What’s in a name? In the motorcycle industry, a lot it seems. All manufacturers have research teams to study names of new model lines. These committees study social trend and cultural norms and language terms and how these possible bike names affect the bikes’ marketability. The Harley-Davidson “beer gut” or the Honda “limb shredder” or even the BMW “tight ass” are names you will not soon see at The International Motorcycle Shows. Namely, because these are stupid names. Very stupid names. However, there are some cool names out there. V-Rod, cool, very cool. V-Strom, not so cool. Hayabusa, cool. Katana, cool if it’s 1982, and you still have a perm and wear parachute pants (please God, don’t let any readers find my yearbook). Every year a cadre of bikes is pumped out by the big motorcycle manufacturers, all with pretty predictable names. Occasionally, a small company makes a bike with a name that makes sense. ‘Ural’ is a snow covered mountain range in northern Russia as well as a popular sidecar bike. Russian bike, Russian mountains, perfect sense. As an aside, the mountain range was beyond the bomber range of the Axis powers after Stalin realized Hitler could invade using “Blitzkrieg,” a method so effectively used in Poland that the Ural mountain range was chosen as the site to build bikes for the Red Army!! Wow, just for its historical significance, that name is one of my top personal favorites! Victory makes a bike it calls ‘Vegas’ as well as an ‘8-Ball,’ ‘high ball,’ and several other monikers of risky behavior. Here are a list of my favorites, with the manufacturer as well as the model and a brief description of what they mean:
Honda Blackbird: SR 71 high altitude plane (good imagery)
Buell Ulysses: Hero Protagonist of Homer’s Odyssey (duh!)
Suzuki V-Strom: German for ‘electric current’ (perfect for an engineer)
Suzuki Katana: Japanese samurai long sword (getting old, enough already)
Suzuki Hayabusa: Japanese for fast flying falcon (also express train)
Kawasaki Vulcan: Roman god of fire (very cool, radiator anyone?)
Kawasaki Ninja: Japanese covert warrior (played out)
Ducati Paso: Legendary Ducati racer ‘Renzo Pasolini’ (who the…)
Yamaha Vino: Go figure, bad mix ($2,500.00 bond)
Honda Valkyrie: Mythological female Norse deity (nice!)
Honda Rune: A letter from a pre-Christian alphabet
Triumph Thruxton: English town with awesome racetrack Triumph Bonneville: Obviously from the Salt Flats
Yamaha Seca: Spanish for ‘dry’ or for Laguna Seca (you decide)
Vespa: Italian for ‘wasp’. (if you count it as a motorcycle)
Yamaha Virago: Strong brave women (yea, I want that bike!)
Yamaha Radian: A Unit of Geometric angular measure (just take the bus!)
Harley Fat Boy: Description of target buyer
Harley Bad Boy: Description of target buyer (marketing genius!)
Harley Wide Glide: Description of target buyer’s wife
Harley Softail: Description of target buyer’s wife 20 years ago.
The list as well as the humor could go on and on!
I wish we could just name our own bikes. Most women would give female names to their bikes. “I call her Lucy.” Used in a sentence: “Oh, hi Steve. I parked Lucy in front of your office.” Barf bag please. Men, however, would surely be worse affixing as masculine or phallic a nametag as possible. “Hey Steve, have you seen my Yamaha Big Stick? Wow Frank, that really is nice!” Sure would be an easy way to keep friends from asking to ride your …well, you get the idea.
All the good names are taken. These companies register every possible variation of all possible names for their upcoming bikes, just to beat out the competitors. There are 80,000 words in the average dictionary. The United States Department of Patent and Trademark receives about 250,000 trademark name applications per year. I think I’ll register all my ‘good idea’ names and then sell them to Yamaha and Harley and Honda, when they realize that I’m on to something. Then I can retire early on my name royalties and ride off into the sunset.
Remember to wave to me when you see me out there on my Harley “Huge Man Unit” or my Ducati “Crimson $20,000.00 Sexy Forward Moving Two Wheeled Thingie!”
Well, signing off for now. Remember, ride strong, ride safe, and in the end, make sure you ride home.