Cars don’t usually get a good ride any better. At best, they are a distraction; At worst, a threat to your life. But some cars certainly have their charms. Some of the most talented engineers in the world work to make four-wheeled machines lighter, faster and more powerful. From time to time, these boffins turn to two-wheeled machines.
When these minds align with the brightest engineers on the cycling side, the results can be wonderful. Or, they can be lightly plated marketing mashups – like a new shade of paint and an additional logo emblazoned on the top tube.
Whether it’s a true meeting of engineers or little more than a brand collaboration, the result can elevate the performance – or at least the appeal – of cycling to new heights. Here are some of our favorites from the past decade and change.
McLaren and Specialized
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When it comes to racing success, one automotive and cycling mashup has been particularly successful: Specialized and McLaren. In 2011, the McLaren Venge was the first sweet offspring from the gurus at California-based Specialized and McLaren in Woking.
The initial idea was to harness the advanced aerodynamics and composites work carried out by McLaren’s historic Formula 1 experience to create a lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamic frame. The resulting carbon fiber structure weighed 950 grams (2.1 lb) or 2.07 kg (4.5 lb), including the fork, seatpost and cranks. This is despite a claimed aerodynamic saving of 23 watts at 28 mph (45 km/h) over the then current Tarmac SL3.
It’s always difficult to trace these savings in real life, but you need look no further than its first run. On his debut at Milano-San Remo 2011 (opens in a new tab), Matt Goss of HTC-Highroad brought the new McLaren Venge its first victory. Three weeks later HTC’s Mark Cavendish took his first victory on the bike at the 2011 Scheldeprijs (opens in a new tab) and would later ride Venge on his own to become the UCI World Champion. (opens in a new tab)
Specialized and McLaren have teamed up on several products over the years, including several aero helmets and later bikes like the S-Works McLaren Tarmac, but this first Venge still holds the high water mark for those kinds of collaborations.
Aston Martin One-77
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In 2009, Aston Martin unveiled a very special car: the One-77. Although its overall shape and layout bore a passing resemblance to the then current DB9, the car James Bond drove in Spectre, the One-77 was completely different. A long, beautiful carbon fiber supercar with 750 horsepower from a V-12 engine, Aston has only officially built 77 of the things. Deliveries began in 2011.
Seemingly feeling flush with rarity, Aston Martin decided to follow that up with the launch of another bespoke, ultra-rare vehicle in 2012: the One-77 Cycle.
Although Aston claims the bike has a “clean sheet design”, it actually borrows almost everything from Factor Bicycles’ Factor001 bike, but we’ll forgive that when the result is this lovely, including a delightfully sculpted front fork, a integrated lighting on the tube seat, and a “motorsport-derived data recording system” integrated directly into the bars.
No bonus points for guessing that Aston Martin built 77 of these things, priced at £25,000 ($31,225) per bike. It is, at least, much better than the roughly £1.2 million ($1.5 million) the one with the V12 cost at the time.
Audi Sport racing bike
Audi has long been known for its motorsport exploits. From Grand Prix racing in the days of Auto Union to groundbreaking rallies with its Quattro all-wheel-drive system in the ’80s, Audi has certainly made waves.
However, its most racy two-wheeled effort was intended to be more of a collector’s item and curiosity than a proper weapon: the succinctly titled 2015 Audi Sport racing bike.
Audi Sport is the company’s house brand for high-performance cars, like the RS6 Avant and two-seater R8. The race bike was said to share the same Nappa leather on its saddle as the R8’s interior. Likewise, the carbon frame and wheels were made from the same Toray T1000 carbon fiber used in the cockpit of the Le Mans-winning R18 E-Tron Quattro.
This carbon was massaged by CarbonSports Lightweight to create the frame and wheels, then painted in Audi’s simple yet charming red and black house scheme. It’s a beautiful bike and the claimed weight on the frame is only 790 grams (1.7 lbs), with a weight of 5.8 kg (12.7 lbs) for the complete bike. Yes, that’s a full kilo under UCI racing rules but, given that Audi Sport has only ever made 50 of these things, priced at €17,500 ($19,242), you’ll never get to worry about one of them rolling next to you at a local reviewer anyway.
Porsche VAE Sport
Porsche is another brand with an enviable heritage of high-performance racing machines. However, when it comes to two-wheeled action, the company’s efforts have been a bit more modest.
Its first modern bike, the Porsche Bike RS, was launched in 2012, but with a hybrid look and commuter-friendly geometry, it hardly raised anyone’s pulse.
These days, Porsche has teamed up with Rotwild to produce special editions of the company’s high-performance off-road e-bikes. Porsche says its electric sports sedan, the Taycan, inspired the design, which uses a custom carbon frame crafted at Studio FA Porsche.
Porsche also offers an all-terrain eBike Cross, but the £11,000 ($13,600) eBike Sport is the more racy of the two models available, with a Shimano EP-8 motor capable of driving the thing up to 25km/ h (15 mph) thanks to 85Nm of torque. That’s only around 965Nm less than a Taycan Turbo S, but as the eBike Sport weighs around 2,250kg (nearly 5,000lb) less than the big EV, that should be a fair match.
Hummer electric bike
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Last but not least is a bike-to-car mashup inspired for once not by a sports car but rather by something quite more meaningful. That is to say: something much bigger. General Motors’ Hummer EV provides the DNA for this offspring produced in partnership with Recon Power Bikes. Recon supplies bikes to the U.S. Army, Air Force, and even the Space Force, making the company a natural fit for the Hummer’s own militaristic provenance.
The Hummer EV AWD’s most distinctive feature on this list is right there in its name: all-wheel drive. This bike has two-wheel drive, powered by a pair of motors delivering a total torque of 160Nm. You’ll need that amount of twist to keep those four-inch tires moving through sand and mud and everything. what bothers you.
It will not be crab market like the real Hummer EV, but the Hummer EV Bike offers three different riding modes, allowing you to choose between front, rear or all-wheel drive. It’s $3,999 (£3,200) to start, much more accessible than the $85,000 (£68,000) and up for the larger of the two Hummer EVs.
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