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54-mile ride: world record on a Porsche bicycle?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Article by Jim Hemig
Lead image by Laura Mahaffy
Click the lead image to initiate photo gallery

“Is that really a Porsche bike?” asked a young, spandex-wearing cyclist.

“Why, yes it is,” I replied.

Yes, Porsche has a bicycle. In fact, it has an entire history of bicycles, of which we’ve begun to scratch the surface on (At the end of the story, you'll find a complete list of Porsche bikes since the first prototype in 1990.) They’re not mere toys, but serious efforts constructed of lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber. I wanted to complete a 54-mile bike ride, and I wanted to be the first person to do it on a Porsche. Of course, I don't have much of a way to confirm my "record," but I'm hopeful.

As we gathered at the starting line for the Gold Country Challenge bike ride, I noticed my 1998 Guards Red Porsche Bike S was older than some of the younger riders — and also that it stood out among the more modern and high-tech bikes of today.

I wasn't here to race younger competitors on newer bikes. I was here to prove a point: Porsche bikes, no matter what the age, have a real and special place in Porsche history.

That's where the demanding 54-mile Gold Country Challenge course through the foothills of western Nevada County comes in. Yet this ride was just the beginning, as I intend to wrap up the riding season in October by covering 100 miles, or a “century ride,” in Sacramento, California. To my knowledge, nobody has ever ridden a Porsche bike 100 miles, either.

I practiced for this event by riding further and longer through the Sierra Nevada foothills. The 54-mile distance could take me over four hours to complete. That's a lot of time on a bike seat, if you know what I mean. Going into the ride, however, I felt ready to tackle the challenge.

As well, my spirits were raised by a group of PCA members from the Sacramento Valley Region who came out to support me — having a Porsche automobile escort was quite a sight. 

From the starting line it was obvious that this was going to be a long ride. On the first downhill stretch, I passed many of my fellow riders, though most of them caught up and passed me on the next uphill portion — clearly illustrating why mountain bikes do not make the best road bikes. The 18-year-old bike and my 49-year-old body simply weighed more, and I could not keep up with the more serious competition.

This got me thinking. Porsche did produce a true high-speed road bike in the ’90s, the Bike R. It would've suited this particular course better and made it easier for me to give the other riders a run for their money. But the Bike R is rarer than my Bike S, and I've only seen a few advertised on the German eBay…

The course was hilly and curvy with about 4,500 feet of climbing. As my legs and lungs burned up one of the many hills, a woman caught up with me and must have spied my Porsche bike and Porsche bike jersey. She asked: "Do you know a way to put a bike rack on a 986?"

A 986? This woman knows her Porsches. And she was just one of several who asked about the bike during and after the ride event. 

It took me 4 hours and 41 minutes to complete the course. That’s an 11.5 miles-per-hour average. Not bad!

At the finish line, the event after-party was in high gear and my two-wheeled Porsche continued to garner attention. 

Setting what I hope and think could be a distance record on a vintage Porsche bicycle provided a unique satisfaction. As I look forward to the rest of the summer riding season and attempting the 100-mile ride in October, my mind is already shifting to try out some of Porsche’s other bike models, new and old. Who knows, maybe next year I'll ride even further on an even more obscure Porsche bike.

This ride has provided more than just exercise. It has been an adventure that has given me an understanding of why Porsche has produced 10 different bikes in the last 26 years. Yes, 10 bikes, ranging from the earliest prototype in 1990 to full suspension mountain bikes and colorful road bikes in the late ’90s to the current range of ultra high-tech offerings for sale at dealerships today. 

So let’s use my yearnings for yet another two-wheeled Porsche to explore the other models from over the years.

The 1991 Christophorus article mentioned a two-wheel lobby within the Porsche engineering ranks. I wonder if some of these same interested technicians are continuing to push for future bicycles from Porsche?...

The History of Porsche bicycles

The first Porsche bicycle: 1990 Prototype

Porsche Bike Spyder 9.85
One-of-a-kind prototype mountain bike built by Weissach engineers and technicians. This bike was featured in the May 1991 edition of Christophorus magazine and weighed less than 22 pounds (9.85 kilograms). Parts came from France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Japan, and the United States. The effort was said to be led by Dr. Ulrich Bez, who at the time managed Porsche’s Vehicle Research and Development.

The early bike years — 1996 – 2002:

Porsche Bike S - $2,250.00 (MSRP)
This mountain bike with an aluminum frame and front suspension was commissioned by Porsche and produced by Votec in Germany from 1996-1998. The bikes sold in the United States were painted Guards Red. In Germany and the rest of Europe, white, gray, and black models were also sold. The 26-pound bike with 26-inch wheels bike featured Votec GSIII front shocks, hydraulic brakes, grip shifters, 3x8 Sachs Neos gearing, and a leather Selle Italia Expedia seat. Came in 17-inch and 20-inch sizes.

Porsche Bike ST - $2,500.00 (MSRP)
The Bike ST is a “touring” version of the Bike S. This bike is basically the same as the Bike S but was configured for a more comfortable ride, including a larger and more adjustable seat, mud guards on the front and rear wheels, a rack above the rear wheel, better braking in wet conditions, and front lighting. This bike is extremely rare in the US.

Porsche Bike FS - $4,500.00 (MSRP)
This rugged mountain bike was the upgrade to the Bike S. The Bike FS also featured an aluminum frame but included both front and rear shocks. This raised its weight to 29 pounds. The Bike FS was shipped in blue. The Bike FS’s Sachs Plasma gearing became an upgrade to the Bike S in 1998. Leather Selle Italia Flite Transalp seat included. Came in 17-inch and 20-inch sizes.

Porsche Bike FS Evolution - $10,612 (MSRP)
The Bike FS Evolution was a limited-run upgrade to the Bike FS from 2001-2002. It was painted either bright yellow or gray and featured a carbon-fiber frame, full suspension, bright yellow composite three-spoke rims, and hydraulic disc brakes (a first for a Porsche bike). This bike was Porsche’s best effort at the time and still holds up well to the most technically advanced bikes of today.

Porsche Bike R - (MSRP $10,000)
The Bike R was an out-and-out racing road bike offering outstanding cornering and straight-line stability. Another lightweight aluminum-frame bike from the late ’90s, the Bike R also included the ultra-light Shimano Dura Ace gearing. The tires were special Porsche edition Continental Grand Prix 3000 tires with yellow tread to match the bike’s accent colors.

Porsche Carrera GT Carbon Edition - No price listed
Only 11 of these special edition mountain bikes were produced. Ultra rare and only top of the line components were used, including a carbon-fiber frame and Votec GS4 full suspension. If you are a collector of rare Porsche memorabilia, this is the bike to own.

Modern bikes - 2010 to present:

Today at the dealership you can test ride the new Porsche Bike S, Bike RX, and Bike RS models. All three are ultra lightweight with the most modern components on any bike sold today.

Porsche Bike S - $3,699.87 (MSRP)
The new Bike S is a general-use bike with a high-performance frame made of hydroformed aluminum. Great for roads and gentle trails. Front suspension fork, 8-speed hub gear system, low-wear geared belt drive, and hydraulic disc brakes. Very quiet ride and superior acceleration thanks to high-quality wheels and smooth rolling tires. With theft protection from Currently sold at Porsche dealerships. Comes in sizes: S, M, L.

Porsche Bike RS - $7,999.99 (MSRP)
The Bike RS is a lightweight, high-end carbon-fiber-frame mixed-use bike. Another great option for riding in all-around conditions. Ergonomic components made of carbon, including handlebars, stem, and seat post. Shimano XTR 20-gear drive and hydraulic disc brakes. Exceptionally smooth running and superlative acceleration thanks to the 29-inch wheels and lightly rolling tires. 19.8 pounds. Currently sold at Porsche dealerships. Available in S, M, L.

Porsche Bike RX - $6,699.00 (MSRP)
The Bike RX is a lightweight, high-end carbon-fiber-frame mountain bike for serious off-road riding. Air suspension fork, 20-speed gearshift, hydraulic disc brakes, and 27.5-inch wheels with smooth-rolling tires. Theft protection from Currently sold at Porsche dealerships. Comes in sizes: S, M, L .

Porsche Hybrid RS - (MSRP unknown)
While Porsche was developing a hybrid supercar, engineers were also hard at work on a hybrid bicycle - the Hybrid RS. The frame is carbon fiber and the electric motor weighs in at about nine pounds. Subtract the weight of the motor from the 33-pound bike and you’ve got a relatively light, full suspension bike with disc brakes. The bike has a range of about 31 miles, and the rear hub-housed motor puts out 450 watts, but only when you pedal — it merely assists you. No getting lazy with this bike.

Click here to read more about Jim Hemig's Porsche Bike S adventures at his website.

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