Ever wonder who comes up with the names for bikes? We did. It turns out the process can be one of the most fun, and frustrating, jobs in the bike industry.
We asked a few friends at various bike brands to share their favorite stories.
If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
By Chris Holmes, Marin Bikes
I don’t have any stories of bike model names having to be changed due to conflicts or learning that the name we chose was slang for something we wanted to distance ourselves from. About the closest I came to that was when I was at Schwinn Cycling & Fitness when we’d periodically get complaints about our Homegrown line of American-made mountain bikes having a “drug name,” even though we had nothing that’d imply marijuana. The bikes even used a tomato icon for years — we thought that if Americans grow any veggies in their gardens, it’s likely tomatoes.
We were also a bit miffed when Nissan introduced the Frontier truck to the U.S. market, as we had a registered trademark for that model in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Class 12 (Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water), but our legal staff advised not spending the effort to go against a much larger company. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone would really confuse a pickup with an entry-level mountain bike, but companies have to be protective of their intellectual property.
Marin is an interesting study in that the vast majority of the model names came from places within Marin County. Pine Mountain, Indian Fire Trail, Mount Vision, Bobcat Trail, Bolinas Ridge, all on the mountain side. Fairfax, Terra Linda, San Rafael, Larkspur, Kentfield, etc. on the pavement side. The Gestalt, introduced for the 2016 model year, was named in part after the popular Gestalt Haus in Fairfax.
The Long and Short of It
By Eddy Marcelet, Kona
The process of naming bikes, at least at Kona, is something I dread. No one agrees, it takes ages and it’s hard to come up with winners. We’ve been known for all the Hawaiian names and ones with volcanic themes, but in recent years have switched to a lot of Japanese stuff like Honzo, Kitsune, Raijin and other cool sounding stuff that also has some character. We also like to keep some old ones alive like the Hei Hei, which means “race” in Hawaiian and was reintroduced in the 2000s after a long hiatus from when it was a titanium hardtail years before.
Some names we are known for are the Humu humu nuku nuku apua’a which for ages was the longest model name in the industry until Quintana Roo came up with something even more ridiculous. We went in the other direction and chased the shortest name in the industry with the A, a dual suspension singlespeed. It was a good name since A is also ONE as in A bike, so it had a cool story built into it. I still think after all our Hawaiian names the Munimula was one of the better ones we had. It’s just ALUMINUM spelled backwards, but sort of sounds Hawaiian. The thing that sucks is so many people can’t pronounce our names and butcher them constantly.
Another good one was the Chute, a mountain bike we named to work with riding steep and gnarly terrain like you find on the North Shore. Unfortunately, “Chute” (at least phonetically) means “crash” in French, so our Quebec guys struggled with it.
You may not know this, but even our brand name had to change. After Jake Heilbron sold Rocky Mountain Cycles and went to work in California with Marin and Tom Ritchey while his two-year non-compete was in effect, he came back and, with Dan Gerhard, started up their new brand called Cascade, named after another mountain range. Sure enough there was some conflict there, and we had to change it. As Jake described it when being interviewed once, “all the good names were taken.” I guess in the end our names convey our looseness and sense of humor as a company.
The Alligator Speaks
By Jon Cariveau, Moots
The original founder of Moots [Kent Eriksen] as a child had a rubber pencil eraser in the shape of an alligator. When he was a kid he was riding the bus one day and the bullies on the bus stole the eraser from him and poked a hole in its head and gave it back to him. After that when you squeezed the head of the eraser it would create this little suction and when its mouth would pop open it would say “MOOTS.” So he decided to name the pencil eraser Mr. Moots, after the sound it made.
[Later] he started writing and drawing cartoons for the school newspaper, this was in the late ‘70s, and it was called “The Adventures of Mr. Moots,” and he would draw this character, the alligator, doing different activities like hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, whatever outdoor activity he could think of. He had this whole cartoon strip.
After that he graduated high school and toured the country on a Schwinn Varsity and ended up in Steamboat [Steamboat Springs, Colorado] and he was pretty much broke, so he started working at a bike shop that doubled as a ski shop in the wintertime. After a few seasons of that, one of his friends went to a Bruce Gordon frame building class and came back to Steamboat after that class and [Eriksen] built his first bike with the help of the guy who had been to the class. He stood there and thought, “What am I going to name this thing?” and he still had the rubber pencil eraser with him and he thought “I’m not going to name it after myself; I’ll name it a ‘Moots.’” That was 1981 and Mr. Moots has been with us ever since.
More recently we named the Baxter. And that was hard one, because we did have the “name the bike” thing going on the whiteboard, and all of them kind of fell short. So there’s a dog at Moots that comes to work pretty much every day and his name is Baxter. When I first met Baxter, years ago, I thought, “Wow, this is a super mellow, laid back dog.” He’s kind of this lovable, loopy chocolate lab. But anyway, somebody wrote that name on the whiteboard and it won out. So “Baxter” it was.
There used to be a little bit of a system but we gave up on that. Let’s have some fun. Name it after a dog.