Boosting Bike Trade at the Auto Show

DETROIT—Amid the hundreds of automobiles on display at the North American International Auto Show and the thousands of journalists scribbling frantically about them this week were numerous icons of idolatry: bicycles perched atop cars, set in motion with a video game and displayed in a private room with a high-priced Lincoln.

Cliff Teppke, a journalist for WITI TV6 in Milwaukee and an avid cyclist with 10 bikes in his collection, likened the display bikes to his favorite book, “Machine in the Garden,” by Leo Marx.

“What you see is the dialectical tension between the pastoral ideal of cycling the countryside and the rapid and sweeping transformations brought on by the automobile,” Teppke said, quoting his favorite book. “The car can get you to the national parks to hike and bike, but the roads are clogged because of the cars.”

He celebrates the idea of sharing the road, especially with the new crop of bikes on display. Smart cars, built by Mercedes Benz, displayed three versions of its ebike, around since mid-2012 and carrying a whopping $2,940 price tag. Then again, a Smart for two electric drive vehicle runs $25,000.

Unfortunately, the ebike attached to a virtual reality game with plenty of hills to test the optional electric power and your pedaling ability was suited for a 6-foot man with long arms and legs. No adjustments for a petite female.

On the road, various auto writers say the bike has a lithium ion battery capable of traveling 62 miles and a four-way adjustment switch for powering up.

Around the corner Lexus displayed a white F Sport Road Bike on a Yakima rack high above a GX460 SUV for viewing half way around the display floor.

The 22-speed bike made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic with an electronic shifting system sells for $11,000 if you can find one of the 100 made by the same engineers as a limited edition sports car. The SUV will set you back at least $54,000.

A pair of retro looking models in the Lincoln display area guarded a room full of Shinola products, including the Runwell in its own display case for $2,950 and a pair of Bixby bikes for $1,950 each.

The Lincoln MKC, a compact crossover vehicle sharing space in this private room off the main display area will be released next summer. A Lincoln MKX crossover bears a $39,000 price tag.

“I just love the bamboo fenders on the Shinola,” said Teppke, almost salivating for the retro looking bikes with leather seats and leather handle-bars.

The Mazda 5, a combination SUV sports wagon with fold down seats and back hatch for bicycling adventures featured a white Trek and the 2015 Chevy Colorado pickup had a mountain bike and climbing gear in its truck bed.

Bicycles displays harken back to the early 1900s when auto shows in New York, Detroit and Chicago were put on by bicycle promoters. At least half the room, according to “The First Century of the Detroit Auto Show,” was devoted to bikes and the other half to the wheezing, belching machines with electric, steam or gas motors.

Teppke figures the bikes will command more attention in coming years because bicyclists can breathe better. All the clean technology announced for automobiles during the auto show, clean diesel, hybrid electric and pure electric power means less off-gassing for the two-wheel riders sucking up the exhaust fumes.

“There’s space for both human powered and machine powered in our world today,” he said.

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