They’re mobile, exclusive and serve as rolling platforms for product awareness and brand extension. They’re also widely regarded as promoting healthy living by building cardiovascular fitness.
It’s well known that brand enthusiasts often go out of their way to let the world know of their particular passions, and a bicycle, by its mobile nature, can deliver that message in spades.
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Car-company bicycles range from road and racing designs to off-road mountain bikes and even folding models that take up little space in the trunk or back seat, serving as extended personal mobility devices once a destination has been reached by a vehicle.
At least one company, Mercedes-Benz, will offer through its Smart division a hybrid/electric bicycle with assistance from on-board motors powered by rechargeable batteries.
Mercedes-Benz, in fact, offers a wide range of bikes — “the proverbial something for everyone,” says spokesman Arden Nerling — including kid-size conveyances.
Perhaps most unique is the collapsible model, which at about US$3,000, and without requiring the use of tools, folds in seconds to 79 by 79 by 28 centimetres and fits into its own protective transport bag.
Made of aluminum, it’s lightweight and strong and features a full suspension, frame and four centimetres of front fork travel. Its leather saddle incorporates an innovative design for pressure-free seat comfort.
Mercedes’ Smart division announced at the recent Paris Motor Show a highly sophisticated pedal-powered prototype bicycle with electric assist, named Ebike, that employs regenerative braking technology and smartphone integration.
When the Ebike reaches 25 km/h, the hub motor automatically cuts out and the 22-kilogram bicycle is driven by legwork only.
The 250-watt direct current wheel hub motor activates as soon as the rider begins to pedal and provides four levels of electric support controlled by a button on the handlebar. Depending on the support level chosen, Smart claims an effective range of between 29 and 90 kilometres per charge, depending on the amount of legwork employed by the rider.
There’s even a Global-Satellite Positioning System (GPS) tracking function to help users locate a parked Ebike. As an anti-theft measure, removing the smartphone locks the drive.
Coming soon from Porsche is its recently announced Hybrid RS mountain bike. After the Cayenne S Hybrid sport utility vehicle, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid racing car and the concept 918 Spyder supercar, the Hybrid RS bicycle is the fourth concept from Porsche this year to demonstrate new drive technology.
Weighing about 16 kilograms, it achieves a range of more than 50-plus kilometres per charge. It has a lightweight carbon frame and high-quality components including disc brakes, a leading-edge transmission system and an Apple iPhone offering Web-assisted navigation.
As soon as the rider steps on the pedals, he or she gets additional torque from the drive motor in the rear wheel, energy for which is supplied by a compact pack of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries attached to the main tube of the frame in the design of a drinking bottle.
Porsche plans to make the Hybrid RS commercially available through its automotive dealerships, but has not yet set a date. No price has been announced, but you can bet it won’t be cheap.