Just like the world of motorcycle suspension has its jargon, so does the world of motorcycle electrics.

And if you thought that terms like “suspension sag” and “unsprung weight” were complicated enough, it’s nothing compared with electrics.

Firstly, what’s the difference between “electric” and “electronic?”

And then there’s the question of what “ground” is – and where you find it on a motorcycle.

Don’t worry, though – in this blog; we’re going to explain a total of 9 electrical terms.

#1. “Electric”

What better way to start this post about electrical terms than with the term “electrics” itself?

Electrical components transform the electricity into another form of energy – usually light.

An example of an electrical component is your main headlight, which uses the electricity provided to ensure that you can see and be seen by others as you ride. 

#2. “Electronic”

Perhaps you thought there was no difference between “electric” and “electronic?”

Both types indeed rely on electricity to work. But with that in mind, there is a crucial difference between them.

And the difference is that an electronic component uses electrical energy to provide information or do something.

For example, your ABS sensor relies on electricity to inform the ABS unit whether one of the wheels is spinning faster than the other while the brakes are applied.

#3. “Wiring harness”

A wiring harness is a set of electrical wires, connectors, and terminals organized into one.

One reason is to make it easier for the manufacturer to install the wires. Instead of running all cables individually, dropping them into a wiring harness is much more effective. 

#4. Capacitor

A capacitor is an electric device with two terminals that can store but not generate electricity.

If you have a bike with CDI ignition, you rely on one of these capacitors every time you go to start it up.

Care to know more about CDI ignition and how it works? Read the article about it here on DWJ.

#5. “Continuity”

Do you have a circuit where there is no (or at least next to no) electrical resistance where electricity can flow through like it’s supposed to?

Then, your circuit has continuity – that is to say that your circuit is operational.

If you have a multimeter, you can test for continuity easily by turning the dial to this setting:

#6. “Rectifier”

On motorcycles and scooters with internal combustion engines, electricity is generated by the alternator, which produces alternating current.

But since the battery can only store direct current, there’s a problem – how can we convert the alternating current from the alternator into the direct current the battery needs?

Here’s where a rectifier comes in – it converts the alternating current into a direct current.

And in case you’re wondering, it’s called a rectifier because the AC to DC conversion process is called “rectification” in electrical engineering.

#7. “Inverter”

We just looked at internal combustion engines; now, let’s look at EV motorcycles. 

In this case, we have the complete opposite – the battery stores direct current, but the hub motor needs an alternating current to make the bike go.

And as you may already have guessed, the inverter takes direct current and converts it into alternating current.  

#8. “Diode”

image of diodes

Image by Kaashif Ahmed from Pixabay

They’re small, and your electric circuits have plenty of them – it’s a diode. But what does it do?

The best way to think of a diode is as a one-way sign – the diode only permits electricity to flow in one direction.

This is necessary during, e.g. the process of rectification, which we covered earlier.

#9. “Ground”

I’ve saved arguably the most complicated electrical term for last – “ground.”

If you spend any time working on motorcycle electrics, you’ll hear the term “grounding” or “earthing” mentioned a lot, but what is it?

The ground refers to the common point the current must travel through to complete the electrical circuit.

Think of the ground as the finishing line the electricity has to cross before it completes the circuit.

Where is the ground found on a motorcycle?

On a motorcycle, the ground is found on any metal part (such as the frame) that doesn’t have any paint on it.

The same thing can be said about rust – rust causes an increase in electrical resistance, which in turn causes a decrease in electrical current.

If you have a grounding issue, it’s highly likely that it’s caused by a corroded connector. 

Discover More Terms in the New DWJ Motorcycle Terms Dictionary 2nd Edition

dwj motorcycle terms dictionary front cover