8 Most Interesting Stories About the Origins of Motorcycle Names – 2024 Overview

There are several motorcycle names which come with strange names and initials and can’t be easily deciphered. So, we decided to take a closer look at a couple of the more obscure types of motorcycle names and reveal the stories behind the names. These motorcycles might come with the most debated acronyms, but this won’t be the case after you read our article. Here are some of the most misunderstood motorcycle brand names and everything you should know about them.

8. Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

Img source: districthd.com

It was believed that Harley-Davidson Fat Boy got its name as a tribute to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that the name Fat Boy is a combo of Fat Man and Little Boy bombs that were dropped there. Nevertheless, this is one of the many myths regarding the name of this motorcycle. Instead, this motorcycle was named for its fat profile when viewed from straight on. It is faster if compared to other motorcycles. Yes, we know that the first story sounds more interesting, but it’s simply not true.

7. Aprilia RSV

Img source: YouTube

The RSV line of the exceptional Aprilia has attracted a lot of attention, as well as, myths regarding the origin of its name. Many fans believe that RSV is, in fact, an acronym of Racing Series V-Twin, Recreational Super Vehicle or Rotax Sport V. Nevertheless, we must admit that even we don’t know the answer. In fact, no one from Aprilia wanted to give us an answer and all we are left is wondering which of the three options above is the right answer.

6. Triumph Thunderbird

Img source: freedomcyclenh.com

This British motorcycle is one of the most successful motorcycles. However, even though it is thought that the name Triumph was inspired by the legendary, supernatural being called the Thunderbird, which originates from the Native American folklore. As you can guess, this is a common misconception. The name was inspired by the Thunderbird Inn motel in Florence, South Carolina. Edward Turner, Triumph’s General Manager, was traveling to New York from Daytona back in 1949 and the name of the hotel caught his eye. Turner gave the name for the new Triumph model and designed the paper dart logo too.

5. Ducati Panigale

Img source: ducati.com

The Ducati Panigale is a family of sports motorcycles manufactured by Ducati ever since 2011. The name Panigale comes from a place called Borgo Panigale. The place is situated in Bologna, Italy, which is where the Ducati head office and the site of the original Ducati factory are located. The name was accepted as an homage to the company’s geographical roots.


Img source: ultimatemotorcycling.com

BMW is a brand to which many myths and legends are attached. First and foremost, the logo of BMW is not a spinning propeller but has its origins from the Bavarian Free State colors on the Bavarian flag. When it comes to the GS abbreviation, there is a common misconception that it stands for Grand Sport. However, the BMW GS series is, in fact, BMW’s best-selling motorcycle of all time. GS comes from G/S, or Gelande/Strasse, which means Off-road/Road, in English. Thus, this motorcycle is perfect to go just anywhere.

3. Yamaha YZ

Img source: bmwmotorcyclesofurbana.com

The Yamaha YZ motocross bikes have been a huge topic of debates and there are many myths about what does YZ stand for. Many people believe that the YZ is a reference to an old shop in California that made parts for early Yamaha trail motorcycles or that YZ stands for Yamaha Zinger. Nonetheless, the truth is that Y stands for Yamaha, while the Z is merely the engine designation. If after YZ stands R, it means that YZR is a race bike variant, while YZF is a four-stroke edition. Moreover, the name of the YZF-R1 model indicates that it is a four-stroke engine, designed for racing, and the 1 is an abbreviated 1000.

2. Kawasaki Ninja

Img source: en.wikipedia.org

The Kawasaki Ninja is usually associated with sports bikes and one of the most recognizable motorcycle models in two-wheeled history. The model was planned to be named the Panther, but Kawasaki’s Marketing Director for the USA, Mike Vaughn, suggested that Ninja would be a better alternative. He was definitely under the influence of the mysterious ninja from Japanese history after spending some time in the country. Vaughn also called his sailboat Ninja.

1. Ducati Desmosedici

Img source: en.wikipedia.org

This four-stroke V4 engine racing motorcycle was specially made for the MotoGP racing. There is quite a mystery behind the name of this motorcycle. In fact, it is widely known that Ducati favors reciprocating Desmodromic valves rather than conventional pneumatic valves. The rest of the name sounds very exotic. Hence, the demo part of Desmosedici comes from the desmodromic valve arrangement, while sedici literally means sixteen. This is very logical as the V4 engine has four valves per cylinder, totally sixteen valves. So, Desmosedici literally means, desmodromic distribution with sixteen valves.