When car brands do bikes

When automotive manufacturers do bikes

With a shared historical past and a mutual love of wheels, it’s no shock that automotive makers maintain flinging themselves into the world of bicycles. And when nice minds are let loose from inventing methods to cheat emissions assessments, or making you purchase vehicles with extra cupholders than steering wheels, wonderful issues can occur. Issues like these – a number of the greatest collaborations between petrol and pedal energy ever.

However first, a fast word on that very important shared historical past. Be part of me, if you’ll, in Coventry circa 1870, as a stitching machine manufacturing facility known as Coventry Machinists’ Firm decides to diversify into velocipedes. These had been principally bikes with no cranks, like children’ steadiness bikes in the present day, and doomed to failure as even transient arguments over gear ratios had been unattainable.

CMC foreman James Starley made some enhancements of his personal to the brand new velocipede, earlier than turning traitor and becoming a member of William Hillman – sure, that Hillman – at what would grow to be the Hillman Motor Automobile Firm. It was all go in 1870.

With Starley gone, CMC wanted a brand new… nicely, Starley, in order that they took on John Kemp Starley, James’ nephew. John then created the Starley Security Bicycle, the primary bike ever to have a chain-driven rear wheel and equal-sized hoops. Riders immediately began arguing over what measurement wheel was greatest, and the remainder, as they are saying, is historical past.

Starley named his creation the Rover, and known as the corporate after it. Rover would go on to knock out a automotive or three itself, together with the Land Rover, the Vary Rover and the Rover Metro. Two out of three ain’t unhealthy.

It wasn’t simply Rover that dabbled. Humber, Triumph, Riley and Singer all noticed the alternatives too, and that is simply this one, Coventry-centric nook of the Midlands. Past the UK, everybody from Czech model Skoda to South Korea’s Kia started with the common-or-garden bike.

As I stated, it was all return in 1870. However what about in the present day? Let’s have a look.

Now, there is a slew of automotive makers which have created outlandish idea bikes simply to point out off at exhibits. That’s good an’ all, however pointless, so I am simply going to disregard them till they go away. For probably the most half, I’ve included manufacturers who’ve made trustworthy, concerted makes an attempt to place manufacturing bikes on basic sale.


I’m placing this one first for private causes. As a toddler of the 80s, no model brings higher recollections of motorcycle racing than the French lion. For Anglophones, the Peugeot professional squads had been uncommon sources of understandable heroism – Anderson, Roche, Millar, Yates and Peiper all wore the checkerboard or funky Z-Peugeot livery in some unspecified time in the future. 

With Peugeot at first a automotive producer in 2020s Britain, that each one appears a very long time in the past. A short effort to revive its cycle choices in 2010, by way of Bianchi distributor Cycleurope, ran out of steam after a mannequin yr or two. 

Again in Peugeot’s French homeland, although, it’s a unique kettle of poisson. Peugeot Cycles supply an attention-grabbing vary of city, mountain, highway, basic and electrical bikes, and its eF01 folding e-bike is even designed particularly to suit the boot of a Peugeot 5008 SUV. If you do not know what a kind of appears to be like like, you could personal one.


Motorsport followers know John Cooper for his engineering of grand prix-winning vehicles, however that is not why he is a family identify – that is for the enduring sporting success of the Mini Cooper. A mannequin that, to at the present time, nonetheless bears his moniker. 

In 2009, John’s son Mike and grandson Charlie revived the Cooper identify with a pair of fairly charming, retro-inspired bikes. Within the 11 years since – a few of which Charlie spent at Rapha – they’ve pivoted closely in the direction of e-bikes, though non-assisted customized builds are additionally accessible.


Whereas we’re in a motor racing way of thinking, let’s not overlook the affect legendary F1 marque McLaren had on Specialized’s breakthrough Venge again in 2011. 

OK, so McLaren doesn’t really make the bike, however the Venge was way over a advertising and marketing tie-in. McLaren Utilized Expertise’s composite development experience led to a motorcycle that was 20% lighter and 11% stiffer on the backside bracket than Specialised had been in a position to obtain by itself. McLaren even managed to do it with out getting Lewis Hamilton penalised for something, which simply goes to point out what you are able to do whenever you put your thoughts to it.

McLaren has since paired with Specialised on the S-Works McLaren TT helmet and the Tarmac S-Works.


I’ve already defined why idea bikes are banned from this listing, and now’s time to elucidate about badge engineering. There isn’t any place right here for rebadged bikes from established manufacturers, else this web page can be plagued by Ferrari bikes made by Bianchi, Lamborghinis made by BMC, Maseratis by Cipollini or Montante, and Mercedes-Benz bikes made by Focus or Rotwild.

The Pashley-Morgan vary, nonetheless, is completely different. Though separate firms, they share a really related ethos – not least of their dedication to conventional British engineering and craftsmanship. Pashley has been hand constructing bikes since 1926, and with them in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the 110 year-old Morgan in Malvern, every lies on the fringes of that historic Midlands space.

Consequently, their bikes are the whole lot you’d think about them to be: cool, timelessly stylish and superbly made. The Pashley-Morgan 8 appears to be like significantly quick in its retro-TT racer stance.

Land Rover and Hummer

Can you could have an excessive amount of of factor? Land Rover definitely doesn’t suppose so, as its identify has been used on a minimum of two bike ranges. Probably the most attention-grabbing was the 1995 Pashley-Moulton Land Rover APB (All Goal Bicycle), which is one thing of a collector’s merchandise today.

The APB mixed the engineering genius of Alex Moulton – the person who created, amongst different issues, the rubber cone suspension for the Mini – the craftsmanship of Pashley and the… er, the identify of Land Rover. 

A couple of years later, the Land Rover identify appeared once more, this time on a spread of less-exotic leisure bikes introduced in by distributor 2×2.

Funnily sufficient, 2×2 additionally held the UK distribution rights for Montague folding bikes, which within the mid-2000s teamed up with Common Motors to supply the Hummer Tactical Mountain Bike. Just like the Peugeot ebike, it was particularly designed to slot in the boot of a automotive, on this case the Hummer H2 behemoth.

Then once more, most issues match within the boot of a Hummer H2.


Though probably probably the most well-known automotive/bike collaboration of all time, if historical past had any dignity the Lotus 108 – which took Chris Boardman to 1992 Olympic glory and ushered within the carbon monocoque – would have been the Burrows 108.

Mike Burrows – the closest factor the UK has to real genius – had already performed a lot of the necessary engineering and design, and had been driving very related machines for years.

Nonetheless, numerous stars aligned: Lotus noticed the potential and refined the design, carbon monocoques made it by way of biking’s political course of, and Boardman was close to the height of his powers. Thus the Lotus Sport legend was born. A complete of 15 Lotus 108s had been made, and an additional eight replicas bought, earlier than the manufacturing model – the Lotus 110 – was launched.

In 2019, Lotus teamed up with Hope Technology to re-enter biking with a brand new observe bike which, they consider, will create the identical pleasure and success for Group GB as the unique three a long time in the past.


You may say what you want about BMW drivers (and belief me, I typically do), however there’s no questioning the model’s enthusiasm for 2 wheels. Alongside its bike vary – frequently discovered below peloton digital camera crews – BMW’s UK website lists no fewer than 14 self-propelled choices.

These vary from steadiness bikes and scooters to a £2,795 ebike and a 3T-developed carbon gravel bike. It additionally does branded biking helmets, rucksacks, baskets and mudguards. Good for cyclists who by no means sign and refuse to budge from the skin lane. If solely there have been Porsche bikes you may tailgate to show your superiority, eh?


One other German auto model that is aware of the worth of biking, you most likely received’t be shocked to listen to that Porsche’s three-bike vary shouldn’t be low cost. In truth, I’d go as far as to say it’s overpriced, though the bikes do look pretty superior. 

For £2,500 you may have the ‘entry-level’ alloy Porsche Bike (the cash did not go on naming it) with Magura discs, DT Swiss wheels, Suntour suspension fork and a Shimano Alfine hub. At £4,700 there’s the extra off-road targeted Porsche Bike RX with a carbon body and attractive Crankbrothers 27.5 hoops.

And for a whopping £6,200 you may have the last word commuter machine – the Porsche Bike RS – with “design parts in lava orange, the color of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS.”

Who might say no? A highway consumer maybe? Surprisingly, Porsche Guildford’s web site says: “As a consequence of their design and gear, Porsche Bikes aren’t accepted to be used on public roads.”

We are able to solely presume it’s as a result of they’re too cool to return with a bell and reflectors.

Aston Martin

In 2012, the Aston Martin One-77 bike appeared, that includes ‘motorsport-derived information logging’ and numerous different cutting-edge concepts. Sure, it price £25,000, however because the limited edition car it’s named for price £1,150,000, it is actually a cut price. I might have each however the bike will not go within the boot.

Whereas the Aston Martin identify was largely branding, the expertise was not. The seven-strong group behind the bikes labored at bf1systems, “a market-leading supplier {of electrical}, digital and built-in digital options to shoppers throughout the motorsport and automotive industries.”

What’s extra, they’d beforehand created the BERU Factor 001, which really beat the McLaren Venge to the release-date line as a specialist, hi-tech carbon velocity machine impressed by motor racing expertise. It was constructed by engineers from World Rally and F1, and it confirmed: the factor was festooned in sensors and got here with a suitably elaborate pricetag of £20,000.

Additionally, Factor Bikes – the corporate that grew from all this – has gone from energy to energy, and now produces a spread of superior highway machines.


Czech model Skoda may now be a part of the almighty Volkswagen Audi Group, however it began in much more humble circumstances. Particularly with Vaclav Laurin and Vaclav Klement, makers of bicycles. 

The story behind the corporate’s formation is sort of enjoyable. In 1894, 26-year-old bookseller Vaclav Klement couldn’t get elements for his German-made bike, so he despatched it again to its producer, Seidel and Naumann, with a letter (in Czech) asking for it to be fastened.

The reply, in German, stated: “If you’d like us to reply you, we insist that you simply convey your message in a language we perceive.” Klement wasn’t very impressed, so in 1896 he teamed up with native bike maker Vaclav Laurin to create a bicycle restore store.

Germany subsequently invaded the Czech Republic and occupied it for years, although some say this was nothing to do with bicycle repairs in any respect.

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Skoda went on to make bicycles, bikes and vehicles (in the event you’re questioning why Skoda’s not known as Vaclav, the corporate was aquired by arms-maker Skoda Works in 1925). It hasn’t forgotten its roots, both, and Skoda intermittently releases bicycle ranges, most lately in 2019.

This included youngsters’s bikes, basic city bikes, mountain bikes, ebikes and a few fairly tasty-looking highway bikes.

Skoda’s hyperlink with highway biking stays particularly robust, as it has been the official Tour de France automobile provider since 2004, and the inexperienced jersey sponsor since 2015.


Lastly, quite than a automotive firm that makes bikes, how a few bike firm that makes vehicles? KTM manufactures ace pushbikes, awesome motorcycles and the road-legal but frankly ridiculous X-Bow trackday sportscar.

KTM has been making bikes because the Fifties and bicycles because the Sixties, however solely launched a manufacturing automotive in 2008.

And that, we like suppose, solely goes to point out that KTM – greater than some other 2020 firm on this listing – has acquired its priorities a minimum of considerably straight.

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