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Is There a Difference Between a Motorbike and Motorcycle?
Posted on 7/23/2021 8:23:51 AM

Novice riders are sometimes overwhelmed with the lingo and terminology associated with the world of motorcycles; and with good reason. It’s a language all its own it seems. And believe it or not, one of the more perplexing nomenclature quandaries relates to the most basic of terms: motorcycle vs motorbike. Even long-time riders still struggle to know the difference. So let’s see if we can clear this up once and for all for all parties, shall we?

Motorbike vs Motorcycle

So what is the difference between a motorbike and a motorcycle? Well as it turns out...there isn’t any! By definition, the two terms mean exactly the same thing. If it has a seat, an engine, and two (or sometimes three) wheels, it is both a motorcycle and a motorbike.

That is a simple fact. And like any simple fact, you’re likely to come across people who disagree with it. For example, fne common misconception among seasoned riders specifically is that a motorbike is simply a smaller and/or less powerful motorcycle. Yet no official classification or definition exists that can back up this claim. Like it or not, a 125 dual sport bike is, by definition,  just as much a “motorcycle” as your souped-up chopper.

The fact of the matter is that motorcycle and motorbike are, technically, two interchangeable terms and mean exactly the same thing (not unlike the terms “bicycle” and “bike”). “Motorcycle” is considered the more formal of the two and is certainly the more familiar and common term, at least throughout the United States. In other parts of the world, you’re likely to hear “motorbike” used more frequently.

In terms of insurance paperwork and other legal documentation, you’re unlikely to find an insurance company or licensing office that uses any term other than “motorcycle”.

When is “motorbike” appropriate?

The term “motorbike” is used more frequently in places like the United Kingdom and Australia and really hasn’t taken over the lexicon in any other areas of the world (nor is it likely to any time soon). That being said, either term is universal enough and perfectly acceptable for any part of the English-speaking world.

When is “motorcycle” appropriate?

In English-speaking regions pretty much anywhere other than the United Kingdom and Australia, the average person will identify a motorized, two-wheeled vehicle as a “motorcycle” by default. Again, they’ll certainly know what you mean if you refer to a “motorbike”, but don’t be surprised if the term just feels out of place. Typically “motorcycle” is the go-to term.

Is a Harley considered a “motorbike”?

Yes, by definition a Harley-Davidson is just as much a “motorbike” as anything else, although you’re unlikely to find a Harley enthusiast who prefers the term. Terms like “hog”, “chopper”, or simply “bike” are certainly more commonplace throughout the Harley rider community.


Though the term “motorbike” is certainly not picking up any steam in terms of widespread Harley vernacular, there is technically nothing wrong with it. Motorbike vs motorcycle mean absolutely the same thing (despite popular opinion). We’ll certainly stick with the more formal and common “motorcycle”, but if you’re in the market for a new “motorbike”, we’d be happy to assist you as well.

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