For many of us, motorcycles are far from just another form of transportation. Compare them to the sealed-inside-a-silent-box ride that cars and trucks offer us these days, in which we are separated from the engine and exhaust by a firewall, sound damping, and an ultra-smooth slushbox. Even the smoothest of motorcycles offers a more visceral experience: that engine, covered in a plastic fairing or not, is between our knees. A rider feels the vibration of the engine, the heat off the headers, and hears every single noise the components make in motion.
This, I posit, is why so many people name their motorcycles. So many of these machines have personality, and the wide range of available engine, frame, suspension, and ergonomic configurations means that each one is different. We connect with them on an intimate level. They need more maintenance than cars do, and so those of us who do our own work, directly touch them more; we are literally more in touch with our bikes.
So I offer you this, dear reader: those riders who name their motorcycles tend to be more in touch with their machines than those who do not. Some riders treat their bikes like appliances and have someone else maintain and repair them, and that’s OK. Those of us who have been elbow-deep in our machines, parts laid out in order of depth across the garage like an archaeological dig, have a better inherent understanding of exactly what is going on with any given part of the bike at any time. We talk to them (and swear at them) by name in the garage when they seem to be fighting the wrench with every fastener. Humans relate better to something we can address directly: how better to address your argumentative motorcycle than by name?
This is not to say naming your motorcycle is a serious endeavor. Far from it! Most of the names my motorcycles have ended up with throughout the years have been jokes, some more obvious than others. You can tell a lot about a person by whether, and what, they name their bike. We all know someone who rides a Suzuki and named it Suzie, right? Or a red motorcycle named “Red?” Those missed opportunities aside, my personal favorite is an acquaintance’s motorcycle creatively named “Business,” so that he could always say he was “away on Business” that week, or that he’d love to but “Business calls!”
Motorcycles are all about fun, and if they weren’t any fun we wouldn’t ride them. Naming your motorcycle can be yet another aspect of that fun. I have an old BMW R1100S with big nostrils and one raised eye that looks like a donkey face. Years ago when someone referred to her as a “donkey bike” I started calling her “Rocinante,” my faithful steed. It stuck, but very few people get the joke.
What have you named your motorcycle and why? Do your friends get on your case about naming a bike? Do you talk to your bike on the road, and yell at it in the shop? Do you think it helps?