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Basic Motorcycle Terminology Explained

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Photo: AMA

Similar to the auto industry, the motorcycle industry has its own technical lingo. Discover what some of these common terms mean, so you can intelligently talk about your bike with a mechanic, or with your biker friends.

Apex — The center point of a turn.

Anti-Dive system — A front-end suspension part popular in the late 1980s that minimizes how much the forks compress when braking.

Boxer Twin — A horizontal engine configuration with the two pistons opposing each other. It looks similar to two fists, hence the name. You’ll often see this configuration on BMW twin-cylinder bikes.

Countersteering — The directional pressure a biker applies to either handlebar, to initiate a turn.

Ergonomics — How the instruments on a bike are positioned as it relates to the biker’s posture when riding it. A bike that fits a rider well is said to have “good ergonomics.”


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Fairing — The windshield and/or bodywork on the bike’s front designed for improved airflow and less drag. Sometimes this term refers to side panels on sportbikes.

Forks — The metal tubes that join the bike’s triple-tree to the front wheel.

Line  — The predicted turning path a bike makes during a turn.

Petcock — Another word for the fuel valve typically found on the gas tank’s side.

Redline — This term gets its name from the red line manufacturers usually put on the tachometer of the bike. It means the maximum number of revolutions per minute (RPM) that an engine can run before damage occurs.

Shaft drive — A final drive system that uses a shaft (instead of a chain) to transmit power to the rear wheels.

Sprocket — A bike has two sprockets: one on the front, one on the rear. Simply put, these parts transmit and receive power to the rear wheel. The two sprockets are connected by a chain.


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News Source: American Motorcyclist Association