How to talk motorcycle language

Rev Up Your Vocabulary: 30 Essential Slang Terms Every Classic Motorcycle Enthusiast Should Know!

by | Classic Bike Owners Guides | 24 comments

Do you keep getting called a tyre kicker or a bodger? Not sure if people are trying to offend you? Perhaps you are new to the scene and want to learn about some of the language used at meets and of course when ordering parts. If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the world of classic bikes, there exists a vibrant and colorful vocabulary that adds to the charm and camaraderie among riders. From barn finds to rocking horse sh*t, knowing the right lingo can make you feel like an insider in this tight-knit community.

Buckle up, because we’ll guide you through a glossary of must-know words that will ignite your passion for classic motorcycles and deepen your connection with like-minded enthusiasts. Whether you dream of owning a Brit bike, appreciate the artistry of a cafe racer, or simply want to expand your two-wheeled vocabulary, this article will be your trusted guide to unlocking the language of classic motorcycle culture.

Read Our List of Motorcycle Slang Terms

  1. Barn find: Refers to a classic motorcycle that has been discovered in storage or abandoned, typically in an old barn. Barn finds are highly sought after by enthusiasts because they often represent hidden treasures from the past. These motorcycles are often in a neglected or deteriorated state due to years of storage, but their rarity and potential for restoration make them exciting discoveries. The allure of a barn find lies in the possibility of unearthing a forgotten gem and bringing it back to its former glory.
    Barn Find Motorcycles
  2. Cafe racer: A style of motorcycle popularized in the 1960s, characterized by low, streamlined design, minimal bodywork, and rear-set footrests. Cafe racers were originally built by young riders who modified their motorcycles to achieve higher speeds and improve handling for racing between cafes and other hangout spots. The style emphasizes a stripped-down aesthetic, with shortened fenders, low handlebars, and a focus on performance rather than comfort. Cafe racers embody a rebellious and sleek image that continues to captivate enthusiasts today.
    What is a Cafe Racer
  3. Classic/vintage: Terms used to describe motorcycles that are at least 20-30 years old and retain their original design and features. Classic or vintage motorcycles evoke nostalgia and represent a bygone era of motorcycling. These bikes often have timeless designs, utilizing traditional features and styling cues from their respective eras. Classic motorcycles are cherished for their historical significance, craftsmanship, and the sense of heritage they bring to the rider.
  4. NOS (New Old Stock): Refers to original, unused parts that were manufactured for a specific motorcycle model but never used or sold. New Old Stock parts are highly sought after by collectors and restorers who aim to maintain the authenticity of their vintage motorcycles. These parts are often rare and difficult to find, as they have remained untouched and preserved for many years. NOS parts are valued for their originality and can be integral to maintaining or restoring a motorcycle to its factory specifications.
  5. Beezer: The term “Beezer” is a term of endearment among motorcycle enthusiasts, reflecting the fondness and admiration for BSA motorcycles. It carries a sense of nostalgia and pride, symbolizing the rich legacy and cultural significance of the BSA brand within the motorcycle community.
  6. Patina: The natural aging and wear on a motorcycle, often appreciated by enthusiasts and considered a sign of authenticity and character. Patina develops over time as a result of exposure to the elements, usage, and the passage of years. It includes imperfections, fading paint, surface rust, and other signs of age. While some may opt for a pristine restoration, others value the patina as it tells the story of a motorcycle’s history and adds a unique aesthetic appeal, showcasing its journey through time.
  7. Rat bike: A motorcycle deliberately left in a rusty, unkempt condition to give it a raw and rebellious look. Rat bikes are often associated with the DIY and counter-cultural movements within the motorcycle community. They prioritize functionality over appearance, with a focus on performance and customization rather than maintaining a polished exterior. Rat bikes showcase the individuality and non-conformist spirit of their owners, embracing an unconventional and rugged style.
  8. Bobber: A customized motorcycle with the rear fender removed or “bobbed” for a minimalistic appearance. Bobbers trace their origins back to the post-World War II era when returning servicemen sought to modify their motorcycles for speed and aesthetics. The removal of excess bodywork and the bobbing of the rear fender gave these bikes a sleek and stripped-down profile. Bobbers often feature low-slung seats, minimalistic handlebars, and custom paintwork, reflecting the rider’s personal taste and style.
  9. Brit bike: Specifically refers to classic British motorcycles, such as Triumph, BSA, Norton, and Royal Enfield. Brit bikes hold a significant place in motorcycle history, known for their iconic designs, distinctive engineering, and cultural impact. These motorcycles have a rich heritage and are appreciated for their craftsmanship, reliability, and unique riding experience. The term “Brit bike” is often used affectionately to encompass the spirit and legacy of these British-made machines.
  10. Jap bike: Colloquial term used to refer to classic Japanese motorcycles, like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. The term “Jap bike” has been used historically, though it is worth noting that it can be considered derogatory or offensive to some. Classic Japanese motorcycles have made a lasting impact on the motorcycle industry, offering reliability, performance, and innovative features. They are known for their precision engineering, technological advancements, and affordability, capturing the hearts of riders worldwide.
  11. Thumper: A nickname for a single-cylinder motorcycle engine, known for its distinct thumping sound. Single-cylinder engines, often found in smaller displacement motorcycles, produce a rhythmic thumping or pounding sound as they operate. The term “thumper” stems from the characteristic noise created by the engine’s combustion cycles, giving it a unique and recognizable auditory presence. Thumpers are favored by riders who appreciate simplicity, low-end torque, and a more pronounced engine feel.
  12. Rocking horse sh*t: Used to describe a part or bike that is extremely rare. The phrase “rocking horse shit” is a vivid and humorous colloquialism that emphasizes the exceptional scarcity or rarity of an item. It draws a playful comparison to the idea that rocking horse feces, being nonexistent, would be extremely hard to find. When applied to motorcycles or parts, it signifies something that is highly sought after and difficult to come across, adding to its desirability and value.

See the video below for a glimpse of some of our own rocking horse sh*t!

  1. Hens teeth: Used to describe a part or bike that is extremely rare. Similar to “rocking horse shit,” the expression “hens’ teeth” highlights the rarity of an item by comparing it to the scarcity of teeth in hens. Hens do not possess teeth, making the analogy a playful way to convey the extreme rarity or scarcity of a particular motorcycle part or bike. It emphasizes the notion that finding such an item is exceedingly difficult and adds intrigue to its perceived value.
  2. Beeza: A colloquial abbreviation or nickname for BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company), a renowned British motorcycle manufacturer. The term “Beeza” is derived from the pronunciation of the acronym BSA (B-S-A) and is often used by enthusiasts to refer to motorcycles produced by this iconic brand. BSA motorcycles were known for their robustness, reliability, and contribution to motorcycling history.
  3. Royal Oil Field: A playful and humorous twist on the name Royal Enfield, a historic British motorcycle manufacturer known for producing classic motorcycles. The term “Royal Oil Field” is a wordplay on the original name, adding a lighthearted touch by replacing “Enfield” with “Oil Field.” It adds a whimsical and imaginative element to the brand’s identity, reflecting the enthusiasm and creativity found within the motorcycle community.
  4. Widowmaker: A nickname given to a particularly fast and powerful motorcycle, often associated with older models that were challenging to handle. The term “Widowmaker” signifies the potential danger and difficulty in controlling or riding such a high-performance machine. It suggests that the motorcycle possesses immense power and demands skill and respect from the rider. The nickname carries a certain mystique and highlights the thrilling but potentially treacherous nature of these legendary motorcycles.
  5. Bitsa: A term commonly used in the motorcycle community to describe a motorcycle that has been assembled or built using parts from various sources or different motorcycle models. The term “bitsa” is derived from the phrase “bits of this and bits of that.” A bitsa motorcycle may have components from different manufacturers or models, resulting in a unique and eclectic combination of parts.Bitsa bikes are often the result of customization, modifications, or repairs performed by motorcycle enthusiasts who prefer to create a personalized machine rather than adhere strictly to original specifications. These motorcycles can be a reflection of the owner’s creativity and resourcefulness in finding and integrating different components to suit their preferences.While bitsa motorcycles may lack the authenticity or originality of factory-built bikes, they often possess a one-of-a-kind character and charm. They showcase the versatility and adaptability of motorcycles, allowing riders to create their own distinctive rides tailored to their specific tastes and needs.
  6. Sh*t off a shovel: Is a colorful phrase often used in motorcycle enthusiast circles to describe a bike that accelerates or moves with incredible speed and agility. It likens the swift motion of the motorcycle to the rapid clearing of excrement with a shovel. When applied to motorcycles, the expression signifies exceptional acceleration, responsiveness, and overall performance. It suggests that the bike is exceptionally quick off the line, able to swiftly navigate turns, and effortlessly reach high speeds. This phrase is typically used to convey admiration for a motorcycle’s impressive power and acceleration capabilities, highlighting its ability to leave others in the dust and create an exhilarating riding experience.
  7. Goes like the clappers: Is a colloquial expression commonly used in motorcycle enthusiast circles to describe a bike that accelerates or moves at an exceptionally fast pace. The phrase originates from the sound of rapid clapping, indicating the speed and urgency with which the bike propels forward. When applied to motorcycles, it signifies impressive speed, quick acceleration, and swift performance. It suggests that the bike can cover distances rapidly and effortlessly, leaving others behind in its wake. “Goes like the clappers” is a spirited and enthusiastic way to describe a motorcycle’s exceptional speed and performance, highlighting its ability to deliver thrilling and exhilarating rides.
  8. Tyre kicker: is a term commonly used in the motorcycle (and automotive) community to refer to someone who spends a significant amount of time inspecting, examining, or showing interest in motorcycles for sale without any serious intention of making a purchase. The phrase “tyre kicker” alludes to the act of physically kicking the tires of a motorcycle as a way to appear engaged or knowledgeable, while in reality, the person may be wasting the seller’s time or simply seeking entertainment without genuine buying intent.When applied to motorcycles, a “tyre kicker” is often viewed as an individual who frequently visits dealerships, private sellers, or motorcycle events, asking detailed questions, scrutinizing every aspect of the bike, but ultimately not committing to a purchase. These individuals may enjoy browsing, gathering information, or simply satisfying their curiosity without the intention of following through with a transaction.The term “tyre kicker” is sometimes used in a slightly negative or dismissive manner, as it implies a lack of seriousness or commitment to the buying process. It is important to note that not all individuals who inspect motorcycles without buying are true “tyre kickers” – some may genuinely be undecided or conducting thorough research before making a decision. However, the term is commonly used to describe those who repeatedly engage in this behavior without any real intention to buy, leading sellers to perceive them as time-wasters or mere spectators.
  9. Tank Slapper: Used to describe a potentially dangerous and uncontrollable wobble or oscillation of the handlebars and front wheel of a motorcycle. This phenomenon is characterized by rapid side-to-side movement, resembling a slapping motion, and typically occurs at high speeds. The term “tank slapper” originates from the way the handlebars may slap against the sides of the fuel tank during this unsettling motion.A tank slapper can be triggered by various factors, such as uneven road surfaces, rider inputs, or mechanical issues. It is often a result of instability or a loss of control in the motorcycle’s steering geometry. When a tank slapper occurs, it can cause significant difficulty in maintaining control of the bike, potentially leading to a crash if not managed properly.Experienced riders understand the seriousness of a tank slapper and take immediate actions to mitigate the situation. These actions may include gripping the handlebars firmly, attempting to relax the grip on the throttle, maintaining a balanced body position, and gradually reducing speed. Proper motorcycle maintenance, such as ensuring correct tire pressure, suspension setup, and steering damper adjustment, can also help minimize the risk of tank slappers.While tank slappers are a rare occurrence for most riders, they are widely recognized as a dangerous situation that requires quick thinking and proper riding techniques to regain control. Riders often share cautionary tales and tips to prevent or handle tank slappers within the motorcycle community to promote safety and awareness on the road.
  10. Hog: “Hog” is a popular term used to affectionately describe Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Originating from the brand’s nickname, “Harley,” the term “Hog” emphasizes the powerful and robust nature of these iconic American motorcycles. It symbolizes the free-spirited and adventurous lifestyle associated with riding a Harley-Davidson.
  11. Bodger: “Bodger” refers to someone who performs substandard or makeshift repairs or modifications on motorcycles. These individuals prioritize quick fixes over proper craftsmanship, often resulting in compromised safety and reliability. The term “bodger” is used to criticize those who take shortcuts or lack the necessary skills and knowledge for quality work on motorcycles.Bodger
  12. Knacker: In the world of classic motorcycles, “knacker” is a term used to describe a bike that is heavily worn out or in poor condition. It signifies a motorcycle that may be broken, damaged, or beyond repair due to neglect, age, or excessive use. A knackered motorcycle typically exhibits significant mechanical issues, cosmetic damage, or missing parts.
    Classic Honda Motorcycles abandoned in the Woods
  13. Carby: “Carby” is a colloquial term often used in Australia for a carburetor, a device that mixes air and fuel in older motorcycles. It refers specifically to the carburetor system used in vintage motorcycles before the widespread adoption of fuel injection technology. Enthusiasts commonly use the term “carby” when discussing carburetion, tuning, or maintenance of classic bikes.
  14. Cowboy: “Cowboy” is a term used to describe a rider who displays reckless or irresponsible behavior while operating a motorcycle. Cowboys are known for their daring stunts, aggressive riding style, and disregard for safety guidelines, traffic laws, or the well-being of themselves and others on the road.
  15. Rip off merchant: A “rip off merchant” is a derogatory term for someone who engages in dishonest or unfair business practices within the motorcycle market. It refers to individuals or businesses that overcharge customers, sell counterfeit or inferior products, provide substandard services, or deceive buyers through misleading practices. The term “rip off merchant” highlights the importance of being cautious and conducting thorough research when making purchases.
  16. Beemer / Beamer: “Beemer” or “Beamer” is a slang term used to refer to BMW motorcycles. It is commonly used as an abbreviation or nickname for the brand. The terms “Beemer” and “Beamer” have become popular among motorcycle enthusiasts when discussing or identifying BMW motorcycles, including classic models.
  17. Chicken sh*t: “Chicken sh*t” is a slang term used in the motorcycle community to describe something that is considered insignificant, trivial, or lacking in power or performance. When applied to motorcycles, it typically refers to a bike that is perceived as underpowered or lacking in speed and acceleration. The term implies that the motorcycle is not capable of impressive performance and may be considered less exciting or impressive compared to more powerful machines.
  18. Egg: In the context of classic motorcycles, “egg” is a term often used to refer to BSA A65 engines. It is derived from the shape of the engine’s crankcase, which resembles an egg. BSA A65 engines were manufactured by the British company BSA and were used in various BSA motorcycle models during the 1960s and 1970s. The term “egg” has become a colloquial way for enthusiasts to refer specifically to BSA A65 engines when discussing their characteristics, modifications, or performance.

We hope this light-hearted journey through the world of classic motorcycle lingo has brought a smile to your face. From “barn finds” to “cafe racers” and everything in between, we’ve explored the delightful terms that add a touch of fun to the biking community. But we know there’s always more to discover and discuss! If we’ve missed any amusing words or if you have questions, stories, or anecdotes to share, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and keep the language alive!

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