When auto manufacturers do bikes

Russell Eich on why a fancy name doesn't mean a thing

I've often found it odd when car manufacturers offer a bicycle. Along with their other logo-branded doodads and trinkets, more often than not, the bikes are off the mark with garish colors, outdated geometry or less than desirable components. Why is that?

What's wrong

Minus the occasional exception, when automobile brands offer a bike, they do it all wrong. This could come down to arrogance, but it's more likely to be sheer ignorance. 

Car companies probably assume that bikes don't use technology or are all the same, so any relatively eye-catching design will do. Or, worse yet, they might think that by simply adding their logo they will magically transform a bike into something special. 

But we know that it doesn't.

Alfa Romeo's two-wheel spin on their 4C automobile
Alfa Romeo's two-wheel spin on their 4C automobile

A lot of the bikes, as seen in our gallery above, show little understanding of current biking genres, with many not quite knowing what they're supposed to be, straddling a boggy middleground somewhere between hybrid, road and mountain. 

The wheels might be 29 inches, but the tires are skinny, low-tread affairs. One has a rigid, carbon fork while another has a low-end, short-travel suspension fork on the front.

Some say Porsche's focus has become a bit blurred with loads of SUVs. The same can said for this urban, 29er, flat-bar road, hybrid bike
Some say Porsche's focus has become a bit blurred with loads of SUVs. The same can said for this urban, 29er, flat-bar road, hybrid bike

Sometimes it's obvious that a bike has been brought to life (i.e had a badge slapped on it) by someone who hasn't pedalled much.

Here's how to fix it

But let's look at what we can do about it. There are two relatively simple ways to makes amends — first, partner with a reputable bike brand.

This is the route McLaren has taken with its partnership with Specialized. I'm guessing the majority of bike brands would be thrilled to be associated with any car nameplate — boutique or not.

What happens when you stick a Ferrari badge on a run-of-the-mill carbon hardtail?
What happens when you stick a Ferrari badge on a run-of-the-mill carbon hardtail?

The other option is to bring on a bike-industry consultant. The bike industry is filled with extremely intelligent and passionate people with the knowledge of how to incorporate the message wanted (while not crafting a product serious enthusiasts will shake their heads at). 

Is it what their consumers want?

Perhaps I'm way off the mark. Maybe the auto companies are laughing all the way to the bank with their bicycle add-on sales, just like they are with their logo-branded keychains and baseball hats.

(Don't) make mine a Mercedes
(Don't) make mine a Mercedes

Or maybe there's a chance I'm giving way too much credit to the core demographic these bikes are aimed towards. Maybe someone who owns a luxury automobile will be content with a bike that simply has the same branding (and therefore will assume it is very very good). How often will they ride it anyway? 

Whatever the case, my only wish is for the automobile companies to use some of their capital and capabilities to offer bikes that are amazing or at the very least collaborate with the bike-industry experts who really know what they're talking about.

  • What do you think? Have the automobile brands got it right or wrong? Leave your comments down below.
Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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