This month, Toyota Motor Corp unveiled a luxury road bike produced under its Lexus brand. It will be available in Japan for 1 million yen (approximately US$10,000/£6,600). It features a frame made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) that is also used for the body of the Lexus LFA, Toyota’s top-end sports car model. Only 100 of these bikes were actually produced, so Toyota clearly isn’t seriously looking to break into the world of cycling.
Instead the bike was developed to help improved the brand image by utilizing technology and materials developed for the cars. Each Lexus distributor had an option to purchase one, and BikeRadar was told that Lexus USA’s corporate offices were able to purchase two, one in white and one that is actually clear and shows the exposed carbon fiber finish.
“Whether it’s manufacturing luxury cars or constructing high-end bicycles, Lexus is committed to pursuing perfection,” said Nancy Hubbell, lifestyle manager at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand. “For the Lexus F SPORT road bike, we incorporated technology and materials developed for our LFA Supercar to create this limited-edition model.Advanced carbon fiber components, lightweight shifters and a high-tech braking system were developed for outstanding performance. The bikes are constructed by Lexus Takumi, skilled craftsmen who create the highest-quality vehicles, whether they have four wheels or only two wheels.”
Toyota is not the first auto maker to roll out a bicycle — BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and others have sold small runs of bikes — but the reasons that companies have done so isn’t always just to show off technology.
“Bikes have been used as a marketing tool by auto makers for decades. Jeep has used them, Mercedes-Benz, many others. It’s mostly a gimmick,” Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of Wards Auto told BikeRadar. “I remember test riding a Mercedes branded bike 10 or 15 years ago. It was very nice, but it cost about $3,000.”
Italian bicycle and auto makers have had a long history of collaboration.
“The story between bicycles and car is strictly related with the Italian industry,” said Matteo Gerevini, organizer of the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia. “The first company to start this kind of cooperation was Colnago back in the 1980’s, when Ernesto Colnago – always one step ahead from all the others – understood the potentiality of the carbon fiber in the cycling industry and he approached Enzo Ferrari to try to see if it was possible to develop a cooperation regarding the production material and the carbon fiber production, because at that time the F1 was the most advance and develop business in the research of new materials.”
This partnership has continued and Colnago continues to produce Ferrari-branded bicycles. This has led to other partnerships as well.
“After the success of the relation between Ferrari and Colnago – that still exists, but in the last years is more marketing that real product-related relation – a lot of other bicycle companies tried the same concept, as Milani with the Maserati Bicycle,” added Gerevini.
Billy Kanzler, national sales manager at Colnago America, counters that notion. “Colnago’s relationship with Ferrari is much more than just marketing,” Kanzler said. “It is an ongoing collaboration that spans nearly 30 years.”
Earlier this year Oli Woodman took a look at special edition bikes from car makers.