Like most adults who ride bikes, I also own and drive a car.
Cars are useful. They’re good for getting to places that are too far away to ride to. They’re good for carrying things.
Sadly, this week my beloved 1997 Subaru reached that point where the repairs required to keep it on the road will cost more than the value of the car. Now that the sobbing fits have passed (we had some great times, me and the Suby) I’m shopping for a new motor.
Now, apart from all of the usual factors that go into choosing a car (small matters of aesthetics, driveability, fuel economy, value, safety, practicality, space for a bike in the back), it’s worth noting that many car companies also sponsor cycling in various forms.
Lots of car manufacturers are actively marketing to cyclists through sponsorship of teams, races, TV programmes or by producing bikes themselves.
Let’s have a look. Maybe being a cyclist-friendly brand could be the edge that tips me into choosing one make over another.
Manufacturers that currently sponsor teams or races
Subaru is one brand that has cultivated an outdoorsy image, particularly with its off-road vehicles like the Forester and Outback. The company clearly sees a lot of overlap between its customers and people who ride bikes, and it spends a lot of money sponsoring Australian cycling.
Apart from being the naming-rights sponsor for Australia’s top domestic road race series, the Subaru National Road Series (NRS), Subaru also sponsors the SBS TV show ‘Subaru World of Cycling’ and hosts a web page featuring race reports and videos featuring the likes of BMX champion Caroline Buchanan.
Subaru was the vehicle sponsor for Orica-GreenEdge for the first two years of the team’s life (but not for this year).
UPDATE 24/6/2014: Subaru is now a major sponsor of the Tour Down Under, in a deal that will run from 2015-2017. According to the press release:
“Subaru Australia has entered into a three-year agreement commencing , and will supply vehicles for use during the event. It will also become naming rights sponsor of the Subaru King of the Mountain.”
The press release also reveals that Subaru also sponsors the Australian Mountain Bike Season, so add that to the list.
The Czech brand is owned by VW, and has been a hugely visible cycling sponsor over the last few years. Skoda is a major sponsor of the Tour De France, including naming rights for the white jersey for best young rider.
Jaguar is famously a major sponsor of Team Sky, providing vehicles to the team and top riders.
The local Australian arm of the company is also keen to promote itself to cyclists, by engaging in events with local partners like Soigneur.cc. I was lucky enough to be invited on a Soigneur ride paid for by Jaguar last year, with Richie Porte in attendance (read about it here).
Jaguar Australia’s local management counts a few cyclists amongst their ranks, not least Brand Manager Mark Eedle, who certainly convinced me that the company is serious about attracting the kind of energetic people who cycle to their brand.
Volvo, through Melbourne dealer Altitude Volvo, is the 2014 vehicle sponsor for Orica-GreenEdge in general, and Simon Gerrans in particular.
Perhaps surprising given Holden’s V8-powered macho image and the frequency with which I seem to get buzzed or abused by some dickhead driving one of their cars, Holden sponsors a women’s NRS team.
Maybe they’re trying to make it up to us.
Suzuki is a sponsor of the Suzuki-Brumby’s women’s NRS team, and has been since the team began in 2010. It’s one of the top women’s NRS teams, and counts the likes of Rebecca Wiasak and Emily Roper among its riders.
Sadly, these brands seem to have drifted away from cycling, but they have a storied history with bikes that deserves a mention.
Renault was a team sponsor of one of cycling’s greatest teams in the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s, winning multiple Tours de France, world championships and classics with three greats, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond.
Their jersey is still a classic.
Few car makers have such a long history with cycling as Peugeot, which of course also makes bikes (although these no longer seem to be sold in Australia).
In fact, the first proper road bike I ever owned was a Peugeot Tourmalet steel-framed 12-speed, which my dad bought second-hand for $180 and is still sitting in the garage at home.
The company sponsored one of cycling’s all-time great teams, right from its inception in 1892. The first official Peugeot team started in 1901, and continued until 1986 (picking up ten Tour de France wins, and numerous classics, world championships and others along the way).
After 1986, DS Roger Legeay took over, leading it through various incarnations but probably best remembered by younger fans as Gan and Credit-Agricole.
Man, it was perfect. A cyclist’s natural enemies brought together in time and space in one crystalline fragment.
A cock in a suit driving a BMW convertible.
A tradie in a 4×4 ute behind him.
Fucking Camberwell. Serial bugbear of my commute, a deadening beige epicentre of white middle class entitlement and fucking clueless drivers.
I once knew a girl from Camberwell who told me, without a trace of irony, that her parents bought a Porsche Cayenne because it was the only car that could fit their golf clubs in.
Under a brilliant moon and clear skies, the stage was set.
The silver-haired salesman in the BMW was pulling out of a T-junction into the paused traffic. I saw him from 100m away, his black surrogate penis flopped arrogantly across two lanes as he tried to squish it in.
I watched him closely, hoping to catch his eye. Twenty seconds?
He stared resolutely left, refusing to acknowledge the oncoming traffic. The traffic refused to budge.
One of the perks of riding a bike is that when the cars are all stopped, often you are not.
Not all drivers have noticed.
He was stopped, blocking my lane entirely.
I rolled slowly and deliberately into the right lane, towards his right flank, aiming to glide through the small space between his car and the hatchback he was propositioning. Without a glance in my direction, he pushed further out, and the space abruptly vanished.
“Hello?!” – I half enquired as I changed direction, 300 flashing lumens of LED light rolled across his dawning perception as he finally looked in my direction.
Wheeling around behind his car, I rode on, saying not a word more.
“Hello?!” – like a rag to a bull.
He drove past, swearing and gesticulating.
I’ve found drivers hate it when you point out they drive like gormless shits, no matter how gently.
I responded with the universal symbol for “Look where you’re bloody going!” and that was that.
As the traffic light turned red, the tradie speeds up to me, window down, to defend BMW-cock’s honour.
“YOU NEED TO PULL YOUR FUCKING HEAD IN MATE, YOU THINK YOU OWN THE ROAD, YOU FUCKING HIT HIS CAR, SLOW DOWN!”
Me (mentally tallying up his Herald-Sun Bingo score): “I didn’t hit him, I just told him to look where he was going!”
Him: “YOU FUCKING HIT HIS CAR!”
Me: “I didn’t touch his bloody car, I was watching him for 20 seconds, he pulled out without looking and I told him so!”
Him: “PULL YOUR HEAD IN MATE OR I’LL GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GET THE CROWBAR OUT OF THE BACK!”
Me: “Well, I don’t think that’s necessary… I told you, I didn’t touch his car, I just told him to look where he’s going. I’m not an idiot!”
Him (realising he stepped over the line): “Yeah OK.”
I rode off wondering how many of these the tradesman has read, to keep his anger and resentment simmering and so ready to boil over at such a slight provocation.
How wound up does a man need to be, to threaten to beat me with a crowbar for telling another driver – who he didn’t even know – to pay more attention?
As I rolled on home, collecting my thoughts, the arrogant BMW driver and the angry tradie continued to sit in the motionless traffic.
“THEY were the changes supposed to make our roads safer, but just days after the Newman Government introduced new cycling legislation, bike riders have failed to meet their end of the bargain.”
Oh, shit, no! Those ungrateful bastards.
“In the first police snapshot of the laws in action, Queensland officers have handed out 88 traffic infringement notices to cyclists flouting the state’s road rules.”
That’s 44 per day! In a state with a population of over 4.7 million
(That’s less than 1/100,000 people)
“The number of fines, issued over a two-day period as part of Operation Cycle Safe in Queensland’s north, stand in contrast to the number of motorists caught disobeying the new safe passing laws – zero.”
Well, this sounds terrible. Those naughty rule-breaking cyclists compared to law-abiding motorists.
But hang on a second, that’s a comparison of cyclists breaking ANY road rule, against motorists breaking a single, brand new, road rule.
To be a fair comparison, we have to ask how many motorists in sunny Queensland break ANY road rule, per day.
I’ve just received this press release from the UCI. It’s certainly a major innovation, and I can’t wait to see how it changes the tactics used in races!
The UCI hasn’t said so, but I suspect this is partly a response to bike industry pressure: e-bikes are a fast-growing segment of the market, but they’re definitely not sexy, and manufacturers need professionals adopting them to add some bling and take sales to the next level with the cafe racer segment.
Personally, I can’t wait to hit my favourite Strava segments with a UCI-legal 200 Watt motor on board.
UCI Technical Committee meeting: introduction of electric bicycles in 2015
The UCI Technical Committee (PCC) met in Aigle (Switzerland) on March 31st to confirm the introduction of electric motors to UCI road racing events for the 2015 season. The new regulations require teams to install small electric motors within the frames of racing bicycles, to provide power assistance up to 200 Watts during road races, or 250 Watts in time trials, to be used at the rider’s discretion.The Technical Committee decided that the new regulations, which all UCI World Tour and Pro Continental teams will eventually have to adhere to, shall go through a test phase in 2014 before being adopted permanently. This is an important step in the reform of professional road cycling, and follows the example of Formula 1 motor racing in its commitment to ongoing technical innovation in the sport.
The teams’ terms of reference contain a certain number of rules that aim to change the culture of professional cycling in order to guarantee spectator interest.
The committee indicated that the introduction of electric motors is a response to fan objections that recent racing has “lacked panache” and that the new, cleaner cycling movement has damaged the spectacle of cycling for TV audiences. In particular, it is a question of maintaining the ability of riders to perform at extraordinary levels without pharmacological assistance.
Taking its lead from Formula 1, the new motors will incorporate energy recovery technology (KERS) and riders will be able to deploy a power boost in a short burst or in a sustained release, as required.
During the 2014 season, the teams and manufacturers will be provided with a UCI standardised motor and battery specification to be implemented by the beginning of 2015.
A UCI spokesperson said,
“The UCI views the introduction of electric motors to cycling as the natural evolution of racing, and is excited to bring a new element to the World Tour in 2015. Fans will love seeing riders climbing Hors catégorie mountains at the equivalent of 10W/kg, and can you imagine how good these things will be on the cobbles at Paris-Roubaix?
Everyone loves it when Formula 1 messes around with its engines, and we really love the sound of their new cars, so why not add some of that excitement to bike racing? We’ve been holding back innovation for so long it’s definitely time to do something drastic.”
“Besides, Fabian Cancellara has been using a motor for years, and it’s only made him look like a complete badass.”