Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On naming a bicycle

If you’re like me, you like to give names to certain inanimate objects and possessions in your life. In my life, I think it started with my parents’ habit of giving nicknames to their cars… Nina and Bertha being more recent examples.

So, when I first got (back) into cycling a few years ago, I had a challenge: to name my new bike. Fortunately, inspiration didn’t take long to strike with that first bike. She was Winnie. I had no doubt it was a girl, and the name (derived from the brand name Schwinn) rolled off the tongue just the right way.

My Schwinn is no more, and I am now the proud owner of a Surly Long Haul Trucker. I’ve been struggling with a nickname for this bike for months, though. I’ve had no shortage of ideas. These have included Orson and Napoleon (pigs in Garfield and Animal Farm respectively, based on the fact that the headset on my bike is FSA’s “The Pig”); Bubba (a classic trucker name); Bessie; and Dorothy AKA “Dot”. Yet none of these seemed to have that certain something.

Perhaps coming up with or committing to a name this time is more difficult because I hope to have my Surly for years decades to come. Maybe there has been something else keeping the creative juices from flowing. I don’t know. In any case, I’d been struggling to come up with a name for some time. Feeling stuck, I turned to the all-knowing Internet for inspiration and ideas.

Recently, I came across a site full of random name generators. It’s actually fairly entertaining and good for killing a few minutes if you’re interested. I tried the trucker name generator  there. It seemed logical, given the model name of my new bicycle. One trucker name stuck with me a little: Thunder. I got that by entering my own first name into the trucker name generator and entering sex as a male. Thunder happens to be the name of the dog I had when I was a kid. He had a lot of black fur (my bike is black), and was a faithful companion in the life (just as I am sure my bike will be). So, in some ways it seemed a good match, but still, it just didn’t grab me like I wanted a name to. I wanted something new and unique.

Last week, I got nerdy with the name generator site and excitedly clicked on the link to the Vulcan name generator. Yes, that's right... as in Star Trek planet Vulcan, birthplace of Spock. I typed in Long Haul Trucker, chose female, and got the name “Belna”. According to the name generator, Belna is Vulcan for “strong maiden”. Such a fitting description of my Surly, given the nature of an ideal touring bike... strong and sturdy, carrying a cyclist, full panniers, a tent, and who knows what else on its back. The name is really growing on me the more I think about it. And I'm becoming increasingly certain that my bike is indeed a she.

So, I’m going to give it a couple more days to make sure it really sticks, but I think I many finally have a name for my Surly… Belna. That’s Belle for short, because she’s a beauty.


  1. How can you tell if your bike is male or female? -Meghan

  2. Bikes, cars, ships, and other forms of transport are traditionally female. Trust me, I have the US Navy on my side on this one, and you don't want to mess with the US Navy! ;-)

    I tried not to bring that prejudice to personifying my new bike. Traditions aside, I assume it's just a gut feeling, and I haven't gotten a gut feeling that is contrary to naming tradition in the first few months of riding it, so I'm falling back on tradition.