You may have noticed that acronyms and cycling go hand in hand. Barely a day passes without my noticing a new, mysterious combination of letters printed in bizarre places on a bicycle or bicycle paraphernalia. It seems that the whole industry is searching for a good acronym or abbreviation; Clothing companies, bicycle manufacturers, magazines, websites, are all willing to shorten their products to a few unintelligible letters. We, as the consumers are expected to do our research and are believed to know our “onions” so well that we need no explanation of these bizarre combinations. Why explain a process of manufacturing when taking the first letters of its process and printing them on a chainstay can fulfill the same objective?
Not all acronyms are bad, some are completely acceptable in their use. The well-known company SRAM is a good example. When Scott, Ray, and sAM got together to form a business in 1987 they decided to use their initials to form the branding that we all know and know today. Even if there are still a few people who pronounce the name in an infuriating manner, (ess-Ram)we love it just the same.
The Acronym game, played by so many, may be nothing but a lazy way to create a mystique around a brand or product. The use of SL for example, by Rockshox, is commonly mistaken as meaning the fork may be Super Light but is actually referring to Sport-Line, a basic model in the range. Acronyms may be used to protect an embarrassingly simple name from handicapping company success. How many bikes do you think BMC would have sold, for instance, if they had printed BICYCLE MANUFACTURING COMPANY along the downtube of every model? It’s so long that it would probably have needed to start making tandems instead of European racing machines.
Naming a company is just the beginning of a very deep acronym rabbit hole, a very obscure rabbit hole indeed. During my research on this subject, I happened to be drooling over the Scott Addict, a brilliant carbon road bike that looks fast even in stationary photos. The Addict, however, seems to be well named, with no less than four separate acronyms on the frame alone. The Scott website assures me that each Addict contains IMP, HMX, NET and SL, HMM. (That last one isn’t an acronym but a sigh of disbelief). Apparently, all of these letters are reason enough to justify the purchase. Before typing my credit card details into the tempting little box, I thought that I should learn more about these alluring letters. Tackling four at once seemed like a lot to handle so I decided to focus on the IMP, defined in the dictionary as “a little devil or demon; an evil spirit”, should have warned me of what was to come.
Acronymfinder.com seemed like a great place to start as it offers to help detangle the mess of capital letters. Finding just what I needed at the top of the page, I entered IMP into the search facility, expecting clarity to follow. I-M-P returned no less than 110 different (in use) options for my friendly little Acronym. I can hardly believe that Scott wanted to let us know that “It’s My Pleasure” or that the Addict is “IMPracticable” in any way. I can, therefore, only assume that the bike was designed in association with the “Institute of Medical Psychology” and is currently used as an “Israeli Military Product”. Interesting details to learn about a fairly unassuming bike, maybe this is why Acronyms are used, to keep these sordid secrets closely guarded.
Perhaps IMP was a bad start and I have been misguided by one ludicrous Acronym amongst a sea of more rational explanations. A quick search of HMX on the Scott website leaves me with a list of bikes containing HMX but no further explanation, maybe this is a mystery even to Scott. So, I did what every modern person in search of information does, I turned to Google for help. Here I learned that HMX (more commonly known as Octagen) or Cyclotetramethylenetetranitramine is a “High-velocity Military eXplosive”, luckily for those who already own and ride a Scott Addict, HMX is described as powerful but relatively insensitive. That must be a real weight on their mind every time they cross a cattle grid. I for one will carefully check each bike in the peloton before joining a ride.
For your information, I have now removed the Addict from my shopping basket and have deleted my search history in fear of a late-night knock at the door from some suited men asking me to go with them.Unwittingly I have uncovered the tip of an iceberg, cyclists should rise up and discover the hidden meanings before somebody gets hurt. I don’t even dare to start looking into why almost every single bicycle manufacturer uses SL. Illuminati confirmed? your guess is as good as mine.