top of page
  • Writer's pictureGraham

What's in a Name?

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Memorable Motorcycle Names

Motorcycle names are generally selected to inspire buyer interest, confidence, admiration, affinity and to evoke a feeling or emotional response as well as to convey the character of the model.

In motorcycle model names, that would involve choosing a name or designation that conveys strength, speed, agility, toughness, power, reliability, history, heritage, or something along those lines, or at least that would seem to be the general gist of naming a motorcycle model. Or, the model name should at least sound cool.

For example the Commando name evokes a sense of toughness, the vintage Norton of that name does the same.

On the other hand take the AJS Porcupine as an example of a bad name. Now who in their right mind thought that was a good idea? I would like to have heard that pitch.

"Hey boss, I got a great name for the bike. Picture this, we'll name it after a rodent that is incredibly painful to touch, fat, and very slow! Sounds great, doesn't it?"

You would think that bike model names are inoffensive, but that's not the case. There was a bit of controversy at one time over an seemingly innocuous Yamaha cruiser the Virago.

The name sends mixed messages depending on who's the recipient. On one hand it means "a loud overbearing woman," but on the other hand, it can be viewed as complimentary, "a woman of great stature, strength, and courage". I guess what you think about the name depends on how well your Virago is running that day. You read about "sharp-edged handling" and "razor-sharp performance" in many reviews. I figure that's why a few bike names are blade-based. Take for example the the Katana, Gladius, and the Fireblade.

Place names that have made their way into bike showrooms, such as the Bonneville, Daytona, Varadero, Madura, Thruxton, and Ascot, which we assume is named after the racecourse and not the scarf.

There are birds like the Hayabusa, Hawk, Blackbird, Super Hawk, and then other animal names that don't exactly speak of high performance, like the Serow or Elefant. But I suppose they can make you confident your ride has endurance at least. Goats and elephants are known to be pretty hardy, right?

Mythology lends itself to names also. How about the Valkyrie, Atlas, Trident, or Thunderbird, and of course there are the Spectres and Monsters and Black Shadows. Scary, eh? You can get smarter too by riding bikes with names based in science like the V-Max or Radian. All credit to Yamaha for trying to educate us, by the way. Besides the aforementioned V-Max, there are plenty of other V bikes. The V-Rod, V-Star, V-Strom, Voyager, and Vision. Some names sound fast regardless of the bike they're attached to, like the Sportster, Interceptor, Fazer, Rocket 3, and Speedmaster. And there are others that speak of a person's character, I guess, like the Fat Boy, Rebel, or Commando. Finally, let's not forget an all-time memorable one - the Sachs MadAss.

And In that vein, and in the spirit of things that really don’t matter all that much but are fun to think about, we present what we consider to be our choices for the Top 10 Best and Worst Motorcycle Model Names of All Time.

As there were so many great names which didn't make the Top 10 Best we created the “Honourable Mentions" category, and there were some that we couldn’t make up our minds on, so we also created the “Could go either way" category. We’ll leave it to you to decide.

Please note that selection to the best or worst name list is no reflection on the quality of that model, this list goes only to the name of the model. We don’t want to imply there’s anything inherently wrong with any of the “worst” names, either.

They may have just made the list just because we think they are weird, odd, strange, or funny in some way and you as the reader are free to agree or disagree.

So here goes.

Top 10 Best Motorcycle Model Names of All Time:

  1. Thunderbolt (BSA)

  2. Venom (Velocette)

  3. Spitfire (BSA)

  4. Interceptor (Honda, Royal Enfield)

  5. Thunderbird (Triumph)

  6. Black Lightning (Vincent-HRD)

  7. Lightning (BSA, Buell)

  8. X-75 Hurricane (Triumph)

  9. Mach I (II, III, IV) Kawasaki, Ducati (Mach 1S)

  10. Commando (Norton)

Honourable Mentions

  • Ninja (Kawasaki)

  • Silver Hawk (Matchless)

  • Victor 441 (BSA)

  • Super Glide (Harley-Davidson)

  • Bonneville (Triumph)

  • Bullet (Royal Enfield)

  • Rocket III (BSA and Triumph)

  • Katana (Suzuki)

  • Super Hawk (Honda)

  • Road King (Harley-Davidson)

  • Avenger (Kawasaki)

  • Trident (Triumph)

  • Intruder (Suzuki)

  • Bandit (Suzuki)

  • Tiger (Triumph)

  • Magna (Honda)

  • Sportster (Harley-Davidson)

  • Black Bird (Honda)

  • Daytona (Triumph)

  • Dominator (Norton)

  • Formula 3 (Ducati)

  • V-Max (Yamaha)

Top 10 Worst Motorcycle Model Names of All Time:

  1. Pixie (Ariel)

  2. Regina Columbus (Horex)

  3. Flying Merkel (Merkel)

  4. Squirrel (Scott)

  5. Mancunian (DOT)

  6. Stroud (Panther)

  7. Elefant (Cagiva)

  8. Meteor Minor (Royal Enfield)

  9. Scat (Harley-Davidson)

  10. Dragonfly (Douglas)

Could go either way

  • FireBlade (Honda)

  • Virago (Yamaha)

  • Beagle (BSA)

  • Red Hunter (Ariel)

  • Fire Storm (Honda)

  • TransAlp (Honda)

  • Topper (Harley-Davidson–scooter)

  • Varadero (Honda)

  • Valkyrie (Honda)

  • Shadow (Honda)

  • Vision (Yamaha)

  • Hayabusa (Suzuki)

  • Torpedo (Ducati)

  • Diana (Ducati)

  • Desmo (Ducati)

  • Hummer (Harley-Davidson)

bottom of page