So you’ve just joined a motorcycle club or bought your first bike and you’ve had a rude awakening. What are they saying? We don’t blame you: there’s plenty of biker slang that often finds its way into everyday conversations among bikers.
We’re digging into biker lingo as part of Bikesure’s ‘Ride On’ campaign, which aims to get people on the road and celebrating their freedom, whether they’re getting back into biking after a break or taking up two wheels for the first time.
So if you’re feeling a little lost, take a look at our guide to biker slang.
Common biker slang phrases
1 percenter: members of outlaw motorcycle clubs. You might see that some people wear a “1%” patch. This means they’re part of an outlaw club.
Back warmer: person riding pillion (see more: pillion).
Back box: a luggage box that sits on the back of a motorcycle.
Bible: repair manual – what every biker needs.
Binned: when you get in a crash. Single vehicle accident.
Biker: someone who rides a motorcycle. More specifically, someone who’s in a motorcycle club.
Blinkers (mainly used in the US): indicators.
Blood bikers: bikers who use their motorcycle to courier urgent medical supplies and items between hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Bump start: otherwise known as push starting your bike. When you start your bike by pushing your motorcycle with the ignition on.
Cage: a car, truck or van.
Cager: person in a car, truck or van.
Carbs: the carburettor, which supplies your bike’s engine with the air and fuel mixture it needs to fuel your motorcycle.
CBT: compulsory basic training – a training course you usually need to take before riding a moped or motorcycle on the road.
cc: stands for cubic capacity, which refers to the size of the engine. An engine with a higher cc will have more room for the fuel and air mixture, which will allow it to combust more fuel at once. Engines come in all sizes, from bikes on the lower end of the spectrum to around 2,500cc.
Crank it: turning the engine over. This can be done by using the kickstarter or ignition.
Fairing: plastic or carbon fibre bodywork on the side of the bike covering the engine to make the bike more aerodynamic.
Gear or kit: the clothing and equipment you use as a motorcyclist.
Going in too hot: taking a corner too quickly.
Green laning: riding on minor unsurfaced roads and trails.
Hanging up your helmet: used when you’ve decided to retire from motorcycling.
Jump-start: resuscitating your bike when its battery is no longer working by attaching it to another bike’s battery with leads and ‘jump-starting’ the engine.
Kick-start: a motorcycle that must be manually kick-started by pushing down on a lever with your foot.
Leathers: refers to your protective clothing, which is usually made from leather.
Lid: a rider’s helmet.
A meet: when you meet other bikers.
MC: motorcycle club. There are plenty in the UK that you can join!
MOT: refers to the MOT test, which must be completed annually once your bike turns three years old to ensure it is safe and roadworthy to ride.
Outlaw: member of a biker gang (see more: 1 percenter).
Pannier: ideal for those who are touring or camping with their bike. Provides extra storage on either side of the bike.
Pipes: the exhaust pipe.
Pillion: a passenger sitting on the rear seat of a motorcycle.
Mushrooms: crash bungs that stick out of the side of the bike to protect plastic work and engine if bike is dropped.
Road rash: an injury caused by scraping your skin on the road surface. This is likely because the rider wasn’t wearing the right protective gear.
Rubber: your tyres, because they’re made out of rubber.
Silencer: helps muffle the sound of your exhaust. Also known as a muffler, “end can” or “slip on”.
Spill: as in to ‘have a spill’. Refers to falling off your bike or taking a tumble.
Step-through frame: usually used when speaking about motorcycle scooters. Bikes that you can step onto rather than swinging your leg over.
Sweep: otherwise known as the tail rider. For bikers riding in a group, the sweep rides last. If someone breaks down or is involved in a crash, they will stop to assist.
Touring: taking a trip or holiday on your motorcycle, e.g.“I went touring in France” (see more: touring bike).
Biker slang for the different types of bikes
ATV: all-terrain vehicle. When used in the context of motorcycles, this usually refers to quad bikes – small, four-wheeled vehicles for off-road use.
Big Five: the five biggest motorcycle manufacturers – Honda, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.
Bobber: a custom motorcycle with a specific look that was popular in the 1930s-1990s. A ‘bob-job’ involves removing excess bodywork from the motorcycle, removing the front fender and shortening the back fender, and removing all unnecessary parts to make the motorcycle as light as possible.
Bonnie: refers to the Triumph Bonneville, a British-born motorcycle that many bikers have a fondness for.
Busa: refers to the Suzuki Hayabusa, a sport bike motorcycle made since 1999 with top speeds of 194mph. The name refers to the peregrine falcon, whose vertical hunting dive can reach up to 202mph and is the fastest of any bird.
Café racer: motorcycles that were modified to improve speed and handling. They became popular in the 1960s, when British bikers would use their motorbikes to travel quickly between popular cafés, especially in London. They were seen as a symbol of rebellion as, in a time when more people were able to afford a car, bikers – predominantly young men – decided to buy and modify cast-off bikes.
Chopper: a style of custom motorcycle with a stretched out appearance, tall handlebars and a lowered rear suspension. The style was popular in 1950s California. They still exist today, but they’re few and far between in the UK.
Crosser: motocross bike that can be used on the road.
Cruiser: a type of bike that usually has a lower seat and is ideal for fairly short journeys. Laidback posture, forward foot controls.
Dirt bike: a motorcycle designed for use on unpaved roads or tracks. You can use your dirt bike to go off-roading (see more: off-road).
Gixxer: refers to the Suzuki GSX-R series of bikes from Suzuki. The nickname became so popular that Suzuki created a bike called the Suzuki Gixxer in 2014.
Hardtail: when the frame of the bike is a single piece. These have no rear suspension. As a result, they have a distinctive look that many refer to as “the line” (see more: the line).
Hog: originates from America, short for a Harley-Davidson motorbike. Also short for the Harley Owners Group.
Kwak: refers to Kawasaki, one of the top five (see more: top five).
The line: the frame rails, from the engine to the rear axle (see more: hardtail).
Moped: a small motorcycle with an engine capacity of 50cc or lower (see more: cc), a max speed of 28mph, and scooter styling.
Muscle bike: a high-performance motorcycle derived from either a standard or sports bike design and puts a high priority on engine power.
Naked bike: also known as roadsters or standards. General purpose street motorcycle with an upright riding position that is partway between the lean-back posture of a cruiser and the forward sitting position of a sports bike. These often have no fairing meaning the engine and mechanics of the bike are visible hence the term “naked”.
Restricted: bikes where the brake horsepower (bhp) has been restricted so it can be used by those that need to meet licencing requirements.
Scooter: generally defined as a bike with a step-through frame (see step-through frame) and platform to place your feet. Has the same styling as a moped. See our blog on the differences between scooters and mopeds.
Softail: when the rear suspension springs or shock absorbers are hidden from direct view. This is so the motorcycle looks like it is a hardtail motorcycle (see more: hardtail).
Sports bike: a “fully faired” motorcycle that has been designed for use on the roads and optimised for speed, acceleration, braking and handling. Lean-over riding position for aerodynamics (see more: fairing).
Superbike: a high-performance motorcycle with a sports styling.
Suzie: refers to Suzuki, one of the top five (see more: top five)
Streetfighter: a sports bike that has had the fairings removed, quite often the exhaust pipe.
Trike: in general, a three-wheeled motorcycle. Definitions can be contentious, however; four-wheeled motorcycles can still be classed as a trike if wheels are less than 460mm apart, they are classed as “twinned” wheels and therefore count as a single wheel.
Touring bike: a motorcycle specifically designed for touring. These usually feature larger-capacity fuel tanks for more time between fill-ups, and better weather protection. Also typically feature luggage systems such as panniers and top box (see more: touring).
Types of motorcycle events
Enduro: a type of off-road competition over a long distance.
Hill climb: a competition in which competitors singly race up a steep slope to get the best time possible.
Off-road: a sport or activity where you ride an off-road motorcycle (otherwise known as a dirt bike) on rough terrain.
Speedway: a form of motorcycle racing in which the riders race several laps around an oval dirt track, typically in a stadium.
Track day: an organised event where members of the public can ride on motor racing tracks. This is where you can really test your bike’s top speeds and handling abilities.
Getting into biking? Get the right protection
Whether you’ve just set off on your motorcycle journey or you’re returning after a break, make sure you have the right motorcycle insurance in place before you ride. At Bikesure, we provide competitive cover for all types of bikes and can include additional benefits such as breakdown cover, helmets and leathers cover, and track day cover. Call us on 0330 123 1028 for a quote.Ride On