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Did you think that suspension terminology was complicated? How about terms related to electricity and electronics?

For example, did you know that there’s a difference between “electrical” and “electronic?”

And above all, do you know what “ground” is?  If you don’t, this episode is for you.

Tune in to discover:

  •  9 common and often confusing electrical terms – translated into plain English
  • The difference between “electrical” and “electronic”
  • What “ground” really refers to


Hello, and welcome to another episode of 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast for those riders who are at the beginning of their own Dual Wheel Journey, where you’ll discover something new about how your motorcycle, moped, or scooter works – in less than 30 minutes.


In episode 24, we looked at some common and complicated suspension terminology like “suspension sag” and “pre-load.” 


And just like suspension has its own unique jargon, so does the area of motorcycle electrics – terms like “wiring harness,” “capacitor,” and, of course, “ground.”


One might even find these terms even more confusing than the suspension one – but don’t worry – in this episode, we’re going to explain 9 electrical terms in plain, everyday English.


And what better place to start than with the term “electrical” itself? Simply put, an electrical component is a component that uses electricity and transforms it into another form of energy.


For motorcycles, this is usually light – just think of your main headlight as an example. 


So now that we’ve established what “electrical” is, let’s move on to “electronic.”


But wait a minute – isn’t that the same thing as electrical? Well, not quite. It’s true that they both rely on electricity to work, but there’s a crucial difference between them. 


And that difference is the fact that electronic components uses electricity to provide information or do something. 


For example, take your ABS sensors. They rely on electricity to inform the ABS unit whether one of the wheels is spinning faster than the other while the brakes are applied hard.


So that’s the difference between electrical and electronic – time to move on to the 3rd word – “wiring harness.‘


A wiring harness is a set of electrical wires, connectors, and terminals that are grouped together. 


One reason to do this is that it’s easier for the manufacturer to install a wiring harness instead of running all cables individually.


Our fourth electrical term is one that we talked about in episode 41 – which was about CDI ignition – and that word is “capacitor”.


A capacitor is an electrical device with two terminals that can store but not generate electricity, and is a common component of a CDI ignition system.


The fifth term is “contuniuty,” which in this context refers to a circuit that has no electrical resistance. 


In other words, it’s a circuit that works like it’s supposed to. 


The next two words are sort of related, although not quite – I’m talking about “rectifier” and “inverter.”


The rectifier is a crucial component of internal combustion motorcycles, where electricity is generated by an alternator that the battery then stores.


But before that can happen, the alternating current from the alternator must be converted into direct current – this is because this is the only kind of current the battery can store.


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


And before you ask, the reason why it’s called a “rectifier‘ is because the AC to DC conversion process is called “rectification” in electrical engineering.


As for the inverter, it’s common on EV motorcycles and scooters, where we have the complete opposite scenario to the one we just looked at.


Here, the battery stores direct current. But the wheel motor needs alternating current – hence, the inverter takes the direct current and converts it into alternating current for the wheel motor.


Before we move on to the next term, let me ask you a question – what is small, lives in many of your bike’s electrical circuits – and has a special kind that lights up when electricity flows through it.


If you said “diode” – you are correct! Well done! Anyway, a diode is best described as a one-way sign – it only permits electricity to flow in one direction.


This is necessary during the process of converting alternating current into direct current, which we just covered.


And last but certainly not least, the 9th electrical term is “ground.” You’ll hear this term mentioned a lot around motorcycle electrics, but what is it?


No matter if you call it “ground” or “earth,” it’s the common point that the current must travel through to complete an electrical circuit.


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


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


The same thing applies to corrosion or rust – this causes increased electrical resistance, which in turn causes a poor flow of electricity. 


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


And those were 9 electrical terms explained in plain English.  


If you’d like to discover more terms like these, I have a dictionary of motorcycle terminology – which has just been updated for 2023 to include a whole section about motorcycle electrics.


In addition to mechanical lingo, you’ll also get translations for common biker slang terms and phrases like “keep the rubber side down” and “whiskey throttle.”


If you’d like to check out this dictionary, I’ve included a link to it in the description of this episode.


Either way, until next time, keep your helmet on, and your eyes on the road. Bye!