Does Your Bicycle Want to Be Named?

I was visiting friends who had given their 5 year old daughter a bicycle for Christmas. They encouraged her to come out and show it off to me and the other guests. Shyly, the girl wheeled it out to the garden. Purple. Princess decals. Streamers. Training wheels. And already splattered with mud – a good sign of use!

“And have you named the wee bike yet?” asked the mother, probably for my benefit. In reply, the girl gave us both a look suggesting her patience for adult displays of stupidity was being thoroughly tested.

“Oh mummy! The bike doesn’t want to be named.”

This statement was so unexpected, that my first reaction was to burst out laughing. I then thought how interesting it was that, on some level, such a young child showed an awareness of anthropomorphism, including the fact that naming objects is done for the benefit of the people naming them rather than the objects themselves.

Then on my way home, I remembered the comment again and considered it more literally. Because really, I can relate.

While I do tend to name my bikes as a matter of habit/tradition, I have noticed that in practice not all bicycles actually suit having a name or being referred to by name.

For instance, technically my Brompton is called Belinda Maze. But I never actually call it that, either out loud or in writing. I refer to it as The Brompton. That seems a little impersonal for a bike I have made the most use of over the past 4.5 years, but for whatever reason it never really “wanted” to be called by name. Go figure.

On the other hand, my DIY 650B bike is most definitely Alice. “I’ll take Alice out today.” “Remind me to pump Alice’s tyres.” “Have you seen Alice?!” and so on.

The naming of the aforementioned bike was actually unintentional, and a little spooky. It was my second or third ride on it, late October 2014, and we had an early frost. The road was glazed over with icy patches and as my tyres rolled over them, the Tom Waits song Alice popped into my head – remaining there, stubbornly, throughout the ride. Then later at home, my husband asked teasingly, “Will you be naming this bike?” I said that I probably would, but hadn’t thought of a name just yet. “She looks like an Alice,” he said.

Other names were chosen in a far more straightforward manner. My Claude Butler mixte is named Claudia. My Mercian is Mercy Anne. Some manufacturers do make it easy!

I am always interested in others’ bicycle naming practices. Do you name your bicycles always, never, or sometimes? Do you actually refer to bikes by their names?

Whether a bicycle “wants” to be named we might never know. But the possibility cannot be discounted.

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