be added to just about any motorcycle. Some are more functional with some padding while others are mainly for looks.


A slammed motorcycle (or car) has a lowered suspension. This lowers the center of gravity and can sometimes help handling but usually is just done for appearance.

Soft Tail

- A soft tail motorcycle has the styling of a rigid bike but maintains the functionality of the suspension.

Sport Standard

Not all motorcycles fit neatly in the traditional categories but lie somewhere along the two-wheel spectrum. Sport standard motorcycles have many speed-oriented features of sport bikes but lack the fairing of sport bikes and maintain an upright riding posture of a standard motorcycle.


A classic styled upright motorcycle with focus on no frills function. Styling is not a main objective on these bikes. They tend to be less powerful than sport bikes but more powerful than cruisers.

Stay Vertical

A parting expression between bikers meaning ride safely. Like "keep the shiny side up."

Steering Head

A tubular section of the motorcycle frame where the fork mounts to.


Stopping with the rear wheel off the ground (the opposite of a wheelie). Also called an endo.

Suicide Shift

Older motorcycles had a rocker clutch (foot operated) and the gears were shifted with a lever mounted directly on the transmission. The term "suicide shift" was coined because the rider must take a hand off the handlebars in order to change gears, which meant less control of the motorcycle and danger - especially over rough roads.


The last rider in a group motorcycle ride. This is conventionally the most experienced rider aka the back door or tail gunner.


A motorcycle with tall gearing has a high final gear ratio. This results in less top end speed but more torque and stronger acceleration.


An acronym used by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to remember the key points of the pre-ride inspection (Tires, Controls, Lights & Electronics, Oils, Chassis & Chain, Kickstand).

The Double

The 200 mile per hour mark - sometimes referred to as the "Double T" or "Double Ton."

Trashing It

To ride a motorcycle very aggressively.


A vehicle's transmission is a system of gears that adjust the ratio of engine speed to wheel speed. The ability to vary gears allows an engine to be useful across a wide range of speeds.


Trial riding is a motorbike sport that highlights uncanny vehicle control. The off-road bikes are used to traverse boulders and obstacles. It often requires the ability to effectively jump a bike from a standstill and land with precision and balance. Trial bikes are built specifically for these competitions and are exceptionally lightweight and lack seats.