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4 min read

Biker Slang: Favorite Motorcycle Terms

Biker Slang: Favorite Motorcycle Terms

If you're new to riding and looking to keep up with biker slang terms, we've got you covered. It's fascinating how some of the most interesting expressions in our everyday lexicon come from the world of motorcycles. However, it's not always clear how or why these terms got started. Spend enough time around someone who rides, and you're bound to hear at least a few of these gems. Some sayings have firm origins that legitimately make sense, while others are just plain confusing. So, buckle up and get ready to learn some unique biker slang terms that will make you feel like a true rider.


Biker Slang: Motorcycle Terms You Need To Know



Spectacular but dangerous squid rider performing reckless wheelie stunts


Of all the motorcycle terms out there, this one is my personal favorite. A squid is a rider who overemphasizes their riding abilities and flaunts his aforementioned lack of riding ability by riding recklessly and eschewing any kind of serious riding gear.

We all know a squid or have seen one riding like a jackass with no helmet, in a tank top, shades, and sneakers. Also, my least favorite kind of rider.

“Hey, did you see Ryan doing wheelies on his Gixxer? Dude is such a squid.”


Bikini Fairing

Iconic Ducati motorcycle with sleek bikini fairing for a timeless look


Like a bikini, a bikini fairing on a motorcycle is simply a small, minimally protective piece of fairing with an attached windscreen that goes around a motorcycle’s headlight. It is also known as a café fairing because of its tendency to be found on café racer-style bikes.

“I’m never riding a bike with only a bikini fairing across the country again. I feel like I just went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.”



No, not the fishing device. A bobber is a popular style of motorcycle that originated around the 1920s. The hallmarks of a bobber are simplified, stripped-down style and a ‘bobbed’ or shortened rear fender.

Popular with custom builders, bobbers have remained an enduring motorcycle style for decades. Manufacturers like Indian and Triumph have seen a great deal of success with their OEM versions of a bobber-style bike with the Scout Bobber and Bonneville Bobber respectively.

– “Forget choppers and all that chrome. I love the bobber’s spring seat and fat tires.”


Café racer

Vintage bomber cafe racer on display, a classic ride with timeless style


A café racer, like the bobber, is a specific style of motorcycle. Also like the bobber, the café racer derives its name from the specific way it was used and how it looks.

The name was born in London in the 1960s when owners used their modified motorcycles for short blasts through town, usually between cafes.

Café racers are typically lightweight, stripped-down machines with low bars, large engines, and a sporty riding position.

“My favorite part of a café racer? Has to be the brown quilted leather seat and clip-on bars.”


Crotch rocket

And then there’s crotch rocket. Really, does this one need any explanation?

This name is given to any high-performance sportsbike.

It is like a half-derogatory, half-perfectly apt description of what a sportsbike is and looks like.

“I could never ride a Harley. I pledge allegiance to the crotch rocket, bro.”


Rat bike

Rat bike on suburban road: unconventional style and gritty attitude


Much like a rat rod automobile, a rat bike is one that looks like it’s been lifted right out of a ‘Mad Max’ movie.

They’re purposefully grungy, cobbled together, and gnarly looking. Owners will employ all sorts of what looks like hack-job engineering when it’s only just made to look that way.

Though it might not look like it from afar, these are some of the most customized and personalized bikes you’ll find.

“That rat bike looks like it belongs in the scrap heap. It’s so sick.”


Naked bike

Sleek fairingless bike showcased against dramatic cloudy sky backdrop


Oddly enough, you’ll almost always find a bikini fairing on a naked bike. Coincidence? A naked motorcycle is simply one that has no fairings.

They are commonly derived from sports bikes and often use wider, taller bars and a more upright seating position. The naked bike category has exploded in popularity in recent years mainly because they’re versatile, easier to ride than sports bikes, and are an absolute blast.

Great examples of naked bikes are the KTM 890 Duke, Yamaha MT-10, Ducati Streetfighter, and Kawasaki Z900.

“I thought about buying a crotch rocket but chose a naked bike instead. It gets the same power, and better looks, and my wrists don’t go numb. I love it!”


Tar snakes

Be cautious on the road: tar snake stretch of highway can be hazardous


I’m sure most of us have had a close encounter with a tar snake before, or at least know someone who has.

Tar snakes are the nickname for the crack sealant used to fill cracks and holes in the road. In an automobile, there is nothing to worry about.

However, on a hot day, mid-corner on a motorcycle, these can be deadly. In the heat, they become pliable and flexible and can easily unsettle a motorcycle. Watch out for these!

“John was bitten by a snake? In the middle of the road? Wait, you mean a tar snake? That makes sense.”



This one is simple – a cager is a derogatory name for people in automobiles.

The name comes from the ‘cage’ people are surrounded by from sitting in a car. Oftentimes, these people are oblivious of motorcyclists and/or ignorant of how to act around them.

“You see that guy almost run me off the road? Such a cager.”



Rider takes on highside fall during race course event


A high side is one of the scariest things that can happen on a motorcycle.

This is a type of crash that occurs when the rear tire loses traction mid-corner, then suddenly regains traction, sends the rider flying over the handlebars, and the bike flips onto the side that’s outside to the corner, thus the name high-side.

These are terrifying crashes to watch as they’re usually sudden and violent, and the rider becomes an unwilling passenger on a bike that seems hellbent on killing them.

“That was an absolutely vicious high side. I hope Marquez is okay.”


Tank slapper

Rider thrown off during a dangerous tank slapper wreck on the road


Like a high-side, a tank slapper is another motorcycle characteristic that can strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned rider.

A tank slapper happens when the handlebars whip back and forth violently while the bike is moving, slapping the rider from side to side as the front tire finds and loses grip rapidly. Similar to the “speed wobbles” (you know, when you’re a kid going downhill on a bike, we’ve all been there).

Steering dampers are designed to mitigate/prevent these from occurring and are becoming more common, particularly on high-performance bikes. There are several circumstances when this phenomenon can occur, and none of them are fun. Or comfortable. Or safe.

“There I was, doing a buck-twenty when I got into a wicked tank slapper. Scared me straight for a week.”


Iron Butt

The fabled Iron Butt challenges are only taken on by the bravest (most sadistic?) of motorcycle riders.

It starts with what’s called the Saddlesore 1000 where you must ride 1,000 miles in under 24 hours. Think about that. Then, if you’re a real masochist, try the Bun Burner 1500 GOLD which requires riding 1,500 miles in the same period.

Yeah, no thanks. My butt hurts just thinking about this. Check out the Iron Butt Association’s website here.

“You want to try and finish an Iron Butt ride? Yeah, me neither.”



Vintage Harley Davidson Knucklehead bike on display: a timeless classic


Yes, this is what my dad calls me when I do something dumb, and no, that’s not the definition we’re talking about here.

Knucklehead in the motorcycling world refers to Harley-Davidson’s famed ‘knucklehead’ engine that was used in early HD bikes from 1936 to 1947.

The name comes from the shape of the valve covers and how they looked like knuckles. The ‘Panhead’ engine replaced the Knucklehead in 1948.

“No, you knucklehead. That’s a Knucklehead.”


Let us know your favorite motorcycle terms and we will add them to the list!


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