Sunday, December 11, 2011

A bike question that has really been dogging me: why name your bike?

When I ask this question, I do so respectfully as I do not wish to alienate some of my readers, but here goes.  Why do people give their bikes names?  Names like Betty, Myrtle, Josephine or any name other than the one bestowed on that particular model by the manufacturer.  Prior to being a regular bike commuter, I wondered the same thing about naming one's car.  Why?  I'm not judging . . . okay, maybe I am. . . . but it's not important to get into my numerous judgments of other people's choices.  I just want to understand why people do name their bike (or cars, for that matter).

I have three bikes, and I really love them all.  I'm very attached to them.  Each I associate with some happy memory or unique experience, making the idea of selling a couple of them in order to pay a the Workcycles Oma really difficult.  I understand the emotional attachment one feels for a bicycle.  But I don't feel the type of love or attachment for my bikes that I do for our dogs, all of whom we eagerly named.  Pets are living being with personalities and, yes, feelings.   Not only do I have an emotional response them but they respond emotionally to me and the world around them.  It makes perfect sense that I would not refer to Jade as Smooth Fox Terrier, to Ashby as mutt or to Daisy as pregnant Chihuahua (it appears we found a pregnant Chihuahua but I'll discuss that later).  On the other hand, Breezer Uptown 8 seems a perfectly sufficient name for that cherished bicycle.

Naming one's bike seems to be a woman thing.  I could be wrong, and I don't mean to sound sexist, but anyone who I've ever known who has named a bike has been a woman.  Anyone who has ever asked me what I named my bike has been a woman. 

So here are my questions:  Do you name your bike?  Why or why not?  Is anyone else as bemused by bike naming as me?  Does it only appear to me that it is a woman thing, or do men also name their bikes? 

It just now occurs to me that I haven't been on my bike in the last 10 days because of all the ice and snow on the road and bike paths.  Not enough snow yet for skiing either, so maybe I'm worrying about this question out of sheet boredom. And I just need something to write about.   It's not an important question that keeps me up at night but one that crosses my mind from time to time.


Ted said...

I believe that deep down, our brains are wired for animism. It's the same reason we yell at or punish inanimate objects when we are frustrated.

Even atheists, hardcore materialists and rationalists will want to smash a printer after it's been frustrating them for long enough.

Innately, we believe that we can have bilateral relationships with inanimate objects. Someone who names their bike, on some level, expects the affection to be returned. I would expect that people who name their bikes take better care of them that those of us who don't name our bikes.

I know no research that supports anything I just wrote.

She Rides a Bike said...

Ted, even when you are making shit up, you make it sound so well researched. With such a well reasoned explanation, why not just make up a citation and leave it at that?

As an atheist and owner a bike with no name, however, I try to keep my bikes in pristine condition. A scratch in the paint sends me over the edge - best explained by a touch of obsessional compulsive disorder on my part.

MamaVee said...

my bikes don't have names either. I want to name them but they don't see to stick.

I did name my car though- green lizard. and my husband had named his car- baby ( everything in his life was named baby about then, Me, Car and something else I am forgetting)

I do like having a nickname for the bike but really end up with the brand name.

and I call my trike the boxbike instead of boxcycle b/c I am just using the english translation to Bakfiet for it and it really is what it is.

I once wanted to name the Sorte Big Bertha but it didn't really stick.

She Rides a Bike said...

MamaVee, you made the effort. You tried, which is more than I can say. I just aren't a bike naming type.

That's funny that your hubby's pet name go with everything though. Baby indicates love and affection and if you have to share it with a car or a dog or a motorcycle, really, it could be so much worse. I married knowing that I would be behind several dogs. Again, it could be so much worse.

She Rides a Bike said...

Major goof in response to Mama Vee. In paragraph one, it should read "You just aren't a bike naming type."

chasingmailboxes said...

I did a series of posts over the summer about people and their bikes, and asked them if their bikes had names. Most of the people featured were men. I'd say a slim majority did not name their bikes, but others did.

I am a woman, and have not named any of my bikes. I just call them what the bike company named them, e.g., Rivendell Quickbeam, Surly LHT. Mikes bikes do have distinct personalities, but I don't feel the need to name them.

Velouria said...

What Ted said!

I tend to personify not only my own bikes, but bikes that I see regularly in the neighbourhood : )

themondaybiker said...

My Brompton has always been just Brompton to me. No names or nicknames here. I'm not creative enough to come up with an interesting name if I were so inclined...which I'm not. It has been referred to as "Brommie" by other Brompton owner though. Kind of cute, don't you think?

ramblingrider said...

I'm a woman, and I don't name my bikes either. As a kid, I nicknamed my very first bike "The Green Machine," (it stood out from other bikes in the neighborhood) but subsequent bikes that I've owned did not have names.

Coincidentally, that is also true about my very first car-- we've named our most recent car, but it hasn't stuck.

Erica S. said...

I haven't named my bikes either. I tried to think of some, especially for the cute vintage one... but it just feels so SILLY. The bike isn't going to know its name, after all. I've been toying with the idea of an MST3K "Space Mutiny" inspired name, though (Dirk Chainbreaker! Mitch Dynamo!). But if I go with that, it's ALL about being silly. :P

Mimbres Man said...

My bikes are called by their brands; The Merlin, The Univega, etc. Nothing too exotic.

Jimio said...

My bike is named Betty Lou. I have had her for 5 years. Paid $35 for her and she only needed 1 pedal and 2 new knobby tires. Its a Murray Elk River Mountain Bike. Weighs a ton but rides smooth.

Cruiser Dolly said...

I was just brought up naming did it, dad did it, lil bro did it. Never questioned it till now....but i suppose its like a claim-stake, you name it to make it more your own? possibly. either way Sandra Dee is a perfect name for my least I feel it is :)

Sam said...

I don't get why people name their bikes either. I decided (as a joke) to name my bike Idi Amin since people freak out about bikes are so damn dangerous. But really, I don't actually use the term "Idi Amin" when talking about my bike.

anniebikes said...

I don't name my bikes either, and like you said, it's not that I don't love them...but naming to me is weird. I did a very similar post to yours, last summer.
Link here.

SS:Mntbiker\Olskoolrodder said...

I named my Vassago Bandersnatch "Johnny Cash" due to it's menacing-ness and black-ness,but didn't name the Jabberwocky or the CX bike...does that count as a guy naming a bike?


She Rides a Bike said...

Idi Amin, Sam? That totally cracks me up. So in-your-face-I'm-not-gonna-play-nice!

Johnny Cash is a slightly subversive, anti-hero kind of name.

Interesting how many people so far have tried naming their bikes but just can't seem to make it stick.

I'd have to agree with Ted, that we sometimes have a tendency to animate inamimate objects. I have two childhood toys that I can't part with due to the Velvetine Rabbit complex and I don't want them to feel rejected or experience hurt feelings. Bizarre and irrational, especially coming from a 49 year old woman. But there you go.

ironmanbob2 said...

The "Jet Star" -- need I write more?

inspiredcyclist said...

No bike names here, but I do refer to them buy brand/make..."I'm putting the Trek on the car..." To each his/her own.
And now, more news on your little chihuahua. If I lived closer I would adopt a pup!

She Rides a Bike said...

IronmanB2, the manufacturers name was genius! And descriptive.

Inspired, we hope she is not with pups but she probably is....anyhoo, her adventures will continue when the weather warms or and the road and paths are free of ice and snow. I can tell you that already she is fashionably dressed, not because I think it's cute to dress dogs but because Northern Arizona is very cold and Daisy lacks sufficient fur and body fat to keep warm.

Montrealize said...

It is old tradition actually. Vehicles have always been named: Horses, boats, cars (in the early
days) etc.
That was a very male thing to do (of course, they were the only ones doing the travelling!).

She Rides a Bike said...

Good point, Montrealize! And then bicycles arrived and women, suddenly freed from the confines of the parlor and kitchen, began their love affair with them.

cycler said...

I name my bikes mostly because it's too complicated to describe them otherwise. I've got four ralieghs, three of which are black, and "the 1936 Lady's tourist" is too much of a mouthful. I haven't named all of them, just the ones I ride all the time so I can distinguish to people who know me or my bikes which one I was riding.
For me, it started with my original Italian city bike, which had "Robert" painted on it (must have been a model name).

MamaVee said...

Ha. Re hubby's pet name, I remember it was me- baby, baby. The car, baby b/c it brought him to me. And the Mac laptop , baby, which let him email me. ( 3 years long distant relationship during college). That was a long time ago.

JN said...

I think Ted gets part of it right. My bike is a constant companion, and there's at least something of a relationship between us. I take care of her, she takes care of me. The first bike I named was a beat-up old Magna cheapie I pulled out of the lost-and-found auction and put a lot of labor into fixing up and tuning up. Her name was Nessie (because she was big, green and heavy), and my brother-in-law still rides her on occasion.

My present ride, a nice Fuji town bike, is named Chloe.

-A guy who names his bikes.

Julie Hardee said...

I didn't name my Schwinn Cream because I just saw it as an object... until it got smeared down the street and saw it's end.

When I got my NEW BIKE, I saw "Her" as a Friend and not just an object. She I named her Kate Middleton because I wanted us to be the bestest of friends.

-I just asked my husband he with zero hesitation he said "NO" he never thought of naming his bike.

But I might name it :)

She Rides a Bike said...

Well, Julie, you are a southern lady so I am not surprised your lovely new bike is named after Kate Middleton. Raised in the south myself, I say this without prejudice since most of the people I know who name their bikes or cars are from the south. Not sure what my problem is. . .

My husband is from Cleveland and wouldn't name his bike either. You can see from the other comments though that plenty of men are just as prone to animism as women.

I cannot doubt, though, that we all share an equal emotional investment in our bicycles. I guess my bike is more than just an object to me but an extention of myself. Part of what makes me me or you you. :)

Dottie said...

Without names, what would I call them? :)

I can't simply say "my bike" because I have three. Saying that I rode the Velorbis, Rivendell, or Workcycles is too cumbersome and boring. Two of the names I use, Oma and Betty, come from the model names the company gave the bikes, anyway. I never named my cars, but then I never had more than one at a time.

Amy said...

I named my bikes but I don't necessarily call them by their names. I tend to think of it as being similar to boats and ships having names. People have been naming those since we started building them. And fighter planes, and the space shuttles. Sometimes even homes. I think we do it to set that particular bike/ship/plane etc apart from others of the same make and to show our fondness of them.

She Rides a Bike said...

Thanks for the continued conversation everyone! It's nice to see people are spending time here.

Grey said...

I don't name my bikes. Which is not to say I don't have an emotional attachment to them. They just are.

Like the blue Schwinn Le Tour III I bought new shortly after I graduated from college. It just is. A dependable, trusty, steadfast bike.

When I bike over to campus I lock it up like its a $3000 custom.

2whls3spds said...


Some of my bikes are named and some are not.

We have almost always named cars and such. My favorite (but not my mom's ;-)) was the ancient Volvo named Damnitt... Dad would be trying to start the cantankerous old thing and it would be "come on Dammit START!"


She Rides a Bike said...

Grey: Do you suppose we could gauge one's attachment to their bike by how much we invest in bike locks and the time required to use multiple locks?

2whis3spds: Dammit! I like it!

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If you're referring to VisualVM, yes I am aware of it. I know I can just connect it to a running Java process (just like I can with JConsole). It's a bit more awkward though.

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