Skoda isn’t a newcomer to the world of cycling. The company actually started out manufacturing bicycles in the 1890s before moving on to cars in 1905.
It’s been supplying cars to pro cycling teams for years, and its quirky ads have been a staple of Tour de France coverage.
To celebrate its cycling heritage, Skoda made the Karoq Velo, a concept car packed with gadgets aimed very specifically at cyclists. These range from the obvious things such as bike racks, to more gimmicky accessories such as a camera drone.
I spent a weekend with the Karoq Velo and came to the conclusion that, while it would be nice if car manufacturers paid more attention to the needs of cyclists, it’s debatable whether a concept car like this does much to advance the cause.
- Is Skoda’s Karoq Velo the ultimate car for cyclists?
- You could buy a car for that much! (but it will probably suck)
Skoda Karoq Velo key features
The Karoq Velo is equipped with the following:
- Two roof-mounted bike racks plus one internal one
- Drone compartment housing a Mavic DJI Pro drone
- Washing machine
- Mobi bike washer
- Drinks cooler plus thermos mug
- Tool drawer containing multi-tools and ‘magic’ microfibre towels
- Kit storage compartment
- Additional remote-controlled LED lighting
- Storage net for helmets and drone pad
- Portable espresso machine
The various storage compartments — one of which conceals the washing machine and bike washer — occupy about three-quarters of the boot space, while the internal bike rack replaces one of the rear passenger seats and passes into the cargo space.
A drinks cooler fills the middle back seat and, somewhat to my amusement, it’s kept in place by a seatbelt.
In total, the once five-seat car now only carries three passengers, which I guess sort of makes sense since it’s got three bike racks.
Incidentally, the roof-mounted bike racks are Skoda branded but they appear to be standard Thule ProRide 598s, the benchmark for roof racks that hold bikes by their frames.
The Karoq’s internal rack is a custom job that holds a bike with its front wheel removed.
Going for a bike ride with the Skoda Karoq Velo
Skoda kindly dropped the Karoq Velo at my house with a full tank of diesel and I took it for a bike ride in darkest Wales, transporting two bikes, one semi-willing partner, and a small yet perfectly formed terrier.
Loading up the Karoq immediately highlighted a few things. First of all, the internal bike rack only appears to be suitable for quick release forks and, in any case, using it requires you to undo your stem bolts and rotate the bars down for the boot to be able to close – something you’re not going to want to do every time you go for a ride.
I used the roof racks and quickly realised that mounting and removing bikes from the roof of a car this tall is actually not that easy, and standing on the sills is pretty much essential unless you’re exceptionally tall.
Also, with the remaining back seat occupied by the dog, there’s not very much storage space left in the car. I ended up slinging my big bag of things on top of the unused internal bike rail.
Putting these observations together, I couldn’t help thinking that a large estate car such as the Skoda Superb would have been a better candidate for the role of cyclists’ car, offering easier access to the roof and more length with the rear seats folded flat.
Indeed, the vast majority of cars Skoda supplies to pro teams are estates, but according to the brand, a crossover was chosen for this concept because it was deemed more appealing to the cycling audience and more in keeping with the current trend towards SUV-style vehicles.
Saying that, the high floor of the Karoq does make loading and unloading kit easier because there’s less bending down.
With limited time to sample the Karoq’s delights, I didn’t get to try out every gadget, but here are my impressions of the accessories on offer:
I guess it’s cool to record your bike antics using a drone from time to time, but I’d hazard a guess that almost all of your riding probably doesn’t merit filming and nobody needs a permanently available drone.
Also, based on extensive experience making videos for BikeRadar, filming is likely to get in the way of actually going for a proper ride if you’re trying to do it yourself.
File this one under gimmick.
This doesn’t make sense at all to me. When I’m done riding, I either drive home in my kit or I take my kit off, put it in a bag, and wash it at home using the appliance I keep there for this very purpose.
I have never, ever found myself in a situation where a washing machine in my car would have made sense, and it takes up a lot of valuable space.
Okay, this is a genuinely good idea. It doesn’t really need to be integrated with the car, but being able to remove the worst of the mud from your bike before loading it onto the roof is actually helpful.
A cooler to keep your bottles chilled pre-ride and offer refreshment post-ride would be useful if it occupied minimal space, perhaps being integrated into the centre console.
It’s not worth losing a whole passenger seat for, but I’ll give this a weak thumbs up for the concept.
Built-in storage for tools, kit, helmets, drone and more…
Cubby holes and storage bins are always welcome if they make it easier to keep the inside of a car tidy.
The custom built-in storage in the Karoq is amusing, but it only makes sense for a single-use vehicle because it occupies a significant proportion of the cargo space and renders it useless for mundane activities such as shopping.
A system of modular, removable storage could potentially be useful to cyclists, particularly if it includes an element of protection to keep wet and dirty kit from damaging the interior of the car.
Remote controlled LED lighting
As far as I could tell, this consisted solely of an extra LED strip wrapped around the bottom of the internal bike rack (see photo above), although I may have missed other lights because the remote wasn’t working.
Extra light in the cargo space is no bad thing, it would certainly be helpful for repairs on the fly.
Most modern cars already offer a sensible array of internal lights though. A more useful addition would be powerful lights on the tailgate to illuminate bike fettling activities.
We get it, cyclists like coffee. This feels more like a camping accessory than a cycling one. It’s not unwelcome, but it’s also not part of the car, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting a truly built-in coffee machine because that’s just silly.
Most of us would be content with a thermos of pre-made coffee.
The Skoda Karoq Velo as an actual car
Editor’s note: please skip this section if you don’t care about cars. You’ve been warned.
The Skoda Karoq is a mid-sized crossover of the sort you buy because you have a family and a reasonable amount of stuff to carry around. It replaced the Skoda Yeti, a somewhat more van-like vehicle much beloved by cyclists for its ample boot.
The Velo concept car is based on a 1.6TDI 115PS (113bhp) DSG Karoq in SE L trim, which gets you 18in alloys and all the niceties you’d expect of a modern family car. The base Karoq starts at £21,945 and as tested (minus the bike bits), this car would be around £28,000.
Our colleagues at Top Gear have given the Karoq a proper review, so I won’t bore you with too many of my half-baked, bike journalist opinions, but I will say this: the Karoq is not the sort of car you buy because you love driving.
It is very competent and comfortable, and despite looking slow on paper (0 to 62mph is a claimed 11.1 seconds), it doesn’t feel lacking in urge thanks to a healthy 250Nm (184lbf.ft) of torque from the turbodiesel.
For its class, the Karoq is actually pretty well behaved round a bend, without excessive body roll or the vagueness that afflicts some of its crossover brethren.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t connect you with the experience of driving in the slightest. The driving position is commanding rather than involving, the steering is ultra-light and devoid of feel and, with the DSG (dual-clutch) automatic gearbox specced on the Velo concept car, you kind of need to let the car do its own thing.
You can force the box to shift using the paddles tucked behind the steering wheel, but the computers will take over again in short order, they’re not there for your gratification.
The Karoq does have a ‘Sport’ mode, but in normal driving the only detectable difference this makes is to add artificial weight to the steering, it doesn’t make the thing any more exciting.
Verdict: I applaud the effort, but does the Karoq Velo lead anywhere?
The reality is that only the very wealthy get to buy a vehicle for one single activity. The Skoda Karoq is a family car and the people who choose to buy one likely have things other than cycling going on in their lives, things that require three rear seats and a boot that isn’t full of bike accessories.
The Karoq Velo in its current form only makes sense for a very specific idea of how people use their cars to go cycling. If you were doing an event (say, a sportive) that you needed to drive to and which for some reason necessitated laundering your riding kit before you got home, then it’s bang on.
Plus, you could wash your bike, film yourself a bit — although it’s not like the drone would be able to follow you for a whole ride — and finish off your day with an espresso.
Of course, the Karoq Velo is a one-off concept and as such, we perhaps shouldn’t take its sillier features too seriously. It’s pretty clear that no car manufacturer is going to include on-board camera drones and built-in coffee makers in a production car solely for the gratification of cyclists.
That doesn’t mean they couldn’t pay more attention to the needs of riders, and well-thought-out bike racks and easy-to-use storage can’t be a bad thing, as long as they don’t completely compromise the car’s usefulness in day-to-day life.
My biggest concerns when I’m carrying bikes are:
- Protecting the bikes themselves from damage
- Ease of loading and unloading, whether that’s from external bike racks or inside the vehicle
- Protecting the interior and exterior of the car from damage, and soiling from mud, chain oil etc.
Those are the features I’d like to see car makers focus on but, ultimately, cyclists who transport their bikes by car are already reasonably well-served by standard vehicles and aftermarket accessories such as roof racks, boot liners and portable pressure washers.
If the Karoq Velo were a preview of more modular, real-world cycling-specific car accessories then that would be great, but Skoda isn’t committing to expanding its range at the moment — the car is very much a one-off.
Skoda isn’t the only manufacturer to have created a concept like the Karoq Velo, incidentally. Honda teased a cycling-specific version of its Civic Tourer back in 2015, featuring an intriguing set of integrated bike racks, while Jaguar created an amusing one-off F-Type for its partner Team Sky. To my knowledge, neither has influenced any actual production cars.
I appreciate Skoda thinking about cyclists’ needs and I’ll be delighted if the Karoq Velo does stimulate discussion around the subject.
For car makers’ efforts to be useful to actual riders, however, they need to focus more on real-world concerns and less on headline-grabbing gadgetry.
Would you like a car that offers features tailored to cyclists? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.