How to Identify Parts of Motorcycles

by Eileen Faust

For first-time riders, that desire to get on your bike and ride can be dampened by inexperience. Knowing how your bike operates can be as important as knowing how to ride it. Before you look over your bike, park it in an area where you can easily and safely walk around it. You should also reference your manual if you have a specialized or rare model of bike since some parts may be located in nonstandard places.

Tires and Wheels

Stand behind your motorcycle and locate the front and rear tires. In the center of each on the right side, locate the metal-colored discs. These are your front and rear brakes.

Look at the front disc brakes then visually follow the bars that extend upward. These are your shocks, and together they comprise your front fork.

Inspect the right side of the back wheel and find the metal rod extending from the center of the wheel towards the center of the bike. This is the swing arm, which acts as the back suspension.

Stand in front of the bike and look between the bars of the front fork just above the wheel for a curved piece of painted metal that covers the tire. This is the front fender.


Sit on the seat of your motorcycle and look at the left-hand handlebar grip. The lever attached to the grip is the clutch, which allows you to shift gears.

Look to the right of the clutch lever. You will see three button controls on the handlebar. The top button is the high/low beam light switch. The second button is the turn signal switch, and the third button is the horn.

Follow the curve of the handlebar until you see one to three circular dials, i.e., gauges. Your motorcycle will have at least a speedometer, a gas gauge and an oil pressure indicator. It may also have a tachometer. Some modern motorcycles may have a computer screen displaying all this information in the center of the control system, and others may have one gauge displaying all this information.

Look beneath the gauges for the ignition keyhole. Not all motorcycles have ignition keys on the handlebars. Some may be located on the left-hand side of the motorcycle on the frame near the gas tank.

Follow the handlebar to the right until you see a second set of buttons. The top button is the engine cut-off switch, which will cut power to the engine. The second button is the electric starter switch, which you press to turn the engine over.

Look above the right-hand handlebar grip and find the lever. This is the front brake control lever.

Twist the right-hand handlebar grip. It will turn. This is the throttle and controls the amount of gas going to the engine.

Move your left foot up onto the footrest. Look in front of your foot and you will see the gear shift lever.

Look on the right side of your bike at the footrest and look just in front of it. You will see the rear brake pedal which controls the rear disc brake.


Look below the handlebars at the triangular or oval structure just below them. This is your gas tank, which will have a circular, metal gas cap with a keyhole.

Climb off the bike and walk in front of it. Look above the fender, behind the front fork to find the flat panel that looks similar to the back of an air conditioner. This is the radiator.

Look behind the radiator and you will see pipes that bring the exhaust from the engine out of the motorcycle. These pipes will curve around the engine. Follow them until you see them come out underneath the seat of the bike attached to a large metal tube. This is the muffler. On the outer side of the muffler, you will see a metal shield; this heat shield protects the rider and passenger from the heat of the exhaust.

Look behind the exhaust pipes at the front of the bike for a metal mass that has two to four ridged, square pieces of metal. This is your engine. It is usually located directly beneath the seat of your motorcycle in the center of the bike.

Check below the engine of your motorcycle to find a circular metal compartment. This is the transmission.


  • check Controls on most motorcycles sold in the United States are usually in the same standard position, though some older models will have levers or pedals on the opposite side of the bike from the standard.
  • check If your motorcycle is air-cooled, there will be no radiator. Instead, your motorcycle will have fins on the cylinder heads of the engine.


About the Author

Eileen Faust began her career in journalism in 1999 and has worked as an editor for Greater Media Newspapers and the "Pottstown Mercury." She was a member of "The Mercury" editorial team awarded second-place for promotional community service by Suburban Newspapers of America for coverage of the local Relay for Life. Faust received a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Rider University in 1998.

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Photo Credits

  • photo_camera motorcycle image by Greg Pickens from