Know Your Knucklehead From Your Shovelhead? A Glossary of Harley Davidson Terms

The Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company has been around for over 100 years and originally the machines were built in a small wooden shed. Today however these motorcycles have now become an luxury item. However, there are many terms and words used to describe such motorcycles and below which may sometimes confuse novice and experienced riders . Below we take a look at some of these terms.

The terms that one associates with Harley Davidson Motorcycles have been around for many years now and below we look at some of the ones more commonly heard.

1. Ape Hangers – These are handlebars which have been elevated so that they raise the hands of the rider above their shoulders.

2. Big Twin – This term relates to the larger sized engines used in Harley Davidson motorcycles. Models such as the Sportster come with engines ranging from 883 to 1200 cc (cubic centimeters), whilst most others have engines whose sizes range from 1340, 1450 and 1584cc.

3. Bobber – This motorcycle is often referred to as the Bobtail, and was one of the first custom motorcycles to appear and dates back to the early 1950’s and were used by men returning back from the Second World War. These were ridden as a way of rekindling the thrill some of the got from flying fighter planes and all non essential items or extras were removed from the bike. This made them much faster because there was far less weight on the machine.

4. Blockhead – This term is to do with the innovative Evolution V Twin engine which the Harley Davidson Company designed and produces. It was this engine which replaced the shovelhead and features overhead valves. It is most commonly to be found on motorcycles that were produced after 1980 such as the Sportsters and Big Twins.

5. Fat Head – This is a term used to describe the twin cam engine that the company brought into production in 1999 and is still to be found on many of their machines today.

6. Fat Boy – This is the bike that was ridden by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator and has certain characteristics such clearly show what it is. The front disc wheel on this machine is solid and all gauges for the machine are mounted on the engine. This particular motorcycle has now become the company’s top selling model.

7. Hardtail – This refers to any motorcycle within the Harley Davidson range where the frame has no suspension. Many of those who ride Harleys may also refer to this type of motorcycle as a rigid.

8. Low Rider – This motorcycle first appeared on the scene in the 1970’s and it is because of the low riding position due to the lowered seat is what gives this machine its name. One of the motorcycles which are classed as this type is the Harley Davidson Super Glide.

9. Shovelhead – This engine which has now been replaced by the blockhead was originally introduced and fitted to Harley Davidson motorcycles from 1966. It was the same engine that replaced the Panhead engine which in turn had replaced the Knucklehead engine that had been used in this company’s motorcycles from 1936 to 1947.

10. Softail – These particular models of motorcycle resemble the Hardtail which we have discussed above. However this one does have suspension but is hidden from view because it is placed underneath the engine.