50 Motorcycle Terms Every Biker Should Know
If you’re new to the biker community, your first instinct may be to make a point of doing everything you can to “fit in”. Those who are veterans of the community know that the only true way to fit in is to avoid trying to be like everyone else. Having said that, simply smiling, nodding, and trying to muddle your way through a conversation with a fellow biker isn’t exactly the way to go, either.
Knowing a few common motorcycle terms can help you understand what other bikers are talking about. It’ll also help make you feel and sound like less of an outsider when you’re mingling with other bikers. If you’ve decided to get a motorcycle, now would be a good time to read up on some biker lingo, so you’ll be ready to carry on a conversation with other members of the biker community.
Types of Bikes
- ADV - An ADV is an adventure bike. It’s designed to handle all types of outings from road trips on the highway to off-roading excursions.
- Bagger - A bagger is a touring motorcycle, generally one that’s dressed up with all the saddlebags you’d need for a road trip.
- Bobber - A bobber is a type of motorcycle that has been modified with shorter fenders or no front fenders at all, low handlebars, and few bells and whistles if any.
- Chopper - A chopper is a customized type of cruiser with an elongated front end, a large front wheel, and ape hangers. Choppers often have impressive paint jobs as well.
- Cruiser - Another type of motorcycle, a cruiser is characterized by its low build and feet-forward, upright riding position. These bikes are built for more comfort on longer rides.
- Hardtail - Hardtails are motorcycles with no rear suspension. They’re not routinely made today, but they’re certainly considered classics.
- Hog - Hog is slang for larger, heavier Harley-Davidson models.
- Softail - Essentially the opposite of a hardtail, a softail is a motorcycle that has rear suspension.
- Standard - Standard refers to bikes that have narrower, more minimalistic designs. These bikes are sometimes called naked motorcycles.
- Touring - Touring bikes, also known as dressers, are designed with ultimate comfort and luxury in mind. They also tend to have extra storage space for long trips.
Parts and Pieces
- Ape Hangers - Ape hangers are tall motorcycle handlebars. They’re essential on some styles of bikes but a matter of preference on others.
- Boxers - These are a type of motorcycle engine on which the pistons are lying flat on either side of the crankshaft. When in motion, they look like boxers’ fists.
- Clip-Ons - Clip-ons are handlebars that are attached to the front forks, or suspension, of a motorcycle.
- Fairings - Fairings are windscreen assemblies for motorcycles.
- Hack - A hack is a sidecar for a motorcycle.
- Headers - Headers are the parts of the motorcycle running from the engine to the pipes.
- Inline Engines - On inline engines, the pistons are arranged side by side instead of in the shape of a V.
- Pegs - Pegs is simply a shortened version of the term “footpegs”, which is where bikers rest their feet while riding.
- Pillion - A pillion is a passenger on a motorcycle. The passenger seat is called the pillion seat. Keep in mind, there’s a, shall we say, less technical term for this seat as well, and it’s much more common than the one we’ve listed here. You’ll know it when you hear it.
- Pipes - Pipes are simply the exhaust pipes of a motorcycle.
- Sissy Bar - The sissy bar is the backrest on a motorcycle seat. This isn’t considered an offensive term.
- V-Twin - V-twins are motorcycle engines with the pistons arranged in the shape of a V.
Other Important Terminology
- ATGATT - ATGATT stands for “all the gear, all the time”. It points out the importance of dressing in leathers, boots, helmets, long pants, gloves, glasses, and other gear. All those accessories really will save your life and, quite literally, your skin if you happen to crash.
- Cager - Cagers are conventional vehicles and their operators. Passenger vehicles provide protective “cages” for their passengers.
- Chicken Straps - Chicken straps are the strips of tread on the sides of motorcycle tires. They’re called chicken straps to indicate that if they’re not scuffed up, the rider is too chicken to lean his or her bike into a nice curve.
- DILLIGAF - Depending on your personal preferences and beliefs, you may not want to use this term yourself. Still, it’s important to know what it means, which is “Does it look like I give a f&$#?” It’s not meant as a hateful remark or insult, but it often indicates it’s time to change the subject.
- Dropping - Dropping refers to a bike falling over. This can happen during tune-ups, while washing a bike, or when simply trying to park the bike.
- Fool’s Gear - Fool’s gear is the lack of appropriate safety gear and protective clothing when riding a motorcycle. It includes sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, shorts, and other clothing that wouldn’t protect you in the event of a crash.
- Garage Rot - Garage rot is what happens to a motorcycle when you leave it sitting for too long. The tires could dry rot, and rust could start forming in unfortunate places among other issues.
- Get-Off - This refers to a fairly minor incident that causes the rider to have to get off of the bike. It could be a lack of stability at a traffic light or a simple loss of control while moving slowly.
- Gremlin - This term is often used to describe a problem with a bike or its components. Also, according to legend, gremlins tinker with motorcycles to cause problems. The bells you often see on motorcycles are there to help ward off gremlins and keep angels on watch.
- Highside - This is the term for a crash in which the motorcycle sends the rider flying over the handlebars.
- Lay it Down - Lay it down means a person’s bike went down with him or her on it. It’s another term for an accident that entails sliding across the pavement.
- Leathers - Leathers are the leather gear bikers wear, such as jackets, chaps, and gloves. They’re protective, and they look awesome.
- Lowside - A lowside is a crash in which the bike basically lays down and slides, often taking the rider sliding along the pavement with it. This type of crash is a bit more severe than simply laying it down.
- MLLH&R - MLLH&R is perhaps the most important acronym in the biker community. It means “much love, loyalty, honor, and respect”. All those elements are integral components of the biker brotherhood code.
- Motorcycle Club - A motorcycle club, or MC, is an official organization for bikers. It has members and leaders. Many have specific prerequisites in place for allowing people to become members, and they require life-long commitments.
- One Percenter - A One Percenter is a person who has completed all the requirements for becoming a fully-fledged member of a motorcycle club. This term is generally reserved for outlaw-oriented clubs, such as Hells Angels. In some cases, it’s only acceptable for fellow club members to use this term to describe a person.
- Rally - A rally is a gathering of motorcycle riders for fellowship, riding together, and sightseeing.
- Poker Run - A poker run is a ride during which bikers receive a playing card at each stop they make along the designated route. Afterward, the rider with the best hand of cards wins a prize.
- Ride Your Own Ride - Ride your own ride means don’t try to compare yourself or your bike to others. It doesn’t matter whose bike is faster or more expensive. Who has more riding skills and experience isn’t important. Ride your bike, enjoy yourself, and be comfortable with who you are. This concept applies to life in general as well.
- Riding Club - A riding club is a bit like a motorcycle club, but it’s not as strict and structured. Its members are essentially people who want to get together to ride and enjoy good company.
- Road Rash - When you crash a motorcycle, whether it’s a highside, a lowside, or laying it down, you ultimately end up hitting and sliding across the asphalt. Road rash is the collective term for the abrasions this contact causes. Following the ATGATT protocol can help prevent road rash.
- Skins - Skins is another term for motorcycle tires.
- Sturgis - Sturgis is a motorcycle rally that takes place each year in Sturgis, South Dakota. It’s arguably the nation’s most famous rally. Though it’s officially called the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, it’s so well-known, it only needs one name. When someone mentions Sturgis, it’s just understood that they’re talking about the rally rather than the city.
- Squid - Squid is often used to describe an arrogant rider. This isn’t an affectionate term. Squids can be dangerous to themselves and other riders, and they’ve been known to cause crashes.
- Tank-Slapper - A tank-slapper is a situation in which the handlebars wiggle back and forth while the bike is in motion. Sometimes, they wobble so much they end up hitting the gas tank. Also known as a death wobble, this is extremely dangerous and usually results in a crash.
- The Wave - There are countless types of waves, but this one refers to a specific one. Essentially, while you’re riding, extend your arm and hand down toward the road at a slight outward angle and create a V with your pointer and middle fingers. Keep the rest of your fingers curled into a fist. Do this when you meet other bikers on the road. It’s a sign of respect.
- Three-Piece Patch - A three-piece patch is a patch worn by One Percenters. It consists of an MC logo with the club name above it and the club’s specific territory below it. For the most part, you shouldn’t wear a three-piece patch unless you’ve earned a spot among the One Percenters.
- Twisties - Twisties are extremely curvy roads like those running up and down a mountain. One of the most well-known is the Tail of the Dragon that runs from North Carolina to Tennessee.
Stay Safe and Know the Lingo
These are some of the most common terms you’re likely to hear among the biker community. In truth, there are countless others. Compiling them all would be virtually impossible. With these in mind, though, you can converse with fellow bikers and not only understand what they’re talking about but toss in a few gems of your own. You’re sure to learn more along the way as well.