When Carmakers Make Bicycles ...

Bicycles can cost $4,000. Some are branding exercises. But when BMW designs a 2-wheeler, expect some serious engineering.

by Courtesy BMW; courtesy Jeep; courtesy Montague; courtesy Honda Japan

Courtesy BMW; courtesy Jeep; courtesy Montague; courtesy Honda Japan

Something about bicycles gets auto manufacturers excited. Maybe it's because they get to show off their engineering chops in a purer medium than the computer-assisted realm of cars. Maybe the marketing department likes a high-ticket accessory it can hawk at dealerships. In any case, bikes from the auto industry tend to fall into one of two categories: those engineered by the car manufacturers themselves and those engineered by bike manufacturers (with the carmaker label slapped on). Bikes from Jeep and Hummer adopt brand-appropriate technology from esteemed bike manufacturers like Christini and Montague, but engineering-driven companies like BMW and Honda (who both also happen to have pretty amazing motorcycle divisions) go farther to bring auto- and motorcycle-inspired ideas to two-wheeled machines.

BMW Q6.S: We can't imagine a BMW two-wheeler without their trademark suspension system. Apparently, neither can BMW; their 27-speed Q6.S dons their motorcycle-derived Telelever body geometry. Traditional bikes--both motorcycle and mountain--use a telescopic fork system that tends to nosedive during abrupt braking. In the Telelever design, however, suspension and braking forces are separated, allowing you to brake hard without losing use of the front suspension. Liberally garnished with Shimano components, it's rugged enough for the mountain or a pot-holed commute. And as an added bonus, the 29-pound looker folds for easy storage. Price: $3,995.

Jeep Rubicon: Traction control on the Rubicon is similar to their cars: Push a button, and on-the-fly all-wheel drive sends power to the front wheel via an in-frame transfer mechanism. Price: $2,999.

Hummer Tactical Mountain Bike: Featuring a tool-less
folding system designed for military cycles, Hummer's TMB also features 36 stainless steel spokes and double-wall rims. Price: $795.

Honda RN01: Honda's going downhill. The latest addition to their mechanical fleet, the internally geared RN01 mountain bike, is the brainchild of Honda Japan's motorcycle and research development division. Charged with creating a machine that would rule the 2003 Japan Series and World Cup competitions, Honda engineers worked with Kayaba Industry Co. Ltd. (which has created dampening systems for skyscrapers, F1 powerboats and snowmobiles) to design an in-frame suspension system that translates unsprung weight into power. (Hence the name, which stands for Racing and Natural force). No word on when or if it'll be available to consumers. Price: Unknown.