Motorcycles are as fascinating as they are exhilarating. Having a basic understanding of the fundamental parts of your motorcycle is essential. It can help you ride your motorcycle safely and you can also get the most out of what your vehicle can do.
Some jargon and technical terminology may seem a bit intimidating for inexperienced riders. Those who are new to the world of motorcycles may struggle to understand how a motorcycle works.
Thus, we've put together a simple guide to help you get a firm grip on the essential parts of a motorcycle.
The main components of a motorbike
The engine is very much the beating heart of any motorcycle. From a Yamaha racer to a scooter, every motorcycle relies on an internal combustion engine for power.
This is a small enclosed chamber in which spark plugs ignite a controlled mixture of air and fuel. The ignited fuel rapidly expands within its cylinder. The pressure created then powers a piston. This piston, connected by a rod (or con-rod), spins a large axle called a crank, which then powers the rear wheel.
This crank develops the momentum. Then the crank pushes the piston back into the cylinder, expelling with it all the burnt gas. The gas then leaves the engine through two valves that lead to the exhaust.
Understanding your motorcycle's suspension can be vital to unlocking your bike's true potential. The primary aim of motorcycle suspension is to keep your wheels firmly on the ground. Without front and rear suspension system in place, your bike would lose traction at the slightest bump in the road.
Motorbike suspension uses a combination of a spring and a dampener. These absorb the impact and separate the chassis (frame) of the bike from the rider.
Every motorcycle has front forks suspension and a rear suspension, which is usually either swing arm or hydraulic dampener at the rear wheel.
Depending on the motorcycle design or model, you might be able to adjust the suspension to suit your weight or the terrain you plan to ride on.
Wheels are the motorcycle parts that receive power from the engine. An essential part of a wheel is a rubber tyre.
Motorcycle tyres come in various shapes and sizes to suit every vehicle or the rider's style.
Generally, tyres can be divided into three types:
- Off-road tyres - These tyres have a very rough and a protuberant shape. The aim of the structure is to spread loose dirt and mould to the uneven ground to allow traction.
- Road or Street Tyres - Street tyres are generally always flat and smooth. Their aim to keep as much of the bike's wheel on the ground as possible to achieve the best traction.
- Dual sport tires - These are a hybrid of the two types mentioned above. They still retain the roughness of the off-road tyres. But they are broader and flatter, making them suitable for any terrain type.
The exhaust is one of the most critical parts of a motorcycle that keep your bike running smoothly. When the fuel burns out within the internal combustion chambers, the exhaust channels it out.
An exhaust is also essential for keeping the engine's noise at a manageable volume. Without an exhaust and the muffler within, your bike would make an absolute racket.
Brakes are parts of a motorcycle that you couldn't do without.
If you understand how your brakes work, you can ride safer and save on the repair costs of replacing them.
Motorcycles have two different sets of brakes to control the front and rear wheels. The front wheel requires much more braking power, so it is usually more prominent than the rear brake.
There are two types of motorcycle brakes that you're likely to find - disc brakes and drum brakes.
- Disc brakes are popular on larger motorcycles as the discs generate a considerably more braking power.
- Drum brakes are an older type, mostly found on smaller motorcycles or used primarily as a back brake.
The shape and size of a motorcycle seat vary depending on the type of bike you have.
Seats are one of the most common motorcycle parts that a rider might want to change. Depending on your preference, you might want to add padding or a backrest, especially for long journeys. Some motorcycles also have an extra seat space for a passenger or pillion.
Modern motorcycle dashboards are another essential parts of a motorcycle.
The positioning and configuration of a dashboard vary between models and manufacturers. But, it is always located between or below the handlebars in clear view for the driver.
A motorcycle dashboard will almost always include the following:
- Tachometer - This tells the rider their current RPM (Revolutions per minute) value.
- Speedometer - A speedometer tells the driver the motorcycle's speed (in MPH or KM).
It might also include an ignition light, engine temperature gauge or warning lights.
Controlling the bike
When you are behind the wheel of a motorcycle, you need to know what you're doing. Unlike the name suggests, you should only ever have a light grip on your bike's throttle. If you grasp the throttle lever too much, it might make the motorcycle to jolt forwards powerfully and erratically.
The purpose of the throttle is to increase or decrease the speed of the bike, depending on the direction that you turn the lever.
Unlike a bicycle, there is only one brake lever on the motorcycle. The front left lever controls the front brakes, the rear brake is controled by a pedal. To operate the front brake lever of a motorcycle effectively, use all four fingers to squeeze it towards you. The stronger you pull the brake, the faster the bike will come to a halt.
The clutch lever is one of the most vital motorcycle parts.
A motorcycle's clutch is located adjacent to the brake lever on the right-hand side of a motorcycle.
To use the clutch on a motorcycle, pull the lever towards you to disengage your engine's power to the rear wheel. You can then change gears. Once complete, release the lever to return power to the back wheel.
It is essential that you understand how your clutch works. Poor clutch control can result in stalling your motorcycle when slowing down or changing gears.
To change gears on a motorcycle, you'll need to use both the clutch handle and a foot pedal on the left side of the bike.
Controlling clutch on a motorcycle is similar to a clutch in a car. When you pull in the clutch lever, you can be as firm or fast. However, when you re-engage the clutch by releasing pressure, you must do so in a smooth and controlled way to prevent stalling.
The process of changing gears on a motorcycle goes as follows:
- Squeeze the clutch lever with all four fingers of your left hand
- Then select the desired gear with your left foot using the gearshift lever.
- Finally, release the clutch lever gently and evenly to reactivate the power in the new gear.
Other parts of a motorcycle that you'll need to get to grips with are the handlebars.
The handlebars of a motorcycle control the steering and the direction that the bike is heading. Handlebars come in many styles and sizes to suit various riders preferences.
As well as direction and steering, the handlebars on a motorcycle also include the following control components:
- Engine cut-off switch
- Electrical start-up switch
- A controller for the motorcycle lights
- Front brake control handle
- The throttle
There are three main foot-control parts of a motorcycle that you'll need to master.
The rear brake pedal is on the right-hand side of the motorcycle, generally above the footrest. To use this brake, you must use your foot to apply pressure until the bike slows.
A motorcycle's gear pedal is usually located on the left-hand side, next to the footrest. When you want to shift gears, use both the clutch handle and the gear pedal in unison.
The range of gears that any motorcycle will have varies on the model or type of bike you own.
Finally, the kickstart pedal is also on the right side of the motorcycle, next to the footrest. The purpose of the kickstart pedal is to ignite the spark plugs and get the bike ready for action.
Lights and indicators
Understanding the role of signal lights on your dashboard is crucial to keeping you safe on the road.
To make things easier for riders, the majority of signal lights on a motorcycle are symbols. They are also colour-coded to indicate how serious they are - from green to red.
The red and amber warning lights (which indicate the functionality of the more serious parts of a motorcycle) are explained below:
- Motorcycle ignition light (red): This light displays as a battery symbol. It should only light up when the ignition is turned on. And it automatically turns itself off after a few moments.
- Oil pressure light (red): The oil pressure warning light looks like an oil container symbol. If it illuminates when riding, it tells the driver that their oil pressure is low.
- Engine temperature light (red): This warning light indicates low engine coolant levels. It warns you that the engine might be overheating. The symbol of this light is a thermometer around a fluid. You should stop and turn your engine off as soon as possible if this light comes on. A maintenance of your bike may be required.
- ABS light (red): Not all motorcycles will have ABS (anti-lock braking system). But if yours does and the 'ABS' light is illuminated, it may be a sign of an issue with your brakes.
You'll need to understand the headlights parts of a motorcycle to keep on the road safely especially at night.
To operate the headlights, a switch is usually located next to your left thumb. This switch gives riders the option of full-beam and dipped-beam.
Not all motorcycles will have built-in storage space. But an additional storage is one of the most common and helpful motorcycle accessories.
The most popular storage parts for motorcycles are known as a 'top box' or hardtail bag. These are solid-framed storage boxes that are attached to the tail end of the bike.
Other motorcycle parts
Motorcycles are complicated machines with countless motorcycle parts which contribute to their functionality.
All the motorcycle parts that have been explained above should give readers a rough understanding of the critical parts of a motorcycle that every rider should know.
However, riders should note that these are by no means all the motorcycle parts that there are.
By getting to grips with the basic fundamental motorcycle parts, you can hopefully develop an understanding of how these parts of a motorcycle affect the function of the motorcycle as a whole.
With that, you can then begin to understand all the various other parts of your motorcycle and how they collectively work in unison to create the bike you love.
What are the basic parts of a motorcycle?
You can break down the essential motorcycle parts into the following components:
The engine, the wheels, the brakes, the front and rear suspension, the exhaust/pipes, the seat and the fuel tank.
What is the back of a motorcycle called?
The frame of a motorcycle is known as the chassis, and the section at the back where a passenger would sit is called the pillion.
Where can I find a diagram of my bike?
It should be possible to find a detailed diagram of all the specific parts of a motorcycle within the user's manual provided by the manufacturers. Alternatively, you can search for the parts list on the internet.
When should I replace the drive chain?
Over time, the drive chain and sprockets of your motorcycle are likely to degrade from continued usage. As such, it's always recommended by manufacturers that you replace them alongside other motorcycle parts after around 20,000 - 30,000 miles.