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Motorcycle Terminology...




0 to 60 - Time (in seconds) to reach 60 mph from a standing start.

1-piece / One-piece
An ‘all in one’ outfit of protective clothing. May refer to leathers or textiles

2-piece / Two-piece
An outfit consisting of a jacket and pants. May refer to leathers or textiles.

2-Second Rule / Two-Second Rule
The two-second rule is a rule of thumb by which a driver may maintain a safe following distance at any speed. The rule is that a driver should ideally stay at least two seconds behind any vehicle that is directly in front of the driver's vehicle. It is intended for automobiles, although its general principle applies to other types of vehicles.



ABS (Anti-Lock Breaking System)
A safety system that allows the wheels on a motor vehicle to continue interacting tractively with the road surface as directed by driver/rider steering inputs while braking, preventing the wheels from locking up (that is, ceasing rotation) and therefore avoiding skidding.

In motorcycle context, good aerodynamics means that the motorcycle is designed to have as little resistance from the air as possible. This is essential to achieve great speeds. The manufacturers often make use of wind tunnels during the development of a new motorcycle.

The sector of the market that sells parts and accessories other than OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer... ie, Honda, BMW, Suzuki, Harley-Davidson, etc.)

Air cooling
Mechanism used to keep the engine at operating temperature by using air flowing over heat sinks (engine fins) to disperse excess heat.

Air fuel ratio
Proportions in which air and fuel are mixed to form a combustible gas.

A slang-term for older, air-cooled BMW Boxer Twin motorcycles.

Air Intake Valves - Reed Valves
Air lock - Similar to vapor lock, a pocket or air develops that blocks the normal flow of a fluid, such as in a hydraulic brake line. Common in two stroke engines when the oil injection system is allowed to run dry.

Mesh-like, highly tear-resistant Dynafil polyamide weave.

Modern replacement for the dynamo generator, producing large quantities of alternating current to run the electrical systems of a motorcycle.

American Motorcycle Association.
Ammeter - Gauge that measures amps in electrical current

Analog Gauges
Shows information in a continuous forum, often a dial; often considered the opposite of digital gauges. Old school gauges.

Anti-Dive System

A front-end suspension component that reduces how much the forks compress under braking, popular with motorcycles built in 1980s.

Apes or Ape Hangers
Very high handlebars, usually found on choppers, that have the rider reaching skyward to graps the controls, making the rider adopt an "ape-like" posture.

Apex - The vertex of tightest (middle or center) point of a curve.

Armacor (GORE-TEX Armacor)
A highly tear-resistant material combining Kevlar® and Cordura® with the first class weather properties of GORE-TEX® in a 3-layer laminate.

The method for getting air into the engine (i.e., normal, turbo charged, super charged etc).

All Gear All The Time - This refers to a safety attitude which presumes that safety gear should always be worn when riding a motorcycle regardless of temperature, distance to be ridden or peer pressures that might encourage not doing so.


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Balaclava - A head and neck "sock" with mouth and eye slits.

Ballistic Nylon - A specific nylon developed by Dupont for the U.S. Department of Defense for use in flak jackets. Later it was replaced by Kevlar. The basket-weave construction helps add abrasion resistance as opposed to a plain weave. The name is used as a marketing tools with ballistic sounding like something "bulletproof" therefore really tough. May motorcycle apparel companies us the word "Ballistic" when describing material. In many cases the materials tear and abrasion strength does not meet a minimum standard for motorcycle apparel and the word is used only as a sales gimmick.

Bash plate - A protective plate fitted under the engines of off-road machines to prevent damage caused by grounding

Bead - Edge of lip of a tire.

Beemer - BMW motorcycle.

Belt drive - 1. Final drive (sometimes also the cam drive) using a fabric belt to provide power to the rear wheel. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are famous for their use of belt drives.

Berm - Built-up dirt on the outside of a turn, either created with a bulldozer or as riders continually go through the turn. A berm helps a rider take the turn much faster because it acts as banking.

Bench seat - A long, non-split seat that is more comfortable for two riders.

BHP - Brake horse power. A unit of measurement for engine power output.

Bible - Repair manual

Big Twin - 1. Any large sized V-Twin motorcycle engine.

Big Dog - Annual dual sport ride with BMW's in the Rocky Mountains

Black Ice - Ice that cannot be seen on the road surface as it takes upon the color of the road. Usually found in cold spots on the road like under a bridge. Very dangerous hazard to a motorcyclists.

Blind Corner - Blind Turn - A turn in the road that is partially hidden by visual obstructions such as trees or an embankment, making it so that a rider cannot see the roads path around the rest of the turn.

BMW Motorrad - The motorcycle brand of the German company BMW. BMW Motorrad has produced motorcycles since 1923

Bob, Bobbers, Bobbed or Bobbingy - The art of shortening a bike's appearance by cutting down the size of its fenders. These bikes were also known as "bobbers". Appeared before choppers. They got the name from the rear fender being cut down to a minimum. And the rest of the bikes were stripped also. This was all part of the early customizing done by the returning WWll flyers.

Body English / Body Steering - A method used by motorcycle riders to help control lean angle or direction independent of the handlebars by moving body position on the motorcycle.

Bottom out - The Suspension runs out of room to travel and hits the internal stops.

Boxer - A two cylinder engine with the pistons opposing each other, resembling fists flying away from each other. BMW Boxer engine, Honda Goldwing engine are examples.

Braided hoses - Hose made of braided metal and frequently refers to brake hoses. Typically used to replace standard rubber hoses which flex or bulge under pressure; braided hoses don’t and therefore give increased braking performance.

Brakes (disc brakes / drum brakes) - Disc Brakes use stationary calipers that squeeze pads against the discs that rotate with the wheel. Drum Brakes use horseshoe shaped brake shoes that expand against the inner surface of the wheel hub.

Brake horsepower - Although theoretically equal to standard horsepower, "brake" horsepower specifies that a specific engineering process was used to arrive at that horsepower number.

Brembo(s) - a manufacturer of high-quality brake parts.

Brights - The high beam of the headlight.

Buffeted / Buffeting - Refers to the wind turbulence pressure experienced while riding a motorcycle. It is a result of the wind coming around a fairing or windshield.

Bump Start - A way to start a motorcycle by turning on the ignition, placing it in gear, disengaging the clutch, then running along side the motorcycle, jumping on and engaging the clutch suddenly. Hard on the drive train and clutch but will start a bike with a dead battery when no one is around to provide a "jump".

Bungee Cord - A stretch cord for attaching things to a motorcycle cheaply and quickly.




Cafe Racer - 1. Motorcycles modified to resemble racing motorcycles from the 1950's and 1960's. They are called cafe racers because their owner supposedly raced from cafe to cafe in London, where the bikes first appeared in the 1960's.

California Stop - Phrase often used by motorcyclists meaning to stop, typically at an intersection, without putting a foot down.

Camber - 1) Inward or outward tilt of a wheel. 2) Convex curvature of the road surface. 3. Sideways angle of slant of the pavement.

Cam Shaft / Camshaft - The shaft in the engine with cam lobes, used mainly for operating the intake and exhaust valves. It is driven by gears or by sprockets and a toothed belt or chain from the crankshaft.

Canyon Carving - Riding the twisties (road curves/corners) to an extreme.

Carb - Carburetor, Fuel Management System

Carbon Fiber - A high-tech material favored in many motorcycle applications because it is extremely strong, light and expensive. The distinctive look of carbon fiber has become trendy.

Carburetor - 1) The part of the bike that mixes air and fuel in correct proportions before it is entered into the engine cylinder(s). 2.) Mechanism for mixing fuel and air and controlling the amount entering the combustion chamber. 3) A mechanical device found on the intake side of the engine which mixes fuel and air to create the volatile mixture that gets ignited in the engine.

Caster - Forward tilt of steering axis that tends to stabilize the steering.

Catalytic Converter - Exhaust device to reduce pollution emissions recently used on motorcycles.

CC (or CCs) - Cubic centimeters. A 1000cc engine = 1000 cubic centimeters in volume.

Centerstand - The mechanical stand attached to the frame that holds the motorcycle vertically upright (as opposed to leaned over on the side stand) when parked.

Chain - Transfers power to the rear wheel from the engine on a chain drive system. Made up of over a hundred links that provide flexibility and adjustability. Runs on two sprockets, one located on the engine drive shaft, the other on the hub of the rear tire.

Chassis - The combined frame and suspension on a motorcycle.

Chicane - A series of "esses" (S) or turns on a race track.

Chicken Strips - The tread left on the sidewalls of a sport bike. How much of this there is (or isn't) is how some Bikers size each other up.

Choke - A user-controlled device to assist starting a cold engine by making the fuel/air mixture "richer" in fuel.

Chopper - 1. A style of motorcycle that appears deceptively light, has a greater angle on the front end than usually seen, and radical styling. The word originates from the post WW2 era when former GIs were looking for performance mods, there was no aftermarket back then and once all engine mods were out of the way the bike's weight needed to be reduced... Owners began to remove unnecessary components and eventually began to cut away (or "chop") sections of the bike and frame. Used to be called "bobbing" but the word "chop" became the more popular phrase. 2. A radical customized bike with extended and raked front end, from which all unnecessary parts have been stripped. The early choppers weren't raked, so the front end was high making it necessary to reduce the size of the front wheel. They are very stable in a straight line, but not to agile in turns. 3. Term originated from owners removing, or "chopping," features from the motorcycle and adding their own customized detailing. Now refers to a motorcycle with heavily raked front forks, "high-rise handlebars and an increased angle of frame to fork head". 4. Once described as a custom motorcycle that had all superfluous parts "chopped" off in order to make the bike faster, a chopper today is a type of custom bike that usually has an extended fork, no rear suspension and high handlebars.

Chrome - Chrome plating is a finishing treatment utilizing the electrolytic deposition of chromium. The most common form of chrome plating is the thin, decorative bright chrome, which is typically a 10 µm layer over an underlying nickel plate. It imparts a mirror-like finish typically found on exhaust pipes.

Circlip - A type of mechanical fastener made of thin metal that looks like the letter "C". It snaps into a groove on a shaft to restrict movement in a particular direction while fastening mechanical parts together securely. Sometimes called a C clip.

Clip-ons - Handlebars that attach directly to the top of the fork tubes, rather than on the top yoke, that hold the fork tubes together. Clip-ons can provide faster steering response by lowering the riding position for countersteering. They lower a rider's upper body on the front of the motorcycle for a racier position.

Clutch - 1. The clutch is operated by a handle in order to, ultimately, engage or disengage power to the rear wheel. 2. Device to engage and disengage engine power to drive train. 3. A device that disengages power from the crankshaft to the transmission, allowing a rider to change gears. 4. A device that allows a machine to be linked to a motor in order to set it in motion.

Constant Radius Turn - A turn with a steady, non-changing arc. In a decreasing radius corner, the arc gets sharper as you progress through the curve, while in a increasing radius corner, the arc becomes less sharp.

Contact Patch - The area of your tire that actually contacts the road while you ride. Also called "foot print".

Cool Collar - A wrap for use around the neck used to provide significant cooling to a rider in very hot weather. The wrap is a cloth tube that either contains a bead-like material that swells when moistened and dries slowly, or contains an inner plastic tube which, in turn, contains ice and/or ice water.

Cordura® - 1. A high tenacity, air textured nylon fiber, made exclusively by Dupont. Superior abrasion resistance over any other fabric in a head to head comparison. Hundreds of nylon materials exist but 500 Denier Cordura is the industry minimum standard for apparel material abrasion and tear strength. 2. Nylon yarn which consists of 100% polyamide.The manufacturing process involves re-spinning and weaving the cut polyamide fibres. The melting point is 210 °C. Cordura® 700 is even more tear-resistant.

Counter Steer - (see also Countersteering) 1. Action of moving the wheel to the opposite direction desired in a turn. 2. To turn the handlebars so the contact patch shifts in the opposite direction from that which the rider wishes the motorcycle to lean.

Counter Balancer - A weight inside an engine that spins with the engine rpm to cancel out some of the engines vibration and make the engine feel smoother.

Countersteering - 1. The act of turning the bikes handlebars in one direction(at higher speeds) and having it go in the opposite direction. 2. The way you use the handlebar to lean the bike into a turn. If you want to turn right, you push the handlebars left, and vice versa.

Counterweight - Rotating shaft used to offset vibration. Sometimes called counterbalance or countershaft.

Cowling(s) - A piece of bodywork that covers the engine, transmission and/or mid section of a bike crash bar area.

Crash Bars - The incorrect term for engine guards. If you want to see a factory lawyer cringe, there's no faster way than saying this term.

Crash Padding - A motorcyclists protective clothing, especially abrasion resistant and impact absorbing riding gear and helmet.

Caveat Emptor - Caveat emptor is Latin for 'buyer beware', meaning the onus is on you (the buyer) to ensure that you know what you are purchasing.

Cross winds - Winds blowing perpendicular to the direction of travel of the motorcycle.

Crotch Rocket - A slang term for Sport Bikes.

Cruiser - 1. A newer term that surfaced in the late 1980's that refers to the laid back styled street bikes with chrome and boulevard styling. 2. Factory made decedents of customized choppers offering a classic look. Characterized by low seat, swept back look, lots of torque with a strong exhaust note and lots of chrome and accessories.

Curb weight - The total weight of the vehicle at nominal capacity, with all standard equipment and including batteries, fluids and lubricants.



Dampen - The act of eliminating, or device used to eliminate (damp), unwanted oscillations (vibrations) and unwanted energy.

Damper - Device for controlling unwanted movement or absorbing unwanted energy. Weighted bar ends, bar snake, buckshot, gel handgrips are items used to dampen handlebars.

Decreasing Radius Corner - A turn where the arc gets sharper as you progress through the curve.

Desmodronic - Ducati designed valve opening and closing system that does not rely on springs. Design offers better high RPM valve control. Desmodromic valves are closed by a cam and rocker arm rather than a valve spring. Advantages include less friction, higher valve acceleration and deceleration without the risk of valve float and higher engine speeds for a given valve size. Disadvantages include greater complexity of the valve train and the need for more frequent adjustment intervals. All Ducati motorcycles still use desmodromic valves today.

Detailing - In-depth cleaning, polishing, waxing and other maintenance to make a motorcycle look great.

Dip stick - (1) The long slender piece of plastic or metal that goes into the oil reservoir of an engine or sump and is used to manually check the oil level.

Dirt Bike - Bikes intended for off-road use that are not legal to ride on public roads. Sometiemes the term "pure dirt" is used to distinguish a dirtbike from a dual sport motorcycle.

Discs - These are the metal rotors the caliper presses the pads against to brake.

Disc Brake - Brake that utilizes friction pads held in a caliper on either side of a rotation disc.

Displacement - 1. The size of an engine, in cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic inches (ci). 2. The volume through which the piston travels during a single stroke of an engine. This term is sometimes also used for the total volume displaced by all engine pistons. The displacement is measured in cubic centimeters (ccm).

Dive - 1. Tendency of the front suspension to compress during hard braking. 2. To quickly change direction such as suddenly leaning the bike into a tight turn.

DOHC - Dual OverHead Cam. Two camshafts found in the head or top of the engine that open and close the valves. Two cams allow more precise control than one.

DOHV - Double OverHead Valves.

Do-Rag - Cloth coverings that are used to cover the rider's hair and forehead in an effort to keep sweat from dripping into the eyes and to avoid 'helmet hair. Also can be used as a fasion statement.

DOT - Department of Transportation. Each country has its own separate DOT. It’s a government agency that regulates all phases of transportation, including all types of vehicles, as well as roads and highways. A DOT rating on a motorcycle helmet indicates that it’s passed DOT testing and a DOT sticker can be found inside the helmet.

Dual plugging - Adding a second spark plug to the head of a motorcycle engine. Increases fuel efficiency and horsepower.

DQ’ed - Disqualified (as in a race). - The resistance of the air to forward motion. A flat disc moving broadside along its axis has a nominal rating of 1.00 - Brake design with brake shoes forced out against a rotation drum.

Dual Purpose Motorcycle - Designed for most types of terrain, the name describes a bike that has off-road capabilities with street legal accessories. BMW F650, Honda XR650L, Suzuki V-strom, Kawasaki KLR650, Yamaha XT225, Buell Ulysses are examples of a dual purpose bike.

Dual Sport - 1. A dual purpose motorcycle, made for both on and off the road travel. See Dual Purpose Bike. 2. Street legal motorcycles with varying degrees of off-road capabilities. Also called Dual Purpose Motorcycle/Bike.

Duc(s) - A Ducati motorcycle.

Duck - Slang for a Ducati motorcycle.

DuPont Coolmax® - DuPont Coolmax® consist of hollow fibres which transport humidity to the outside very quickly by means of capillary action making the material dry 50% faster than cotton.

Dynamometer - Often called a "dyno", it is a device for measuring force, torque or power.




Easy Rider - A famous motorcycle movie, released in 1969, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson about two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America. This movie defined the road film genre, even though it was not the first of its kind. Points out a very real truth about America and its often twisted approach to "freedom." The original title of the film was "The Loners".

Edge Traps - The raised edges of bumps or cracks in a paved surface that can catch a motorcycle's tire and cause the bike to lose balance. Eg. Streetcar/Train tracks, raised pavement construction edges, road stipping edges. If possible always try to approch these hazards as stright on (non-parallel) as possible.

EFI - Electronic Fuel Injection.

Electrolyte - Battery Acid.

Electronic Ignition - Computer controlled method to convey high tension current to the spark plug(s).

Emissions - Substances introduced into the environment from, among other sources, vehicles. Vehicle emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.

Enduro - 1. Typically this category includes cross bikes which are tuned and equipped for driving on the roads. These bikes are often heavier than, and not as extreme as cross motorcycles, though not as heavy and well-equipped as the larger off-roaders. 2. Strictly interpreting FIM regulations, an enduro bike is a trials bike. Common use of the term describes bikes used in enduro racing, which is off-road trail riding competition.

Engine Control Unit (ECU) - A set of microprocessors that helps to monitor dozens of sensors throughout the vehicle and control the actuators accordingly.

Engine cut off switch (Kill Switch) - Usually located on the right handlebar switch housing, this switch allows the motorcyclist to turn off the engine without removing his or her hand from the handlebar.

Engine Guards - Metal tubes bolted to the motorcycle's frame that should protect the engine from damage in the event of an accident. They are not designed to offer the rider or passenger any protection in the event of an accident.

Engine output - The ratio of the effective work of the engine in relation to the energy expended in producing it.

ERC - Experienced Rider Course.

Ergonomics - The science used to design devices, systems and physical conditions that conform to the human body. A prime consideration when designing a motorcycle. Sportbikes have agressive forward leaning ergonomics, standards/dual sports are chair like ergonomics and cruisers offer laid back ergonomics.

Esses - Phonetic spelling of back-to-back turns, or 'S' curves.

Ethanol - A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid formed by fermentation. This renewable fuel can be produced from waste products such as wheat straw, cornhusks, wood chips and switch grass.



F (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Four-stroke engine (eg. Honda CRF230F, Yamaha WR450F)

Fairing - 1) The plastic shrouds that deflect wind and rain from the rider, the motorcycling equivalent of automotive bodywork. 2) The devices mounted at the front of a motorcycle to protect the rider from the elements. These range from simple Plexiglas shields to complex encompassing body panels.

False Neutral - When you fail to engage gears and the transmission behaves as though it was in neutral even though it is not. Example "I hit a false neutral once when shifting from 4th to 5th gear."

F.A.R. - Factory Authorized Repair

Farkles/Farkle - 1) Things that can be added to your bike that make it more useful, versatile, or attractive. 2) Any accessory item that enhances the functionality of a motorcycle and also contributes to the pride in ownership of the bike.

Feathering the clutch - See also Slip the Clutch and Friction Zone - Gently allowing the clutch to engage. This makes for a slow smooth start.

Fender Bunny - Nice babe on the back of a bike

Filter(ing) – Avoid traffic jams by riding between the lines of bumper-to-bumper vehicles (queues). Also known as lane splitting.

Final Drive - Mechanism that delivers power to the rear wheel, usually chain drive, shaft drive or belt drive.

Fins - Heat sinks on an air cooled engine.

Fishtail - Rear wheel swinging from side to side caused by increased rolling resistance of the rear tire (often caused by over braking, flat tire, frozen drive train or a road hazard like mud, gravel, sand, snow or ice).

Flathead - Early head design where the valves resided in the block so the head only covered the block and held the spark plug. Also called L-Head or side-valve.

Foot pegs - The resting place for the rider's feet on a motorcycle during riding.

Forks - The sprung metal tubs holding the front wheel to the rest of the motorcycle using the triple-tree.

French - An old custom car and bike term that refers to mounting a device, a light, usually, deeply recessed into the bodywork, "frenched-in," and peeking out from within a sort of tunnel, completely recessed below the surface of the surrounding bodywork, presenting only a sudden, clean circle through smooth the surface from which the light appears

Friction Zone - The part of the clutch lever travel from where the clutch just starts to engage until it is fully engaged. Riders use the friction zone to get the bike in motion. See also Slip the Clutch.

Fuel Injection - Replaces carburetors. Uses small nozzles, called injectors, supplied fuel by an injector pump, to inject fuel into the intake manifold. Serves the same function as a carburetor, but uses computer-controlled jets to inject atomized fuel and air into the air stream going into the engine.




GS (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Dual Sport/Enduro (eg. BMW F650GS)

Gauges - Displays information to the rider on Speed [Speedometer]; RPM (revolutions per minute) [Tachometer]; Total Distance Traveled [Odometer]; Fuel, Trip Distance and more.

Gear - The set of toothed parts, such as wheels, disks and chains, that mesh with the teeth in similar, but different-sized parts in order to transmit force and motion between rotating shafts. Gears control the number of revolutions per minute and hence the force.

Gearbox - Transmission housing.

GearHead - A slang term for a person with a strong interest in all things mechanical.

GPS - Global Positioning System - A satellite oriented system, including computers and receivers, which allows the determination of a very precise location (latitude, longitude and height) of an object. The GPS unit allows the calculation of speed and direction of travel by communitcating with satellites to track movement. An increased number of motorcycles are being manufactured with a GPS navigation system built-in, and add-on GPS units are available for any motorcycle. The units provide colour graphic screen presentations of street maps as well as both planned and actual travel itineraries. Some will announce turns that are to be made in order to follow a planned itinerary.




Hack / Sidehack - A common slang term for a sidecar.

Hairpin Turn - A decreasing radius turn. Turn that gets progressively tighter as it bends (often U-shaped corner). A "road hazard" that many motorcyclists fall prey to and end up going off the road on if not carefully watching for it. Usually decreasing radius turns are found on on/off highway ramps.

Handgrip - The rubber grip on the handlebars to make a more comfortable hand control.

Hand Signals - Verbal communication is not always possible when riding a motorcycle so riders have come up with a method of communicating to other riders by use of universal hand signals. Motorcycle hand signals are important for all riders to know and understand but especially when riding in a group. (When riding in a group the signals should be relayed back through the group.) Images reprinted with permission of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Handlebar risers - See also Risers - Designed to correct the ergonomic short comings of your motorcycle, handlebar risers will raise your handlebars vertically to allow you to attain the posture needed for maximum control. Risers can simply extend the bar mounts toward you, or extend up and forward. Risers are designed to be mounted between your stock bar mount and triple clamp.

Headers – The section of an exhaust system which attaches to the engine head.

Headlight Modulator - This device attaches to the headlight bulb inside the case and pulses the high beam quickly. The visual effect is the headlight is flashing. Improves visibility of the motorcycle to other drivers/riders.

High Siding - 1. Wrecking a bike by flipping it over. Usually caused by releasing the rear break during a skid. 2. Pitching a bike over and away from the direction you are turning. The dangerous kind of crash. 3. When a sliding rear tire suddenly regains traction while the motorcycle is leaned over, causing the motorcycle to violently snap from leaning side tot he other side (the high side).
Horizontally opposed - Type of engine layout in which the cylinders are placed at 180° to one another. It is also described as a flat twin/four etc. or a boxer engine.

Horsepower - a unit of measure for engine power. Originally developed by James Watt to compare the power of steam engines to the work done by a horse. 2. One horse power is the force necessary to lift 550 pounds one foot in one second.

Hurt Report - 1981 study by University of Southern California of 3,600 motorcycle traffic accidents. Also known as the “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures”, and consists of 55 conclusions pertaining to crashes, including the effect of motorcycle riders wearing helmets. See: for a summary of findings.

Hydroplane - 1. When your tires start to float on top of water, causing them to lose contact with the road surface. 2. A highly dangerous situation in which the tires lose contact with the road surface and actually life on top of a shallow film of water. 1" of standing road water will generally hydroplane a motorcycle tire at speeds of 80 km/h or greater.



Idiot Light - Control panel indicator light(s) that warns of a problem situation. Commonly called an idiot light because it neither warns you before the problem develops, nor tells you want the problem is after the bike is disabled.

Increasing Radius Corner - A turn where the arc becomes less sharp as you go through the curve.

Indicators - Turn signals or "blinkers"

Iron Butt (Rally) - The Iron Butt Association (IBA) is a US-based organization dedicated to endurance motorcycle riding with over 35,000 members world-wide who tout themselves as the "World's Toughest Riders." One of its more popular slogans is "The World Is Our Playground."




Jump start - 1) When the battery is too low to start the engine, one can jump start it from a good battery. 2) To temporarily boost the energy of a battery by connecting it to another working battery with (jumper) cables to assist in the starting of the engine.



K&N - Very popular aftermarket company that manufactures air and oil filters. They are washable and reusable but require special K&N filter oil. K&N claims greater engine efficiency with use.

Kangaroo leather - Finer, more closely interwoven fibres and a tighter structure make this leather even more durable than cowhide.

Kevlar - Kevlar is the registered trademark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber, related to other aramids such as Nomex and Technora. Developed at DuPont in 1965, this high strength material was first commercially used in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires. Currently, Kevlar has many applications, ranging from bicycle tires and racing sails to body armor because of its high tensile strength-to-weight ratio; by this measure it is 5 times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis.

Kickstand - An arm attached to a motorcycle that swings out from the left side to support the bike at rest. Also called a Sidestand.

Kicking Tires - Slang term for standing around motorcycles and talking about them.

Kick start - Before motorcycles had electric starters, they all used kick starters. A lever that one would kick to turn the engine.




L (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Dual sport bike (eg. Honda XR650L). Can also be used for Touring (eg. Suzuki GS850L)

LT (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Touring (eg. BMW K1200LT)

L Twin - An engine with its cylinders splayed apart at a 90° angle, which creates a smoother running engine. These engines can either be placed transversely (crosswise), or longitudinally (lenghtwise) in a motorcycle frame.

Lane-splitting - 1. Riding between lanes of traffic on a freeway. 2. Driving between involuntarily parked cages on an overcrowded highway. Legal in some states. 3. Consists of driving between two lanes of traffic at a greater speed than the other vehicles. Although there are times when this could be dangerous, it’s actually legal in many countries. It’s illegal in most U.S. states, but California allows it if it’s done in a safe manner.

LED lighting - A semiconductor diode generally made from gallium arsenide that can serve as a light source when voltage is applied continuously or in pulses. LED: Light Emitting Diode.

Line - Path selected by the motorcycle rider to take through a turn.

Loctite - The brand name of a very common super glue. First used on motorcycles to keep nuts and bolts together.

Low Side (Low-side) - 1. A type of motorcycle crash that involves laying the "low side" of the bike too low in a turn, resulting in a loss of traction and grounding the bike. 2. When the rider loses balance of the motorcycle and both fall onto the ground on their low side. 3. A bike falling over onto it's side that's lower to the ground. 4. The act of crashing a motorcycle where the rider falls off to the side of the bike which is closest to the ground. Typically caused by the front wheel washing out..




Motoycyle - A motorcycle (also called a motorbike, bike, or cycle) is a two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.

MSF - Motorcycle Safety Foundation (Training). The highly recommended way to learn how to properly and safely ride a motorcycle. Offered in many countries around the world for a very reasonable price.



Naked Bike - 1) Bikes with no to a very small fairing. 2) A motorcycle where you can fully see the engine.

Neck - The front of a motorcycle frame, where the steering head is located.

Nyloc - A type of nut for a bolt that has a plastic insert to keep it from backing off from vibration. It replaces the lock washer.




OEM - 1) An acronym, "Original Equipment from Manufacturer," refers to parts or components. 2) The companies that build the bikes. 3) In the motorcycle industry, the term refers to the industry's brand names such as Suzuki, Harley-Davidson, Honda, BMW, etc., who are federally licensed and who can warrant or guarantee their product. Licensed component manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Brembo and K&N, are usually referred to as OEM suppliers.

Odometer - Device that stores the mileage (distance driven). Usually located on the speedometer.

Off-camber Turn - Turn that is banked higher on the inside than the outside.

Off-road Bike - Term for a motorcycle designed specifically for off-road use.

Off-road helmet - Motorcycle helmet with a chin guard and sun shield but no visor.

Ohlins – A manufacturer of high-quality suspension components.

Oilheads - Newer, air and oil cooled BMW Boxer engines.

One-Off - One-of-a-kind fabricated part. A product or part that is not designed to be mass produced. It can refer to a one-of-a-kind bolt-on or a fully customized motorcycle.




Paddock - Area where maintenance on race entered motorcycles takes place, which also includes support vehicles and transport.

Petcock - Fuel Valve. Petcock's can have multiple fuel positions such as: OFF, ON, and RESERVE.

Pipes - Exhaust System.

Plugs - Spark Plugs

Popping the clutch - Letting the clutch out quickly to achieve a fast start.

Powerband - The RPM range of an engine where the most power is produced.

Power Plant - The motorcycle engine.



Queen's own (AKA the Queen's Carriage, The Queen's own) - Sland term for any British motorcycle.




R (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Replica, Racer or Racing (eg. Yamaha YZF600R, BMW K1200R)

RR (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Race Replica or Race Ready (eg. Honda CBR600RR, Kawasaki ZX-10RR)

Race can - A lightweight, free breathing muffler.

Racing Flags - Racing flags are traditionally used in auto racing and similar motorsports to communicate important messages to drivers by a flagman. While there is no universal system of racing flags across all of motorsports, most series have standardized them, with some flags carrying over between series.

Rainbows - Oil on the street

Rain Grooves - Channels cut into a roads surface to help water run off the road during a rainstorm.

Rake - 1. Rake, measured in degrees, describes the angle of the front fork or the steering axis from the horizontal or vertical plane. 2. Slope of the front forks.

Rat Bike - Bike made from several machines and kept on the road using as cheap as possible and painted matt black. Now has a class of its own and defined as any thing Mad Max would shoot at.

Red Line (Redline) - Indicates the maximum RPM's an engine may run. The name is derived from the actual red line manufacturers typically put on the tachometer.

Repair Link - A link in some motorcycle chains that can be disassembled for chain repair.

Repli-racers - Hard edged sport bikes. These motorcycles are characterized by riding positions that tuck the rider into an extreme crouch.

Rev(s) - See Revolutions Per Minute (RPM). A term used to describe how fast a motor is spinning.

Revving - The action of using the throttle in quick short burts to speed up the engine.

Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) - The number of revolutions the engine makes in a minute. Abbreviated RPM and often referred to as "rev" or revs" in conversation.

Riding Two Up - Carrying a passenger on your bike.

Rigid or Rigid Frame - A type of frame that has no swing-arm, it is a one piece neck to rear axle frame.

Risers - See also Handlebar Risers - Designed to correct the ergonomic short comings of your motorcycle, handlebar risers will raise your handlebars vertically to allow you to attain the posture needed for maximum control. Risers can simply extend the bar mounts toward you, or extend up and forward. Risers are designed to be mounted between your stock bar mount and triple clamp.

Road Rash - A slang term used to define injuries to the skin when a rider falls or is thrown from the motorcycle and lands or slides on the pavement. Wearing a full-face helmet, gloves, a motorcycle approved jacket, chaps, and boots is a good way to minimize Road Rash.

Rocker Arms - Devices that work like upside down teeter totters and push on the valve stems.

Rolling on the Throttle- Giving the bike more power by giving it more gas to accelerate.

Roost - 1. The spray of dirt off the rear wheel of a motocross motorcycle. 2. The expression used when the spray off the rear tire lands on to another rider and embarassing them.

RPM - Revolutions Per Minute. Example is in reference to how fast the pistons in an engine are moving.

Rubber - Tires, tyres.

Rubber band effect - Whenever a group of two or more motorcycles ride together on the road there is a time lag between when the first bike in the group changes speed and when the following bikes do the same. This is known as the 'rubber-band effect'.\

Rubber Mounted - Rubber mounted engines use a system of rubber cushions and/or joined engine mounts to isolate engine vibrations from the rider.

Rubber-side - Towards the bottom of the bike, or bottom area of a part or component

Ruts - When the terrain is soft or damp, deep channels or ruts can be formed when the rear tires dig through the dirt. Ruts can force riders to take certain lines through a corner, or limit them to only one line, making passing difficult. Ruts can get deep enough to completely stop a motorcycle.



S (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Sport (eg. BMW F800S or Suzuki SV650S)

SAE - Society of Automotive Engineers.

Safety wire - A springy wire used by racers to help keep a part from falling off.
Scotchlite Reflective Material - A thin, light weight membrane, mounted between the face fabric and the lining. It is Waterproof, Windproof, and Breathable.

S.E.E. (see also SIPDE)- Updated MSF term used to help you remember what to do when making judgments in traffic - Stands for Search, Evaluate, and Execute

Seizure - The locking in place of moving parts due to overheating, lack of lubrication or opposing pressure. Also called freeze-up.

Shaft drive - Shaft Drive System - 1. As an alternative to chain or belt drive to transfer power to the rear wheel, shaft drive is the solution that requires least maintenance, but is also possibly the heaviest solution. On some bikes there is a notable elevation effect when accelerating. 2. Direct connection method between transmission and rear wheel, as opposed to chain or belt final drive.

Shimmy - Another term for high speed wobble.

Single - An engine configuration comprising of one cylinder (also see "Thumper").

Shiny Side Up (as in "Keep The Shiny Side Up") - Drive Safe, Don't Lay the Bike Down. Friendly parting expression.

Shock Absorber - Also known as damper, shocks absorb road surface vibration through hydraulic friction.

Shotgun Pipes - This style of exhaust had the two pipes ending straight and together, giving the appearance of a double barreled shot gun.

Shovel - Shovelhead - 1. Slang for Harley-Davidson engines produced between 1966 and 1984, so named because of the shape of the head resembles a coal shovel. The Shovelhead engine (V-Twin, produced from 1966 - 1984.) 3. Harley-Davidson's third generation overhead valve Big Twin engine.

Sidecar - Small carriages attached to the side of a motorcycle to provide extra carrying capacity or additional passenger(s). Also allows the motorcycle to become more stable and rideable in slippery condition (snow, ice, mud roads, etc.).

Sidestand - he factory-installed stand that props up a motorcycle at an angle when it is parked Also called a Kickstand.

Sissy Bar - 1. Passenger Backrest. 2. The backrest put behind the passengers portion of the saddle.

Slabbing it - Taking the Interstate Highway

Slick - Treadless tire. Can refer to a race tire or a completely worn out tire with little or no tread left on it. Slick's offer the greatest dry traction to a road surface as friction is greatest since there is little/no air gap (tread) between the rubber and the road. A tyre specifically designed for use in road racing only that is made of a soft compound with no tread.

Slip The Clutch - (see also "Feather the Clutch) To play with or fan the clutch in order to prevent the engine stalling or spinning the rear tyre from the start line.

Snakes (road snakes) - The serpentine tar strips sometimes used to fill cracks on a racetrack or on a highway/road.

SNELL Rating - A foundation formed in 1957 and is an independent motorcycle helmet testing organization. A Snell rating on a helmet, indicated by a sticker inside the helmet, states that the helmet has passed performance tests. Helmet manufacturers are not required to apply, qualify or receive a SNELL rating unlike the required by law DOT rating. Having both SNELL and DOT on a helmet is a very good thing.

Soft Tail - Refers to a mono-shock swingarm bike, has the rigid or hardtail styling yet full rear suspension capability. One major company utilizes a play-on version of the word to describe their lineup of this style; the Softail.

Spark Plugs (or Plugs) - A device that lights an electric spark within the combustion chamber to burn the fuel in the cylinder.

Speed Wobble - See Wobble - A sudden instability of a motorcycle at speed in which the front end of the bike darts from side to side uncontrollably. Best recources I've heard to fix it: DO NOT slam on the brakes. DO NOT death grip the handlebars. Accelerate out of it or slowly close the throttle to reduce speed.

Spoke - A rod that connects the hub and rim on a wheel.

Sportbike - 1. The racy light weight mega-fast bikes with full fairing, comfort is not taken into consideration on these bikes rather they are made for hard acceleration, quick and responsive maneuvering, and rapid stopping power. 2. Motorcycle offering high performance characterized by leading edge engine design, heavily applied racing technology, radical aerodynamic styling, low handlebars, high performance tires and suspension, low weight, high RPM engine and big disc brakes. 3. A motorcycle designed for optimal speed and handling characteristics, often with expensive bodywork.

Sport Tourer / Sport Touring - 1. Motorcycles that go under this category are a compromise between powerful sports bikes and touring bikes. These bikes often have good aerodynamics and lots of power, making the top models of this category the fastest bikes around. 2. Sport touring bikes offer more comfort than a sport bike and more speed than a touring bike. 3. A motorcycle that combines the comfort and carrying capacity of a touring bike with the handling and power of a sportbike with larger fairing and hard, lockable luggage.

Springs (shock springs) - Help the shocks absorb road surface vibration through compression of the spring around the shock.

Springer Fork - Springer type forks use large, exposed springs to dampen the impact of road irregularities. Very old technology that is still used today by Harley-Davidson for a heritage look.

Squirrelly handling - A slang term for a feeling of less than full control on a motorcycle. Loose handling of the motorcycle.

ST (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Sport Tourer (eg. BMW F800ST)

Stanchion - A Brit term for the fork tube.

State Patrol Formation - Staggered group riding formation - L-R-L-R-L-R...

Stay Vertical - Stay upright, don't crash

Steering damper - 1. A steering damper is mounted to a motorcycle's frame and fork to prevent situations like a wobble. 2. A system for adding resistance to the motorcycle steering.

Steering lock - A lock that enables one to lock the fork at an extreme right or left to prevent or hinder theft.

Street Fighter - Streetfighter - A bare bones sportbike (or any bike that originally had fairings) stripped of all extraneous bodywork.

Stock - A motorcycle set up to OEM specifications with no alterations.
Straight Pipes - An exhaust system with no baffles inside thus the exhaust travels straight through unrestricted. (Very loud and illegal in most areas.)

Stroke - 1. (as in bore/stroke) The distance traveled in either direction of by an piston or rod in an engine. Do not mix up with stroke as in 4-stroke. 2. The up and down motion of the piston. 3.A single movement of a piston, stem or crank arm from one end of its range to the other.

Suicide Shift - Suicide Clutch - An early-style gear shift mechanism. Unlike modern motorcycles, early motorcycles used a foot-actuated clutch and the gear shifting was done with the rider's hand via a long gear shift knob that was connected directly to the transmission (much like a manual transmission on a car). Because the rider had to remove one of his hands from the handlebars in order to shift - a dangerous prospect given that most of the thoroughfares of the day were rutted, unpaved dirt roads or brick and cobblestone streets - many people felt that motorcycle riders were literally "taking their lives into their own hands" … hence the term, "suicide shift".

Super-motard - A motorcycle category which defines urbanly designed cross or enduro bikes.

Sump - Oil reservoir that either scavenges free draining engine oil or separately holds oil.

Suspension - The system of springs, shock absorbers, or similar devices connection the axels to the frame of a motor cycle. Designed to reduced unwanted motion transmitted from the riding surface.

Supermoto - A new style of motorcycle usually built around, and looking like, off-road machines with street tires. They tend to be light, flickable machines, and are used in a new genre of racing that usually encompasses riding on a mixture of pavement and dirt surfaces. Many manufacturers have a Supermoto in their model lineups.

Super Slab - 1. Interstate. 2. A generic term for any multilane, high speed, limited access highway, including a freeway, toolway, motorway, parkway, or superhighway.



T or GT (Motorcycle designation suffix) - Touring (eg. Boulevard C90T, Honda VTX1800T, BMW K1200GT)

Tachometer, tach - An instrument gauge that displays how fast the engine is spinning in revolutions per minute.

Tank bag - A bag or luggage that mounts on to the top of the fuel tank.

Tar Snake - An uneven, slippery patch in a road crack

Target Fixation - When a riders eyes focus on a point in the distance, line or debris on the road, causing them to inadvertently steer the bike toward that area rather than in the intended path. The majority of riders fall prey to this as it's easy to target fixate on a bump/hole in the road or something you didn't want to run over.

Tarmac- British term for what North American's call asphalt.

T-CLOCS - An acronym created by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) rider training course – used as a pre-ride checklist of items to inspect on your motorcycle so as to ensure that your bike is mechanically safe.

* T-Tires and Wheels
* C-Controls
* L-Lights and Electrics
* O-Oil and Other Fluids
* C-Chassis
* S-Sidestand

Telelever System - The most successful alternate front suspension, made by BMW, which takes the shock absorption function of a hydraulic fork and transfers it to a shock absorber located behind the steering head.

Telescopic forks - Front suspension system with two fork legs, each with sliding and fixed tubular members that telescope together to allow suspension movement.

Textiles - The jacket/gloves/etc (safety gear) used by riders that is made out of textile.

Throttle - The throttle controls the engine's power by restricting the substance that enters the engine.

Throttle lock - Manual device fitted to the throttle of a motorcycle that applies friction to keep the throttle from moving. Used to temporarily give your hand a rest on long rides.

Thumper - 1. Motorcycle with single cylinder, for stroke engines with large displacement. Any single cylinder bike (like the BMW F650, Kawasaki KLR650).

Tire direction - Unlike car tires, motorcycle tires have an arrow on the sidewall showing the direction of travel. It is important to mount motorcycle tires correctly and the tire direction arrow is correctly oriented in the direction the tire will spin the majority of the time.

Tire Profile - The lateral curvature of the tread of an inflated tire, usually expressed as a comparison of height to width.

Tire Warmers - Real racing tires work best once they’ve attained their high operating temperatures. Electric “blankets” wrapped around the wheels help speed this process, allowing the rider to start going fast sooner.

Top End - 1. The maximum speed of a motorcycle. 2. The upper part of the engine, which contains the pistons, cylinders, and valve gear, and the induction system consits of the apparati that mix an air and fuel charge and inject it into the combustion chamber, located in the top end.

Torque - 1. The tendency of a force to cause an object to rotate. In an engine, the torque is expressed as the force applied multiplied by the distance from the center of rotation. It is the basic measure of the propulsive effect of a powered wheel. Or, said in other words: The measure of the force applied to produce rotational motion usually measured in foot-pounds or Nm.

Tourer - A type of motorcycle designed for long distance riding, typically a heavier bike with hard luggage and comfortable seating arrangements. Also referred to as "Geezer Glides" and an "old man's bike" as older folks tend to have these.

Touring Bike - 1. A Luxurious motorcycle with many comforts and amenities for long range travel. 2. A bike equipped for longer riders with fairings and saddle bags.

Trailing Throttle - Closing the throttle as the bike decelerates to apply engine braking.

Travel - The distance that suspension components, the forks and shocks, move up and down when the bike rides over bumps.

Tread depth - The distance measured in the major tread groove nearest to the centre line of the tire, from the base of the groove to the top of the tread.

Trail Braking - Keeping the brakes applied late in to the corner.

Trickle charging - A method of slowly and gently charge the battery. Motorcycle batteries should be trickle charged at a rate of around 1-2 amps and a charging rate not to exceed 6-12 amps.

Triple - A three cylinder inline motorcycle engine.

Triple Trees or Triple Clamps - The two pieces that attach the bike's front end to the frame, named after the three positions on each piece; one for each fork tube and a center for the steering stem.

TT (Tourist Trophy) - Road race held on closed public roads on the Isle of Man, off the coast of Great Britain. The TT is the oldest motorcycle-racing event in the world. The first race was held in 1907. Racers routinely reach speeds in excess of 260 kph (100 mph) that take them through villages, along rocky mountain sides and along single lane country roads. The TT is also the most dangerous racing event in the world.

Turbocharger - 1. Arguably a more efficient variation of the supercharger. Impellers in the exhaust are turned by the exhaust gases, which power impellers in the air intake forcing more air past the carburetors. 2. A forced air induction system that increases the amount of air available for combustion in the cylinders.

Twin - An engine configuration comprising of 2 cylinders.

Twisties - Section of road with a lot of turns. 2. A road or race track with many curves.

Two-Into-One (2-1) - 2 exhaust header pipes mating into one pipe

Two Second Rule - This is the minimum spacing in seconds between moving motorcycles. While in formation, maintain a 2-second interval from the rider in front of you. It is measured by counting "one-thousand one, one-thousand two" as you see the rider in front of you pass a sign or landmark. Stop counting when you pass the same marker. Under poor weather conditions, maintain longer intervals consistent with safety.

Two Stroke - Two Stroke Engine - 1. Mechanically simple, light and powerful, two stroke engines combine the exhaust and intake strokes, making every other stroke a power stroke. 2. An engine (also called a stroker) who's power cycle consists of just two movements, or strokes: The piston moves down, drawing in the fuel air charge, and then up, cumbusting the charge. Unfortunately two stroke engines typically produce much more pollution than a four stroke design.

Two-Up - A term for carrying a passenger on your motorcycle.




Unsprung Weight - Parts of the motorcycle below or not supported by the suspension such as the rims and tires.

Upside-down forks - Telescopic forks in which the lower section telescopes into the fixed upper tube. They are sometimes referred to as inverted telescopic forks on older bikes.



V - A motorcycle engine with the cylinders arranged in an angled V This configuration can allow for optimum torque for a given displacement.

V-Four - A four cylinder motorcycle engine with the cylinders arranged in two rows in an angled V. (e.g. Yamaha V Max has a 1200cc V-4 engine)

V-Twin - 1. A 2 cylinder motorcycle engine with the cylinders arranged in an angled V This configuration can allow for optimum torque for a given displacement. 2. An engine designed in a "V" configuration. Such as a Harley-Davidson V-Twin.

Valve - 1. A device that regulates the passage of fuel through into an engine cylinder. More specifically, a valve is a mechanical device that controls the entry of fuel/air mixture into a combustion chamber, as well as the exit of spent combustion gases from the same.

Vapor Lock - Condition where fluid expansion into a vapor state prevents a system from working, traditionally the fuel delivery system.

VIN - Vehicle Identification Number - Sometimes referred to as 'Chassis Number' this is a unique code that every motorcycle is fitted with to protect the identity of the vehicle. (found stamped onto a plate on the motorcycle.)

Viscosity - Measurement of the thickness or denseness of a fluid.

Vintage/Classic - A motorcycle 20 years of ago or older.




Wave (The Wave) - a two finger wave (as in two-wheels) of the hand, typically with left hand below the handle bars while riding, that acknowledges another motorcyclist as he or she passes. Motorcyclists often feel like they belong to a big community, and that sensation gives us something in common; we share a bond that sets us apart from the rest of the motoring world

Wear Bar / Wear Indicator- Raised ridge in the tire tread to indicate when the tire needs replacement. All tires should be replaced when tread depth is 1/32nd of an inch or less.

Weight Transfer - Weight is shifted as you accelerate or decelerate from one wheel to the other. Acceleration causes the weight to transfer from the front to the rear wheel. Braking causes the weight to shift from the rear to the front wheel.

Wheelbase - Measurement from the center of the front wheel to the center of the rear wheel.

Wrenching - Actually doing the maintenance and repair of a motorcycle.

WSB (World Superbike Racing) - Production-based, four-stroke motorcycle racing with extensive modifications determined by regulations to control costs and limit alterations.



Xylophone - A musical instrument (note: not recommended to play the xylophone while riding a motorcycle, it's not only dangerous, but it annoys the other riders).



Yoshi (Yoshimura) - A Japanese manufacturer of after-market parts most noteably known for their exhaust systems.



Z Bar - A handlebar that sweeps out of the risers toward the front of the bike and then sweeps back again towards the rider. A popular handlebar from the 1970's.



What Motorcycle Definitions would you add to this list?

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