How to Name Your Motorcycle & Whether You Should

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The topic of whether or not to name your motorcycle is a contentious one. 

People feel strongly on both sides.  Some think it is downright silly; others an absolute requirement. I have been told it is good luck to name your motorcycle just as many times as I have been told it is bad luck.

Historically, I have not fallen into the group of people who name their motorcycle. 

Why Name Your Motorcycle?

I have owned well over 20 different motorcycles in my life. Not a single one ever received a name.

That is, until I got my current motorcycle – “Cal.”

So, what’s different?  I think the biggest thing is that I know Cal is a “keeper.”  

When I was in college, I painstakingly restored a 1973 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead.  I had no business restoring such a motorcycle – I really didn’t have a proper place to store it (it sat in my living room for the better part of a two years) or sufficient funds to buy parts (I ended up pawning personal possessions – including my couch – to complete the project).  The story ends with me finishing the bike and selling it shortly thereafter.

Fast forward to November 2015, and I decide that it is time to rectify a wrong, to correct a regret. 

I bought a second Shovelhead. Since then, I have been restoring Cal and recounting my experience here on HappyWrench. 

I have been clear with myself and my wife that this time around, there will be absolutely no selling Cal when he is complete. 

Over the past year and a half, Cal has been my personal time machine back to that first restoration – a restoration that I performed in California at a defining point of my life – when motorcycling and wrenching were new, and every moment with motorcycles was beyond exciting.

Naming Cal was easy.  It came to me without really thinking about it, and it stuck.

So, here I am, writing a post about how to name your motorcycle.  What makes me the expert?  Obviously, it isn’t the quantity of bikes I have named, but rather the fact that I know I got this one right.

Picking Names for Your Motorcycle

Below is my list of 5 tips for how to name your motorcycle.

1) Take your time.  

Don’t rush. Get to know your bike. Every motorcycle has a little bit of character.  

Maybe it is something cosmetic, like a fender scratch of broken lens cover.  

Or maybe it is something mechanical – I had a bike thats speedo made a funny little rattle like the one you hear when riding an old ski resort chair lift. There is no deadline, so be patient.

2) Use the Bike’s Features

Think about the bike’s color (I have a screwdriver in my toolset I nicknamed “Big Red”), the bike’s size (“Little Blue”), and the bikes model (Triumph Bonneville –> “Bonnie”).  

These can all be great sources for names.

3) Don’t worry about the gender of the name.  

I figured as a guy, my bike had to have a girls’ name.  

I was completely wrong. Cal is undoubtedly a guy.

4) Consider whether you plan to keep the bike and your personality.  

As I mentioned above, it was important for me to realize Cal was a keeper.  

I guess in the past I just couldn’t bring myself to name a motorcycle I knew I would eventually sell.  

If you just bought your first starter bike, consider maybe saving the naming for the next model up.

5) Treat it Like a Tattoo

Don’t name the bike after a girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, boyfriend, or ex-birlfriend.  

Avoid something contentious or that could potentially become contentious.  

Even if you feel compelled to name your motorcycle after your amazing wife or wonderful child, that would just be confusing – don’t do it.  

My name is Chris and my mom’s name is Christine.  Trust me, it was very confusing when people called the house when I was a kid.

Okay, so there are five tips to assist you with your motorcycle naming endeavor.  

Truth is (spoiler-alert), there is no magic formula for how to name your motorcycle. 

I have gone my entire motorcycling history without naming a single motorcycle (until now) with no luck-based repercussions. 

That said, as soon as I named Cal, I knew I had done the right thing. 

The best piece of advice I can give you is – when it comes to naming your motorcycle, go with your gut.

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