by Victor Wanchena

During the past decade many people have discovered motorcycling, and plenty of former riders have come back to the sport. The high fuel prices of the past couple years brought even more people into the fold as commuters sought refuge in high efficiency motorcycles and scooters. As crusty veterans of motorcycling, we welcome these new riders with open arms. The increasing number of motorcyclists has many positive benefits, but every silver lining is attached to a cloud.  

Motorcycling is full of jargon. Words like dry sump, wet clutch, and wankel mean nothing to non-riders and sound almort dirty. Unfortunately for the novice, it’s hard to tell the accepted jargon from the trite phrases that say, “I’ve been riding since this morning and it shows.” So, in a welcome to the club move, I’m going to give a quick lesson in motorcycle lingo. The following is by no means a complete list, but should give the uninitiated some basic do’s and don’ts.

Horse, Steed, or Neighing Metal Pony – You are not a cowboy, you don’t ride a horse. You are not channeling the ghosts of cowboys or ancient Indian warriors. It might seem like an easy leap, but the cowboy image belongs only to real cowboys. One ride a year across the prairie doesn’t make you a High Plains Drifter.

“I had to lay ‘er down.” – No, you didn’t. You may hear this from other riders who had an accident. It is always portrayed as their last heroic option prior to some calamity. This is their way of saying, “I panicked, locked up both brakes, and froze like a deer in the headlights until the bike tipped over.”

ER = A – This favorite of the younger riders is confusing and a little annoying. Take any word that ends in “er” and replace it with “a”. Examples include: choppa, stunta, brotha, or stupida. This is closely related to “z” being used in place of “s”. Avoid at all costs.

Extreme – Everything is extreme nowadays. Late night infomercials inevitably describe the product du jour; be it knitting needles or prune juice, as extreme. But sadly, as motorcyclists, we are even worse. We slap that moniker on everything from neon bandanas to skull-shaped valve stem covers. Ironically, if you see the word extreme attached to something, that’s your first clue that it’s anything but.

Knobblies – We all watched “Long Way Round” and heard the Ewan and Charley refer to their knobby tires as knobblies. They may sound charming and British, but you don’t have to pretend you are. This applies to other UK words like petrol, lorry, tyre, etc.

Biker – This term for a motorcyclist is a bit of a sacred cow. The old guard holds on to this moniker as a badge of honor. But for most it calls to mind the image of a greasy haired hellion hell bent for leather and mayhem. You’re best to wait until you fit the above description before you call yourself a biker. Motorcyclist or rider works for the rest of us.

I hope this helps any newer riders with questions about these terms. I know I’ve only listed a few, but the basic concept is; don’t pretend to be something you’re not.


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