by Victor Wanchena

What’s in a name? A name can communicate a lot about the object it describes and motorcycle names are no exceptions. There are quite a number of motorcycles that simply bear a few letters and numbers denoting the model. I personally don’t care for the current alphabet soup names. I know a bunch of Xs and Rs say fast and racy, but they leave the bike soulless, like some robot that serves its master in anonymity. But a good name is another story. It helps bring to mind good memories or envision future adventures. A good name invites a friendship with your bike. And as the marketing types love, it can sell a machine. Over the years, there have been some great names. There have also been some really bad ones. In no particular order here are some of my favorite good and bad names.

The Good
Honda Dream. I don’t care for the name so much but, am impressed with what it did. Honda did a lot with that name to overcome the all-motorcycles-and-motorcyclists-are-scary with that name. Suddenly, bikers weren’t swooping to pillage your town; instead you were meeting the nicest people on your Dream.

Suzuki X-6 Hustler. Born during the rocket era, the X-6 sounds like it had just been rolled out of the Lockheed Skunkworks, ready to do Mach 2 or faster. The reality was it was just a 250cc two-stroke. It might not have been fast, but it sure sounded like it was.

Vincent Black Lightning. Phillip Vincent had a thing for the color black. Most of the bikes that rolled out of his factory were that color and had the name to prove it. There were Black Shadows, Black Knights and Black Princes. But The Black Lightning had an air of ominous speed. Essentially, factory prepped race bikes the Lightning held a world speed record of 150 mph.

Buell Ulysses. An American built, adventure-touring bike named after an ancient Greek king; I love it. Ulysses was a great adventurer, king, and warrior. The fact that the marketing department got a bike named for an obscure person from history is nothing short of phenomenal. It assumes intelligence on the part of the buyer; a refreshing way to view consumers.

The Bad
Kymco Grand Dink. They mercifully do not import the Grand Dink to the US. I guess Dink means something else in the Far East, but I’m still afraid to ride one. The plus side is it has added to my vocabulary, “You are a Grand Dink.”

BMW Funduro. I’m sorry, what is Funduro? Is it fun or is it durable? Or is it a goofy name thought up in a group think-tank session, powered by over-priced lattes and a looming deadline. Fortunately, they quickly dropped that moniker and revived the venerable Dakar badge.

Honda Pacific Coast. It was a great bike that very under appreciated, but what a goofy name. I’m sure the intent was to bring to mind the Pacific Coast Highway, but all I could see was L.A., smog, and earthquakes. Such a practical bike with such an impractical name.

Harley Davidson Night Train. When I first same the name of the bike I giggled. Did they realize what Night Train was synonymous with? Or is it just me and winos that remember Night Train as the cheapest of the cheap wines. Some pocket change could buy a bottle and get you well on the way to a nasty drunk.


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