Biker Slang: Motorcycle Lingo
Every subculture has its own lingo. Bikers are no exception.
- Are you on the fringe of a motorcycle society?
- Have you heard a biker speaking and would like to understand what he was talking about
- Would you like to gain insight into the biker mindset?
- Do you just like words?
Here you'll find an introductory dictionary of commonly used road-motorcycle terminology and biker slang, compiled with the average "Citizen" in mind.
Citizen: (noun) A person with no known affiliation with a Motorcycle Club.
Biker Slang Numbers
- 1%er (One-Percenter): If 99% of motorcycle riders are law-abiding members of society, the rest is the 1%. Advertised through a patch or tattoo, usually on a diamond shaped back field.
- 1-Kicker: Starts on the first kick. A well-tuned motorcycle.
- 1-piece (One-Piece): "1-piece" outfit of protective clothing, covering the rider from neck to ankles.
- 2-into-1: Two exhaust pipes mated into one pipe, i.e. two header pipes into one muffler pipe.
- 2-Piece (Two-Piece): "2-piece" outfit of protective clothing, consisting of a jacket and pants, often constructed to allow the two pieces to be zipped together at the waist.
- 2-Second Rule: Same as with a car. A tool used to estimate the minimum safe following distance between moving vehicles. Cars following a motorcycle should allow four seconds as motorcycles can stop much more quickly than cars can.
- 2-Stroke: An engine in which the piston assembly/assemblies run two strokes per cycle.
- 3-Piece Patch/3 Patch: A configuration of back patches used by some motorcycle clubs with a top patch (club's name), a center patch (club's logo), and a bottom patch (geographical territory). Top and bottom patches are referred to as "Rockers."
- 4-Stroke: An engine in which the piston assembly/assemblies run four strokes per cycle.
- 6-Bends/6-Bend Handlebars: Handlebars that have six bends. Popular in '70s Chopper culture.
- 6-bend Handlebars13: the 13th letter of the alphabet (M). Can stand for motorcycle, marijuana, methamphetamines, Mongols, and mother chapter.
- 81: The eighth letter of the alphabet (H) and the first letter (A). Stands for Hell's Angels
- 99%er: The opposite of a 1%er. Patch often worn by an off-duty biker, first responders, police, firefighters, EMTs/paramedics, and military personnel. Sometimes worn by citizens as a social statement, but this isn't a great idea as 1%ers could consider it antagonistic or as a challenge.
- "Any Number" Over/Under: This refers to the length of front forks as compared to the stock length. Ex: "ten over" means 10 inches longer than in stock configuration, "two under" means two inches shorter.
- A's & 8s/Aces & 8s: Deadman's Hand. Legendary poker hand drawn by Wild Bill Hickok just before he was murdered.
- ABATE: The ABATE acronym is understood to have several meanings. ABATE is a social club and lobbying organization that seeks to preserve and regain legal rights on behalf of the motorcycling community.
- ABS: Anti-lock braking system, same as on a car.
- AFFA: Angels Forever, Forever Angels. A sign of loyalty referring to the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club.
- ATF: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Strange combination, no?
- ATGATT: All The Gear All The Time. Refers to the wearing of all safety gear (helmets, jacket, etc.) at all times while riding.
- AMA: American Motorcyclist Association.
- Aftermarket: Parts and accessories that are not OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) made.
- Air-Cooled: Engines cooled by airflow rather than through liquid cooling that is typical of cars; a bit of a misnomer as all engines are also oil-cooled, including air cooled engines
- Airheads: A term used to refer to older, air-cooled BMW motorcycles.
- Analog Gauges: Mechanical/non-digital gauges.
- Anti-Dive System: A component of some front-end suspension system designed to reduce front fork compression (dive) when under hard breaking.
- Ape Hangers: High handlebars that rise above the rider's shoulders, The rider assumes a posture reminiscent of an ape hanging from a branch.
- Apex: The highest point. The apex of a curve is the tightest portion of said curve.
- Associate: A person associated with a motorcycle club. Used more by people outside of the biker community than by the motorcycle clubs themselves.
- BATF: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
- BMW: Bavarian Motor Works (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG), a manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles. The BMWs of the '60s and '70s have a cult following that continues to this day.
- BSA: Birmingham Small Arms. A British manufacturer of motorcycles, now out of business.
- Backbone: The top tube of a motorcycle frame where the tank is typically mounted.
- Back Warmer: The friend on the back of your motorcycle.
- Backyard: An area that you ride frequently.
- Baffle: A sound deadening wall inside a muffler.
- Bagger: A motorcycle equipped with saddlebags, usually referring to a large motorcycle with hard-side bags and full touring gear.
- Bandana: A square of cloth used for just about everything.
- Bar Hopper: A motorcycle used to ride from bar to bar. Flashy or custom bike not suited to long-distance riding.
- Bark-o-lounger: A large, comfortable motorcycle. Honda Gold Wing
- Basket Case: 1) A motorcycle in a state of dis-assembly, i.e. a bike with its parts in baskets. 2) A person that's a mess psychologically.
- Bead: The edge of a tire that touches the wheel
- Beehive: A beehive style tail light.
- Beemer: A nickname for a BMW.
- Belt Drive: A system that uses a belt to transfer power rather than a chain or shift.
- Bible: Don't leave home without it.
- Big Dog: An American motorcycle manufacturer; closed down in April 2011.
- Big Five: The five major motorcycle manufacturers: Harley Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.
- Big Four: Hell's Angels, Pagans, Outlaws and Bandidos. The four motorcycle clubs that have been identified as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by the FBI. These clubs are prosecutable under the Federal RICO statute.
- Big Twin: A large V-Twin engine, especially the larger Harley Davidson engines.
- Biker: A motorcycle rider
- Biker Friendly: A business that appreciates the patronage of bikers.
- Billet: Refers to a piece of metal that's been machined into shape rather than cast.
- Blip the Throttle: A quick twist of the throttle.
- Block: The largest part of the engine in which the cylinder/cylinders are bored.
- Blockhead: A Harley Davidson engine produced between 1984 and 2000.
- Bobber: A Bob, Bobbed, or Bobbing). A motorcycle customized by bobbing (shortening) the fenders. Among the earliest of custom motorcycles. Enjoying a resurgence in popularity today.
- Boneyard: A salvage yard
- Bore: The internal diameter of a cylinder.
- Bottom End: 1) The bottom part of the engine. 2) The lower end of the RPM range.
- Bottom Out: When a suspension system has no more room to travel.
- Boxer: The nickname for the two-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine most-associated with older BMWs.
- Braided Hoses: hose covered in braided metal.
- Brain Bucket: A helmet.
- Bro/Brother: A close friend.
- Bronson Rock: An improvised tool. Not a term used in spoken conversations, but you'll occasionally read it in forums.
- Broomsticks: Straight handlebars.
- Buckhorns: A style of handlebars that pull back toward the rider, actually resembling a bull's horns. When someone speaks about buckhorns, it's usually in the context of wanting to replace them with something more stylish.
- Buddy Pegs: Footpegs for a passenger.
- Buffeting: Quick-cycling wind turbulence, especially bothersome when following large vehicles.
- Burnout: Spinning the rear wheel while preventing the motorcycle from moving forward (accomplished by applying the front brake or setting the front tire against an immovable object such as a high curb).
- Burning Rubber: Applying enough throttle from a stop that the rear tire loses traction and spins freely, leaving melted/burned rubber on the road surface.
- Busa: A nickname for a Hayabusa (Suzuki GSX1300R).
- CB750: Honda motorcycle. The first Sport Bike.
- CC: Cubic centimeter. 1,000 cc = 1 liter.
- CE Armor/CE Certified: A European system designed to rate the effectiveness of motorcycle riding armor. There is no American equivalent.
- CMA: Christian Motorcycle Association
- Christian-Motorcycle.com: Great online resource for the Christian Biker community (yes, there really are hardcore Christian Bikers).
- Cafe Chop: Converting a motorcycle into a cafe racer.
- Cafe Racer: Motorcycles customized in the style of the British street-racing motorcycles of the 1960s and 1970s.
- Cage: Car, truck, or van.
- Cager: Person in a car, truck, or van.
- Cam: A circle or oblong with an off-center point of axis.
- Can: Anexhaust muffler, typically an aftermarket muffler for a sport bike.
- Canyon Carving: Hard, fast riding on twisty roads.
- Carb/Carbs: Carburetor
- Carbon Fiber: A strong and light-weight construction material.
- Cateye: A style of tail light.
- Catwalk: A British term for wheelie.
- Center of Gravity: Balance point.
- Centerstand: A device used to hold a motorcycle upright when it's not being ridden. Serves the same purpose as a kickstand, except that the rear wheel is raised off the road surface.
- Century: 100 mph
- Chain: A metal chain that transfers power to the rear wheel. Similar in design and purpose to a bicycle chain.
- Chain Drive: system that used a chain to transfer power to the rear wheel.
- Chaps: Protective riding gear that goes over pant legs and does not cover groin or posterior.
- Chapter: The local entity of a larger club. Example: XYZ Motorcycle Club, Detroit Chapter.
- Chase Vehicle: Truck that follows a pack of riders on a run to assist with breakdowns
- Chassis: Frame and suspension.
- Choke: Used to make cold-starting an engine easier. Old systems used to "choke" out some air to increase the fuel to air ratio. Newer systems enrich the amount of fuel.
- Chopper: Term for a customized motorcycle that has taken various forms through the years. Originally, anything unnecessary was "chopped" off and then custom features were added. The most notable feature of a Chopper is its extended fork system.
- Chrome: Chromium plating used to increase corrosion resistance and enhance appearance.
- Church: A club meeting.
- Citizen: A person with no Motorcycle Club affiliation.
- Club: A group of people banded together over a common interest. Motorcycle Club is a generally nefarious term referring to Outlaws/1%ers, whereas Riding Clubs are more community friendly.
- Clip-ons: Handlebars that "clip-on" to the top of the forks. Usually seen on Sports Bikes as they lend themselves to a forward-leaning riding position.
- Colors: Patches, logo, uniform associated with a Motorcycle Club
- Compression Ratio: Refers to the difference between the precompressed volume of air/fuel and the compressed volume of air/fuel.
- Counter Steer: Counter-intuitive steering system in which a push to the left-side handlebar results in a right-side turn and vice versa. To see just how counter-intuitive, check out the reader comments below.
- Cowl/Cowling: Bodywork pieces that cover the engine and transmission of a bike to improve aerodynamics and visual smoothness. These are the parts removed from a naked bike.
- Crash Bars: Bars that attach to the frame and protrude outward so as to protect the engine in the event of a dump. They do nothing in a real crash.
- Cross Wind: Wind blowing across the direction of travel.
- Crotch Rocket: A sports bike.
- Cruiser: A bike built for cruising the boulevards as opposed to sports riding or long-distance riding. Typically of classic style with a low seat, pull-back handle bars, fancy paint and lots of chrome.
- Cut-Off Switch: A handle bar-mounted switch that turns off the engine. Also called a kill switch.
- Cuts: A denim jacket which has had the sleeves cut off. All club patches are sown onto cuts, which are worn as the outer-most layer of clothing, even over leather jackets. Most, if not all, outlaw clubs have cuts as their basic uniform.
Grocery Getter: a biker's car.
Cage: a non-biker's car.
While "cage" is a derogatory term, "grocery getters" are just a fact of family life.
- DOHC: Dual Overhead Cam
- DOHV: Dual Overhead Valves
- DOT: Department of Transportation. Most often referring to a DOT-approved helmet.
- Daytona: Daytona Beach, Florida, home of the annual Daytona Beach Bike Week rally and the Biketoberfest motorcycle rally.
- Decreasing Radius Curve: A curve that gets tighter as you progress through. Sometimes found on cloverleaf-style exit ramps, these turns are particularly dangerous for motorcyclists.
- Digger: A motorcycle with a stretched (lengthened) frame and stock-length front forks.
- Dirt Bike: An off-road bike; not street legal.
- Dive: The tendency for the front suspension to compress under hard breaking due to the effects of inertia.
- Dome: Helmet
- Donor: A bike from which parts are taken to make or repair another bike
- Doughnut: A 360-degree burnout, just as in a car, but harder to do on a motorcycle.
- Do-Rag: Cloth head covering. The evolved form of a bandana
- Drag Bars: Handlebars that do not appreciably sweep up or back toward the rider.
- Dragging Pegs: Leaning so far into a curve that the foot pegs drag on the road surface. Not a good idea and definitely not done on purpose.
- Drag Pipes: Short, straight exhaust pipes typically seen on Cruisers
- Dresser: A large motorcycle complete with a full touring package (fairing, windshield, saddle bags, and a comfortable seat).
- Drop Seat: A frame style in which the seat-rest has a lowering notch within the frame.
- Dual Purpose Motorcycle: A motorcycle designed for use on and off road, with a bias toward for off=road.
- Dual Sport: A motorcycle designed for use on and off road, with a bias toward on-road.
- Dumping the Bike: When a bike falls over. Not a crash, as the bike is not under power at the time of the dump.
Dirt Bike Stunts
- Earned/Earned or Bought: Refers to patches. Some clubs' patches are earned (the wearer had to complete a specific task in order to earn the patch) and some patches are bought (the wearer does not have to earn the right to wear the patch). If asked by an outlaw if your patches are earned or bought, "bought" is the safe answer. "Earned" could cause you to be viewed as a rival.
- Easy Rider: Motorcycle magazine and classic movie.
- Endo: Abruptly stopping a motorcycle so that inertia lifts the back end off the surface. Sometimes this is done on purpose as a stunt, also known as a Stoppie. If an endo is not intentional, it's called an end-over-end.
- Enduro: Used to describe an off-road/trail ride competition and the bikes that are used to compete in these competitions.
- Evolution/Evo: Harley Davidson engine produced from 1984 to 2000.
- Exhaust Wrap: Insulated cloth wrapped around exhaust pipes to retain heat and give an old-school look. Also known as heat wrap, pipe wrap, and exhaust tape. On cars it's called header wrap.
- Fairing: Bodywork at the front of a motorcycle designed to deflect wind, rain, and road debris.
- Farkle: Doo-dads, kitch, and add-ons that serve no useful purpose. One or two farkles are ok (flags, stuffed pigs, etc.) but don't overdo it. Most serious bikers don't use this term but you'll find it used in forums and occasionally in magazines.
- Fins: Heat sumps on air cooled engines.
- Fishtailing: Side-to-side sliding of the rear wheel
- Fishtails: Flared exhaust tip that resembles a fish's tail.
- Flathead: An early engine design associated with Harley Davidson engines produced from 1919 to 1973.
- Flat Head: Horizontally opposed four- or six -cylinder engines.
- Flat Spot: The point at which no additional power is gained from increased RPMs
- Flycatcher: Hypercharger reminiscent of a racecar's Bird Catcher, but smaller.
- Flying Colors: Wearing your clubs "colors."
- Foot Pegs: Pegs where a rider rests his feet
- Fork Bag: A small pouch attached to forks (sometimes handlebars or frame) and used to carry tools and supplies.
- Frisco Style: When a fuel tank is mounted on top of the frame rather than having the frame sunk into the underside of the tank.
- GBNF: Gone but Not Forgotten
- Gearbox: Transmission casing.
- Getting Patched: Graduating from prospect to club member (getting your center patch).
- Giggle Gas: Nitrous oxide.
- Gixer/Gixxer: Suzuki GSX-R.
- Gooseneck: The stretched portion of the frame just behind the neck, originally used by home-builders to stretch the length of the frame without altering its geometry.
- Green Light Triggers: "Demand-actuated" traffic lights sometimes don't recognize motorcycles because motorcycles aren't big enough to trigger the sensor. Green Light Triggers are magnets that attach to the underside of a motorcycle designed to trigger the light to change. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.
- Gremlin: Blamed for all sorts of mechanical problems. Typically referred to in the context of Gremlin Bells, which are said to protect against Gremlins.
- Grocery Getter: A biker's car, usually a middle-class, family-style car.
Vintage Style Cafe Racers
- HOG: Harley Owners Group
- Hack: A sidecar. Also a "side hack."
- Hamsters: A high-profile group of custom motorcycle enthusiasts, easily recognized at events by their distinctive uniform: A yellow t-shirt with the Hamsters' logo. Membership includes: Arlen Ness, Dave Perowitz, and Donnie Smith.
- Hand Signals: Beyond the left-turn, right-turn that you were taught when riding a bicycle; can be used to communicate formation, hazards, travel routes, etc.
- Hang Around: a person that "hangs around" a motorcycle club and may be interested in joining.
- Hard Tail/Hardtail: motorcycle with no rear suspension.
- Harley Davidson: largest American motorcycle manufacturer.
- Heel-Toe Shifter: gear-selector lever that allows the rider to push down on the rear portion of the lever rather than pulling up on the front.
- Helmet Head: your hair after wearing a helmet.
- Helmet Stickers: biker equivalent to bumper stickers except 1. bikes don't have bumpers and 2. like tattoos, one's not enough.
- High Side: accident in which the motorcyclist goes over the motorcycle (and then sometimes the motorcycle goes over the motorcyclist - you get the picture). Opposite of a low side.
- Highway Bars: bars that connect to and extend away from the frame in a semi-circular arch. Highway bars allow for leg stretching room on longer rides, offer convenient mounting points for auxiliary lighting and they can offer some protection during a dump.
- Highway Pegs: foot pegs mounted so as to allow leg stretching room. Highway Pegs are much small than Highway Bars.
- Hog: nickname for a large motorcycle, usually a Harley Davidson.
- Horizontally Opposed: engine configuration in which cylinders are set 180 degrees apart.
Biker Dictionary - Hamsters
- I Rode Mine: T-shirt slogan worn to shame those that trailer their bikes to rallies.
- Independent: A biker with no club affiliation.
- Indian: An old American motorcycle manufacturer.
- Ink: A tattoo.
- Ink Slinger: A tattoo artist.
- Inline Four: An engine configuration in which all four cylinders are aligned in a row.
- Inline Six: An engine configuration in which all six cylinders are aligned in a row.
- Inline Triple: An engine configuration in which all three cylinders are aligned in a row.
- Inverted Front End/Inverted Forks: A front-end suspension system in which larger tubes are at the top and smaller tubes are at the bottom.
- Iron Butt: A motorcycle run that covers 1,000 miles in 24 hours. The Iron Butt Rally covers 11,000 miles in 11 days.
- Ironhead: Harley Davidson Sportsters produced from 1957 to 1985.
Iron Butt Rally
- Jet: Ports in the carburetor through which fuel flows
- Jet Needle: Controls the flow of fuel through the jet.
- Jockey Shift: A gear selector fitted directly into the top of the transmission.
- Jugs: Cylinders. Well, sometimes "jugs" refers to part of a woman's anatomy. I'm sure that you'll be able to figure out which meaning is appropriate when you read it in context.
- Kicker/Kickstart: A motorcycle with no electric starter that must be manually kick-started.
- Kickstand: A mechanical devise that enable a motorcycle to balance in an upright position when not being ridden.
- King and Queen Seat: A one-piece seat with a saddle for the driver, a passenger saddle behind, and a high, padded backrest raised about six inches above the driver and attached to a high Sissy Bar. In the '70s, no chopper was complete without a king and queen seat.
- Knucklehead: Harley Davidson engine produced from 1936 to 1947.
- Kuryakyn: A well respected manufacturer of custom motorcycle bolt-on parts, especially among Harley Davidson enthusiasts.
- Lace: To lace a wheel is to install the spokes.
- Lane Splitting: Driving between lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction either at speed or when traffic is stopped
- Laughing Gas: Nitrous oxide
- Laughlin/Laughlin River Run: An annual motorcycle rally in Laughlin NV.
- Lay It Down:A crash in which a biker slides with one leg under the bike, typically done purposely to avoid a worse collision. When done accidentally it's called a " low side."
- Leathers: rRding clothes made of leather.
- Lid: Helmet
- Line: The intended path of travel.
- Lone Wolf: A biker with no club affiliation.
- Low Side: A crash in which a rider slides with one leg under the motorcycle, opposite of a "High Side."
A Low Side Crash
- MC and M/C: A motorcycle club. There are no admitted "Motorcycle Gangs" just as there is no admitted Mafia.
- MFFM: Mongols Forever, Forever Mongols
- Meet: A scheduled social event or "meeting." Social... this is not "Church."
- Megaphone: A flared exhaust tip
- Metric Cruiser: Cruiser style bike of foreign manufacturer
- Monkey Butt: The unpleasant "end" result of a long ride
- Mother/Mother Chapter: An original chapter of a Motorcycle Club
- Naked Bike: Bikes with little to no cowl or fairing. Often achieved after a bike is laid down. The damaged body pieces are removed and then not replaced either due to their cost or just because the owner decides that he likes the new look.
- Neck: The front of a motorcycle frame behind the steering head.
- Nitrous Oxide/N2O: Oxygen-rich gas fed into the fuel/oxygen stream to increase horsepower.
- Nomad: 1) "Nomad" on a bottom rocker patch means that motorcycle club member travels between geographical chapters. Kind of like working in a secretarial pool, a Nomad goes where he's needed. 2)"Nomad" on a top rocker patch or car plaque means "Nomad" is the name of that club.
- NOS: 1) New Old Stock: old parts that are still in stock; 2) Nitrous Oxide System.
- OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer.
- OFFO: Outlaws Forever, Forever Outlaws.
- OHC: OverHead Cam.
- OHV: OverHead Valve.
- OMG: Outlaw Motorcycle Gang. You won't see this advertised on patches or tattoos, but you'll see it in books and magazine articles. Always used to refer to someone else; 1%s may mention their Club, but will never say they're part of a gang.
- Oil Bag: An oil tank.
- Old Lady/Ol' Lady: A wife or long-time girl friend. Has nothing to do with age and is not a derogatory term.
- One Off: A one-of-a-kind fabricated part or one-of-a-kind motorcycle.
- Organ Donor: A biker who doesn't wear a helmet.
- Originals: The original colors presented to a new Motorcycle Club member.