2: In the Beginning - The Naming of Ibis

In April of 1981, Scot Nicol was thumbing through an Audubon bird encyclopedia looking for names to call his newly hatched bike company. He liked the fact that birds are light and they fly, both good traits to associate with a bicycle. There were plenty of bike companies in the prior 100 years that had bird names: Avocet, Falcon, Condor, Swift, come to mind, as did Merlin (it’s a magician and a falcon). Merlin was ruled out by the way, as one of the road bikes that Scot had was a Merlin, an English-made Merlin steel road frame that had already been around since the thirties (or maybe earlier). Bob Jackson, the venerable custom builder actually purchased the classic Merlin marque in 1955 and built under the Merlin name into the 70’s. So the Merlin name was ruled out.

Another name that was being considered was Kestrel. Since we’re in digression mode, did you know that at the Long Beach trade show in 1986, two brand-new companies showed up both sporting the name Kestrel? One was Kestrel, the carbon fiber guys from California. The other was Kestrel Metalworks. They even had T-Shirts. Scot dug into his archives and found these, he still has two. Calling Ebay!

kestrel t-shirts

It turns out that the California Kestrel guys (Bevil Hogg and Tom French) beat the Boston Kestrel/Merlin guys (Gwyndaff Jones, Gary Helfrich and Mike Augspurger) to the trademark office, and another available falcon name had to be found. Enter Merlin. Apparently Bob Jackson didn't have much interest in the Merlin name any more.

Anyway, Kestrel was considered but Ibis got the nod. The bird was beautiful in flight, very graceful and the headbadge is meant to reflect that.

ibis in flight

So as you have probably guessed by now, Ibis is named after a bird.

As it turns out, we think it was a good move not to name the company after the founder. Consider what happened to these other brands that were named after their founder.

  • Gary Fisher Bicycles: Bought by Trek
  • Gary Klein Bicycles: Bought by Trek
  • Keith Bontrager Cycles: Bought by Trek
  • Greg Lemond Bicycles: Bought by Trek

Fortunately, Ibis is not owned by Trek or any other big company. We’re an employee owned company, five of us who work here own 100% of the company. We serve no corporate master!

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