Motorcycle Lingo

By Kristen Castillo

April 3, 2015 5 min read

Riding motorcycles isn't just an activity; it's a lifestyle. And that lifestyle comes with insider knowledge of everything related to bikes and the road. Whether you're a new or an experienced rider, here's a look at some of the terms you need to know.

--Ape hangers. Very high handlebars that, when held, make the driver look like an ape hanging from a tree.

--Back warmer. According to Cruise the Coast, a Canadian motorcycle sightseeing group, this term refers to the girl on the back of your motorcycle.

--Bar hopper bike. Lingo for "spit shined and polished bikes that only come out for show-off purposes," says Cruise the Coast. These bikes are ready for shows, rallies and club events, but not necessarily everyday, regular rides.

--Bible. Motorcyclists may sound religious when referring to their "bible," but they're actually talking about their bike's owners manual.

--Born-again biker. "Someone who has recently returned to riding after a period of absence," says Cruise the Coast.

--Crotch rockets. Sport bikes on which the driver is hunched over the bike. These are typically fast and popular for stunts.

--Eat asphalt. Also known as horizontally parking, this is slang for getting into an accident.

--H.O.G. Cruise the Coast says this refers to Harley Owners Group, a "copyrighted trademark of the organization that sends the official (Harley-Davidson) magazine to members who pay yearly dues."

--Keep your rubber side down. This is a "phrase of endearment when saying goodbye," says driver and physical therapist Vivian Eisenstadt, noting the saying means "keep your wheels on the road and don't get into an accident."

--Lane splitting. Also called lane sharing, this is a controversial term referring to motorcycles riding between cars and lanes headed in the same direction. Lane splitting isn't legal in many states. A similar term, filtering, refers to motorcycles driving through stopped traffic.

--Lid. Also called a brain bucket, this term refers to a motorcycle helmet.

--Low-fives. Want to say hi to a fellow motorcyclist driving in the opposite direction? Eisenstadt says you need to "drop one arm off your handlebar and flash the peace sign upside down," or you can just drop your left arm and raise it slightly away from the bike.

--Nods. Another friendly greeting is a simple nod to other bikers as you're next to them or as you pass them.

--OEM. An abbreviation for original equipment manufacturer, meaning your ride is using stock parts that are specifically for your type of bike. "Aftermarket" is a related term, referring to parts and accessories purchased and installed that aren't original to your type of motorcycle.

--Pocket bikes. These miniature bikes, about a quarter of the size of a traditional motorcycle, are typically not street-legal. Pocket bikes are raced in Japan and Europe.

--PMS. Cruise the Coast says this is an abbreviation for parked motorcycle syndrome, indicating that a biker hasn't been able to ride his or her motorcycle "for an extended period of time."

--Rallies. Group rides and gatherings for motorcycle enthusiasts. One of the most popular rallies is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held every August in South Dakota.

--Rat bike. You've seen these bikes on the road, the ones that are patched together in a variety of ways. "A motorcycle that's been kept running, or together, by any means possible, usually with mismatched parts or parts that are not usually found on a motorcycle," says Cruise the Coast.

--RUB. Cruise the Coast uses this abbreviation to mean rich urban biker. It's "used to describe the people who buy Harleys to look cool and who have more money than the passion a biker has for riding."

--Warnings about cops. Warn fellow bikers about cops ahead by "tapping your helmet as a biker passes you going the other way," says Eisenstadt.

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