To accelerate a car, you press or push on the gas pedal.

To accelerate a motorcycle, you _____ the throttle.


  • 3
    Usually you twist it, but I'm sure there are some bikes that work differently.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 14 '19 at 23:09
  • 17
    I believe you open the throttle. Jan 14 '19 at 23:18
  • You can also “jam on the throttle” if you want to accelerate quickly.
    – Jim
    Jan 14 '19 at 23:44

To accelerate a motorcycle, you twist the throttle, or turn it.

The throttle on a light aircraft can be a knob that you pull or push to open or close, on others a lever.

On a motor car, it is usually a pedal that you push or release with your foot. Early cars had a hand throttle which was a lever.

But on a motorcycle it is the handgrip, and apart from squeezing it the only action you can do is to rotate it.

  • 3
    I would edit to add - depending on region or culture, motorcyclists may also use the phrase "rolling on" the throttle instead of "twisting" it. And the terms "open" vs "close" work for all vehicles. I've certainly heard motorcyclists say twist, open, and roll on.
    – dwizum
    Jan 15 '19 at 21:22
  • 1
    @dwizum I understand that "rolling on the throttle" is used to mean the particular way you gradually open the throttle to avoid traction loss, and is used with cars too, whereas the question is specifically about motorcycles. So doesn't "rolling" describe the delicacy of the way power is fed to the road, having nothing to do with a rotating control? Jan 15 '19 at 21:29
  • Perhaps. I've never heard "roll on" used in any context other than motorcycles. And I've heard it used much more often than any other term when for motorcycles. In some sentences it was definitely referring to performing the action delicately, but in other cases not - I had an instructor who used to say "roll on quickly" or "roll on hard" for instance. This may come down to context - are we trying to identify a term that could only be used for motorcycles, or all terms that could be used for motorcycles (but also other vehicles)? And there's definitely a cultural aspect, too.
    – dwizum
    Jan 15 '19 at 21:51

As a motorcycle rider, the correct terminology is twist the throttle.

The phrase "twist the wrist" is equivalent to the phrase "step on it".

As a reference see the popular motorcycles book 'A Twist of the Wrist'.

  • 3
    I also ride a motorcycle, an no one I know has ever referred to it as "twisting," even though that is technically the motion. We say "roll on/off the throttle." Maybe its a regional thing (American English, Ohio-based).
    – senschen
    Jan 15 '19 at 15:36
  • 1
    @senschen as a British rider, I never heard the phrase "roll the throttle" so you are right, it is regional. Jan 15 '19 at 18:52
  • 1
    @senschen Apparently, I'm Australian and "roll on" would only be used to mean "gently apply".
    – linksassin
    Jan 15 '19 at 22:23

From Collins English Dictionary:

Talking about using the throttle.

You can say that you push the throttle into a particular position, or if you move it in a gentle way, you ease it forward or back.
If you open the throttle, you let more fuel into the engine.
If a vehicle is operating at full throttle, the throttle is letting in as much fuel as possible.

From How to Ride a Motorcycle: A Rider's Guide to Strategy, Safety and Skill ...

Once you're in position and at entry speed, open the throttle again slightly ("roll").

  • 14
    The Collins excerpt clearly is not considering a motorcycle.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 14 '19 at 23:50
  • I see no reason to assume so. Jan 15 '19 at 0:01
  • 5
    On a standard motorcycle throttle you don't push it forward or ease it back. In fact, the link appears to be describing the throttle in a boat, airplane, or tractor, vs a standard car or truck.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 15 '19 at 1:14
  • 4
    Hot's accurate about the push and pull. "Open", however, is pretty universal.
    – The Nate
    Jan 15 '19 at 3:40
  • Yes, of course push refers to a boat. They cover all possible throttle actions - including a motorcycle. Jan 15 '19 at 7:18

Without disagreeing with any verbs suggested by others, it is worth looking at the origin of the expression to try to apply some logic, since some of the terminology is a bit strange.

The original meaning is to choke or strangle, that is to restrict the airflow. This is the sense transferred to engines. You use the throttle to REDUCE the airflow and hence the power. Thus when you want to use the throttle to INCREASE the power, you need some verb to make it clear you are negating the effect of the throttle - hence expressions like open the throttle. The effect is actually to unthrottle the engine. However the relationship between air and power is not a given. In traditional petrol and gas engines, a carburettor is fitted. The function of this is specifically to supply petrol/gas in proportion to the air. So only in this type of engine do we have the relationship

open throttle → more air → more fuel → more power

In traditional Diesel engines, there is no throttle. The power control simply controls the fuel supply. So neither throttle nor gas pedal makes any sense in a Diesel engine. More modern injection engines (whether petrol or Diesel) do not use the throttle to control the power directly or indirectly, but they usually have something resembling a throttle (but I'm not sure what it is called) just to adjust the airflow.

A further complication is that traditional petrol engines had two similar plates for controlling the airflow, which could equally well have been called the throttle, the choke or the the strangle since these have basically similar meanings. They chose to use throttle for the one that restricts both air and fuel, and hence power, and choke (UK) or strangler (US) for the one that restricts air whilst INCREASING fuel supply for starting.

  • 4
    Except that, based on that, hollering out "More throttle!" would seem to imply "Slow down!"
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 15 '19 at 2:22
  • 1
    FYI I have never before heard the choke referred to as a strangler and I'm an engineer in the U.S. who's used a few different types of I.C. engines.
    – The Nate
    Jan 15 '19 at 3:49
  • This actually doesn't answer the question directly, but good information.
    – JPhi1618
    Jan 15 '19 at 16:48
  • Yes, @hotlicks, that's the point. As it is a device for reducing power, but people think of it as a device that increases power, especially as they usually put a spring in the pedal, lever etc. so that the default position is low power and you have to twist, push etc. to get the power. This is why there is confusion and why this question had to be asked. No one has a problem with the verb used for slowing down the car: it's brake but speeding up the car is linguistically much more difficult! Jan 15 '19 at 17:32
  • Interesting, @thenate. I was told this 50 years ago so it may have been true once. I am struggling to find a reference. This one uses the term. It appears to be British and from the early days of carburettors! I think it might be that the marketing guys decided that something that sounds like the Boston Strangler needed its name changed? Jan 15 '19 at 18:49

You could say that you "revved the throttle". From Oxford:

VERB informal

Increase the running speed of (an engine) or the engine speed of (a vehicle) by pressing the accelerator, especially while the clutch is disengaged.

‘he revved up the engine and drove off’

"Revving" does however imply that the RPM of the engine is being pushed close to its maximum limit, which would cause it to make a "revving" sound. This could happen if the motorcycle (or car) is sitting still with the clutch disengaged, or if the operator of the vehicle has tried to quickly accelerate and hasn't had the time to shift to a higher gear.

  • Minor clarification: the term "rev" comes not from the sound, but as an abbreviation of the word "revolution".
    – Phlarx
    Jan 15 '19 at 21:17

Having recently taken a motorcycle safety course, the perferred terminology in that context appears to be 'roll on' (increase/open) and 'roll off' (decrease/close) the throttle.


Well, technically, you throttle a throttle. See the verb definitions given from Oxford:



  1. Attack or kill (someone) by choking or strangling them.
  2. Control (an engine or vehicle) with a throttle.

    2.1 "throttle back" or "down" Reduce the power of an engine or vehicle by use of the throttle.

EDIT: Maybe I should clarify my originally "tongue-in-cheek" answer. On a motorcycle, specifically, the default action is to throttle the fuel line. That is, without maneuvering the handle, this is what happens. The colloquial term to "opening" or "releasing" the throttle by twisting the handle is to do the opposite of throttling the throttle, so, for example, pull, or release, or open, the throttle. We colloquially call the handle you can twist a throttle, but it doesn't make much sense... You don't twist the throttle, you twist the handle, for example, to open the throttle.

  • 2
    "Throttle", unless worded as "open the throttle" or "throttle up", implies throttling down.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 14 '19 at 23:23
  • 1
    If you "throttle" an engine you "close" the throttle. It refers to the cutting off of the air/gas flow through the carburettor. (In the same sense "throttling" someone, means asphyxiating them.) The answer to the OP's question - as indicated by @michael.hor257k - is that you open the throttle.
    – WS2
    Jan 14 '19 at 23:25
  • 1
    You throttle the engine, not the throttle. To say "to throttle a throttle" is like saying "to paint a brush" or "to brake the brakes". The verb "to throttle" means something like "reduce airflow to".
    – Sanchises
    Jan 15 '19 at 10:50

It's perhaps confusing with starting an engine, but you can crank the throttle.

crank - transitive verb - If you crank an engine or machine, you make it move or function, especially by turning a handle.


To get back to the original sentence "turn the throttle" works. Also, "rotate" the throttle, see HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY v. WISNIEWSKI, 437 A.2d 700 (Md.1981)("The throttle control mechanism of the motorcycle was the type which operates the throttle by rotating the right handgrip on the handlebar.")

  • Your quote does not match your argument (it makes a distinction between the handgrip, which is rotated, and the throttle, which is operated, and therefore is not an example of 'rotating the throttle') Jan 15 '19 at 17:09
  • The two are connected as the decision makes clear. Jan 18 '19 at 7:57

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