Motorcycle names and what they mean.

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Original Posting: Some time in 2000
Last Updated : 02 July 2012

Name Name Names

Why give something a name as opposed to just a code ­ almost everyone seems to be doing these days ! Cars, bikes, computers etc… Why bother ? You see its the because of mis-match of the name and associations they come out with really that make the names laughable... Yes - I know the phycology and marketing theories about giving something a name Ie on ‘ownership’ blah, blah, blah …. But is Toyota Camry Ultima Supreme Saloon Deluxe better than, for example TC2400 ? Are BMW 3 series and Mercedes C class better designations than a name ? (In Australia almost everyone knows what a 318i no fancy name required) In bike terms imagine calling the venerable Honda CB250 the Honda CB250 Sound Barrier. It just doesn’t suit it.

Anyway, names that you can relate to and the type of bike is of course very important in the marketing of a product, at least to manufacturer. Eg. the good example of when they get it right is the Honda Blackbird surely you’d associate it with the one of the fastest flying machines on the planet the SR-71 as opposed to the feathered variety. I’m sure if it was called the Emu, although one of the fastest land based birds wouldn’t conjure up the same sort of image!

However you must remember that this name refers to the American cultural context or usage. On the other side of the world the Blackbird may not have any other meaning but a small but un-remarkable bird. Another example is Freewind, the word may actually mean something… other than bodily function connotations.

For visitors from other countries who only understand single word context/usage take a more common 4 wheeled example, the Mitsubushi Pajero (Australian name) and the Mitsubishi Shogun (American name) is the same car. But in Spanish Pajero has ‘self service’ sexual context amongst other meanings hence not used in countries that may have large proportion of Spanish speaking people eg. America - presumably. Australian doesn't have too many Spanish speaking residents hence could be used here. (This is an Australian G rated site so I can’t really use the proper term.)

Could I come up with anything better ? Of course - I reckon. Eg the latest Kawasaki Zs I’d call Afterburner because of the quad exhausts and its not a slow bike in anyway. Kawasaki Z-1000 Afterburner hmmmm… has a nice ring to it !

Speaking of which I don’t think you can trademark some of these names because they were will in use before the bikes where made ??

I also have to add that I like having names purely for branding and acknowledgement reasons. Afterall who wants to be remembered as just a bunch of numbers. The name simply has to be a good one.

Anyway so how did they come up with a motorcycle name?

The Blackbird, Hayabusa are obvious bike types and associations but others have weird associations. (I can understand why Hayabusa was chosen - I couldn't find and English based bird names that could associate with the type of bike.) EG Condor or Bald eagle, don't appear to suit sports bikes. 

Hence clearly names are supposed to aid in the association of the key attributes of the bike. You wouldn't call one of the fastest bikes in the world for example XXZZ-R1800RR Slugger. The Japanese do come up with the ‘best’ names, lots of thought and imagination and very abstract reflecting their culture which doesn't always translate well to the rest of the world. For example the XXZZ-R1800RR Slugger would probably become the Sluzzer... or something like that.

Any other purpose for a name eludes me.

However you have to wonder about how some of them came into being, bearing in mind the main purpose of association.

Here’s my opinion on various current and some historical motorcycle names and how they relate to the bikes. (Listed in alphabetical order!)

Africa twin ­ Ok supposed to inspire the type of bike for Africa works OK for the bike.
Bandit ­ The marketing burp says ‘The <country ad appears in> most wanted’ It's not exactly a best seller so I don’t get it. But it has kinda of adopted the image as a hoon bike of choice till recently.

Burgman ­ What? Quite inappropriate really. It a scooter though so fits the really weird scooter names standard.

Deauville ­ Sounds like dull you see.. but then the bike is kinda of appropriate … also sounds French, though I don't see the French connection (ha ha - get it?)

Dominator ­ Interesting name a bit over the top for this sort of bike though. Ie Single cylinder trail bike.

Diversion ­ Interesting but I still don’t get it.

Drifter ­ Very appropriate name for the bike. It is a cruiser after all!

Eliminator ­ Interesting choice for this sort of bike but still not really appropriate. Ie cruiser style.

Fazer ­ Has Star Trek connotations so unless the bike looks anything like a ray gun or space ship its not really going to work.

Fireblade ­ Nice made up name and installs a good image for the type of bike.

Firestorm ­ Interesting name but a bit over the top name for the bike.

Foresight ­ Oh dear - this is inappropriate.

Freewind ­ Pleaaaase this is a very silly name.

Hodaka Wombat - (*submitted by Roger Pitt from Aust): Yes a motorcycle presumably named after an animal indigenous to Australia. Hodaka is the manufacturer's name. If you know what a wombat looks like and its 'character' you'd have a laugh too. Other models by Hodaka include ACE, SUPER RAT, ROAD TOAD, DIRT SQUIRT and COMBAT WOMBAT.

Goldwing ­ almost appropriate but more gold trimming pls.

Intruder - Not very good choice ­ a bit silly. Especially for a cruiser. Also reminds me of Big Brother.

Katana ­ Sort of appropriate when the bike was released by now definitely NOT.

Marauder ­ Pirate inspired obviously but as a cruiser Ie. road version it doesn't fully work.

Majesty ­ You have got to be kidding these are scooters you know.

Ninja ­ Sort of competition to the Katana and Fireblade really, appropriate for the time but definitely not now.

Nighthawk ­ This is totally inappropriate.

Pan-European ­ Again an appropriate name though I think slightly over the top cause it also has former airline company aside from the more appropriate 747 connotations to me.

Rebel ­ This is not a very good choice and utterly inappropriate. Ie a cruiser available as a 250cc twin based on the CB250.

Thunderace ­ A made up name with little association to the bike

Thundercat ­ Another made up name with little association to the bike.

Trans-Alp ­ European mountain crossing type bike seems appropriate.

V-Max ­ Think this is a great name, suits the bike during its day in the sun.

Virago ­ Interesting but again don’t get it.

Valkyrie ­ The look is appropriate ie big bike and the female warrior connotation is interesting.

Anyway I guess the conclusion is that names don’t really do that much to help when used inappropriately, even in the Australian multi-cultural context. Hence the Why ? question. If you get the name right it's cool but get it wrong and it really doesn’t help. You may disagree but hey this is my site!

I leave you with some advice :

Use Foresight to avoid Deauville and go Pan European with a Rebel and team up with some Ninjas and Bandits on the way or you’ll be flying on a Goldwing and a prayer.
Remember to avoid the Freewind or you’ll be faced with the Blackbirds and Hayabusas especially if you take the Intruder, at least during day cause Nighthawks rule in the dark.
If you come across a Drifter make sure you have a Fazer as a Diversion or you may face the Eliminator. A Fireblade or Katana would be handy to have along for moments like this.

Hope you enjoyed it...



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