What is motorcycle? Motorcycle, motorbike, bike, moped, scooter, cruiser, chopper, bobber, scrambler, ride… we could go on, there are literally tons of types and terms for motorcycles and they’re so much more than just a means of transport these days.
Their dual (yet contrasting) characteristics of freedom and danger have always given them a ‘bad boy’ image, a machine that’s not for the faint-hearted, with connotations of speed and danger but there’s a much deeper meaning, a biking sub-culture that traces its roots back to the post-war period in the US and Europe.
We’re taking a look at the origins of the motorcycle, what exactly it is, how it all began and the different types and styles of motorbike that there are. We’ll look at what makes them different, and the various characteristics of the different motorbikes that are available to you.
What is motorcycle?
A motorcycle (motorbike, bike, or, if three-wheeled, a trike) is a two or three-wheeled motor vehicle steered by a handlebar from a saddle-style seat.
Motorcycle design varies greatly to suit a range of different purposes: long-distance travel, commuting, cruising, sport (including racing), and off-road riding. Motorcycling is riding a motorcycle and being involved in other related social activities such as joining a motorcycle club and attending motorcycle rallies.
Why is it called a motorcycle?
When you look at it ‘motorcycle’ isn’t actually that creative of a name. That’s because it’s a combination of the words ‘motor’ and ‘cycle’ which is short for bicycles. When the motorcycle was first created that’s exactly what it was, a combination of two things.
The motorcycle started out as a bicycle that was equipped with a motor. As a result, it seems rather fitting that it would be considered a ‘motorcycle.’
In fact, the name was used way back in 1895, so it seems that even those who created the very first of these were using the name. It’s not something that was only created recently as motorcycles became more common and more advanced. But the name seems to have stuck.
What is the other name of motorcycle?
There are plenty of different names for motorcycles that you will hear. You might hear them referred to as motorbike, racer, chopper, bike, hog, cycle and more. It all depends on where you are and the specific type of motorcycle that you are referring to.
Some people use slang terms to refer to their motorcycles that might be common (like those we mentioned) or personal. Others might refer to their bike by its brands, such as a Harley or Yamaha. In general, there are an unlimited number of words and terms that are used by just about everyone to refer to a motorcycle and none of them are considered wrong.
What do bikers call their motorcycles?
Bikers refer to their motorcycles in a number of different ways, calling them by slang terms that are entirely personal or even by their brand name. others refer to their motorcycle as a ‘bike,’ ‘hog,’ or ‘chopper.’ It all depends on the individual.
What to call a motorcycle is a matter of some debate, but it’s not really something that most worry about. That’s because these bikes are referred to in many different ways by a lot of different people.
Whether you actually ride a motorcycle or not will generally play a role in how you refer to it. Not to mention where you live and the type of motorcycle that you ride or even how long you’ve been riding.
What is the difference between motorbike and motorcycle?
The short answer is that there is no difference. Both of these terms are used to describe the same type of road vehicle. In fact, they’re considered synonymous and have been used interchangeably for a long time. Both are combinations of the same words in a different format.
With a motorbike, you’re combining ‘motor’ and ‘bike’ whereas a motorcycle combines ‘motor’ and ‘cycle’ but all of those words come from the same two. ‘Motor’ and ‘bicycle.’ Combining these two words was the easiest way to refer to the new creation when it was first invented and works quite well even now.
History of the motorcycle
Back when only the wealthiest could afford cars, motorcycles were attainable for the man in the street.
Factory workers, who only a few years earlier had been fighting a war, could now buy their own personal transport, opening up a whole new vista of travel – with speed, acceleration and excitement approaching that of the fighter planes which has been battling in the skies not so long ago.
Once they’d settled down with a family, simply bolting a sidecar allowed the spouse and kids to come along on country jaunts and holidays too!
Fast-forward through the rest of the 20th century and you can see how motorcycles really took off.
Manufacturing and engineering processes that had been finessed by wartime were applied to the car and bike industries, and the British bike industry in particular underwent amazing levels of growth.
Firms like Norton, BSA, Triumph and Royal Enfield catered to a growing market that wanted personal transportation, but couldn’t quite afford a car.
The next great wave arrived in the 1970s, when the Japanese motorcycle industry took over. The industrial revival in Japan extended to cars, electronics, cameras and motorbikes – and advanced manufacturing techniques meant great performance and quality, at affordable prices.
Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki overtook the British firms, and while European firms like BMW and Ducati did their best, Japan ruled the two-wheeled world all through the latter part of the century.
Since the millennium, Europeans have hit back, and KTM, Triumph and Aprilia and others have joined BMW and Yamaha to show Japan the way forward in several important sectors.
Less than 150 years since the first two-wheelers were invented, the modern motorcycle is a fantastically well-developed machine.
Engines are powerful, efficient and reliable, chassis and tyre technology gives racetrack-level grip and handling, and clever electronics have added layers of safety, preventing accidents. Of course, they still have those two wheels and an engine, but the brakes are much, much better and the seats are comfier than ever…
What does a motorcycle symbolize?
If you ask people who ride motorcycles what they symbolize you’ll generally be told that they symbolize a free spirit or an adventurous person. The motorcycle is something that lets you have versatility and adventure because of the way it goes.
Those who don’t have a motorcycle of their own often feel very similar about them. They might think they want a motorcycle because of the impression that you can go anywhere and do anything when you have one. For a lot of people getting a motorcycle feels like a license to get out on the open road and do something wild and crazy.
Are motorcycles male or female?
Depending on the person a motorcycle could be referred to as being male or female. In fact, people have been known to give their motorcycles names and they might fall into either category. But primarily motorcycles are considered female.
Referring to your motorcycle or bike in either gender is entirely your preference. If you hear someone talking about a bike at a motorcycle shop or in general, however, don’t be surprised to hear most, if not all, refer to it with feminine pronouns.
What is a motorcycle made of?
Original motorcycles were made out of regular bikes with a motor. New ones are made with steel, aluminum, or alloy. These are designed to keep the bike durable but still try and keep the weight down. Unlike a vehicle, motorcycles can’t keep themselves upright without help.
The specific materials that your bike is made of will depend on the manufacturer as well as the specifications of the bike. Some are made with higher quality materials and some are designed to be lightweight. You may also have a combination of materials because of the style of the bike.
Why choose a motorcycle?
There’s a multitude of reasons to pick motorcycling, but they can split into, essentially, practical and non-practical reasons.
The former is easier to understand of course: motorcycles make a lot of sense in towns and cities, where thy can squeeze though traffic far better than a car.
They’re cheaper than a car at the most basic level, both to buy initially, and in terms of maintenance and running costs. They’re easier to park, needing a fraction of the space a car takes up and lot more efficient all round!
The non-practical reasons for motorcycling are more complex. A major factor is fun: the experience of riding a motorcycle is far more dynamic and involving than driving your average car.
The rider’s body is part of the vehicle, and body movements affect how the bike moves: weight transfer affects steering, braking and acceleration. Unlike driving, you’re not simply operating a machine here; you’re an actual, integral, part of it.
Take that a step further, and ride a bike on track, or on curvy country roads, and it’s a supremely satisfying experience, leaning through bends, bracing yourself against braking forces, and feeling the acceleration down the straights.
Finally, riding a motorbike is cool. It’s a step away from the norms of life – it is a dangerous thing of course, and that itself marks it out as a striking choice for many.
Why is a motorcycle better than a car?
Motorbikes beat cars hands-down when it comes to urban use and traffic-busting. Their smaller size and nimble handling lets them squeeze through the busiest traffic, and for commuting through towns and cities, they’re faster and more efficient than anything else – unless you have a helipad at your office…
Bikes are also generally cheaper than cars, and having lower running costs. Finally, they can offer much higher performance than cars, especially in sportsbike form. The instant acceleration available from a modern, full-bore superbike is incredible, and very few vehicles can match it.
Why is a motorcycle dangerous?
We’re not going to pretend otherwise: riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. Motorcyclists, unfortunately, are one of the most vulnerable road users and account for the largest proportion of road crash admissions to A&E in the UK. That’s because we’re not only vulnerable when a crash does happen, but we’re also susceptible to so many types of accidents.
Cars pull out of junctions without seeing bikes, taxis do U-turns across wide roads, buses and lorries cut corners, swiping unseen bikers off in traffic. And bikes are inherently unstable: having only two wheels means it doesn’t take much to fall off – wet roads, spilled diesel, gravel-strewn junctions, they can all have us off in an instant.
Momentary lapses in concentration have more serious consequences too – entering a corner too fast can end up with your bike in a ditch, where a car could maybe keep going with one wheel on the grass verge.
The consequences when you do have a bike crash are also more serious. You don’t have anything to like the protection a car can offer: there are no seat belts, air bags, bumpers or impact zones surrounding you.
If someone hits you on your bike, they hit you too. But there are plenty of ways you can make yourself safer on the road.
Motorcycles generally have very high engine power outputs for their weight. The fact they don’t have a full enclosure for the rider and passenger (like a car) means they’re much smaller and lighter.
At the same time, they generally use low-torque, high-revving engine designs, which can make a lot of peak horsepower.
That gives them excellent acceleration performance – most middleweight and big-bore bikes will out-accelerate all but the most expensive super cars on the road.
The 0-60 acceleration figures for even modest sports bikes is often less than three seconds.
But motorcycles aren’t very aerodynamic.
Having a rider sat out in the breeze, with exposed wheels, engine, and messy airflow around the back end makes for a high level of drag compared with a smooth, slick car design.
This doesn’t matter so much at speeds below 60mph, but above this, drag starts to become much more important. The force exerted by drag increased as the square of your velocity, so to double your speed takes four times as much power.
The overall drag encountered by a vehicle is a function of its frontal area, and the so-called drag co-efficient (a measure of how ‘slippery’ the vehicle is).
Compared with most cards, motorbikes have a very bad drag co-efficient, but also have a small frontal area. This means they still perform quite well at higher speeds, despite being inefficient at moving through air.
Even very powerful motorcycles start to struggle to overcome air resistance as speeds approach 200mph.
The fastest bikes are the so-called hyersports machines, like the Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa, Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, Kawasaki ZZR1400 and ZZ-R1200, and BMW K1300S.
These all have very powerful engines, making almost 200hbp, but they also have quite good aerodynamic performance.
That means extensive, smooth fairings that try to envelop the rider in clean airflow, with big mudguards over the front wheel and large tail units to try and re-attach airflow behind the bike.
The hypersports bikes reached a peak in 1999 with the Suzuki Hayabusa which would touch almost 200mph in the right condition. But the manufacturers feared statutory intervention by governments worldwide, so they agreed between themselves to limit future bikes to 300 kilometres per hour, or 186mph.
So while loads of new bikes have more power than the 1999 Hayabusa, they have electronic speed limiters that cut power above 186mph.
How would you describe a motorcycle?
A motorcycle is a two-wheeled vehicle with an engine. Motorcycles are bigger, heavier, and much faster than bicycles, but they have many similar parts. Like bicycles, motorcycles are often called bikes. Motorcycles are a common form of transportation throughout the world.
What is the purpose of motorcycles?
A motorcycle (or motorbike) is a vehicle used to transport people from one place to another. It does not have 4 wheels like a car. It has 2 wheels like a bicycle, and it has a motor like a car. A motorcycle is usually driven by one person.
What’s the difference between riding a bike and a motorcycle?
The big difference is the engine. Bicycles don’t have one; you’re the so-called engine and we, as humans, cannot put out the horsepower of gas or electric powered engine or motor. Other differences are the weight, speeds attainable, cost, and proper operation.
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