MOTORCYCLE BASICS – The Anatomy of a Bike


Maybe your new to bikes, or perhaps for the first time ever you’d really like to take on fixing your own bike.  We’ve taken the time to break down the components of your motorcycle step by step, piece by piece.

This article won’t make you a world class, ASC certified mechanic, but it can help you identify the parts and pieces of your bike.  If you’re experienced with bikes, please forgive the layman’s view of the bike and it’s components.

tiresTIRES: Where the rubber meets the road.  If you really need to know how to identify these, you need more help than this article.

gas tankGAS TANK: Seriously, you need some help.  If you can identify the gas tank cap, you can identify the tank itself.  This is the holder for your fuel, which is distributed to the engine, which supplies movement to the chain, which turns the tires, making you go VROOM!

swing armSWING ARM: On Sports Bikes, this is the portion of the bike that is connected to the rear tire.  It’s is mounted on a suspension via a pivot point on the frame of the bike, giving the rear tire the ability to have flex in movement allowing the frame to absorb bumps and changes in the road. Custom “Chopper” style bikes typically forgo the swing arm, choosing instead to mount the rear tire directly to the chassis itself.

frameFRAME: The structural support for the entire motorcycle.  Housing for the engine, mount for the gas tank, handle bars, forks, etc.  Typically made of steel or aluminum.

forkFORK: The forward portion of the motorcycle, mounted on a swivel to the frame.  Two fork tubes hold the front wheel, while the triple tree connects the fork tubes to the handlebar.  The front axle, breaking system and suspension are typically included.

brakesBRAKES: Typically, the brakes are segregated into two separate entities, forward brakes and rear brakes.  Each independently handling the braking for one wheel.  Brakes can be either drum or disk based.

engineENGINE: Engines convert fuel into energy. They are described by their displacement (amount of fuel/air mixture drawn in a single cycle) and are listed as cc’s.  500cc, 600cc, 900cc, and on.  Additionally, there are a number of cylinder configurations available to motorcycle owners such as twin, V Twin, in-line triple and in-line four

transmissionTRANSMISSION: Most bikes feature a foot shifting transmission, which pushes your transmission through the number of available gears (typically from first through 5th).  Most often, the gears are set using a sequential gearbox which has the driver cycle through the gears in sequence.

drivetrainDRIVE: This is where your power is transferred from the gear box to the wheels.  This is done through a chain drive, a belt drive or a shaft drive dependant on the bike you are driving.

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