Imagine your new Lamborghini racing down the road, the wind tousling your hair, the tires straining through a corner, the adrenaline pumping.
And then it starts to rain. This is a problem: your Lambo is a bicycle.
A $32,000 bicycle, no less. And you hate it when it gets dirty.
Through the decades, automobiles and two-wheel (or one-wheel) conveyances lacking motors have coexisted, usually peacefully. And today's racecars and racing bikes have some technology, engineering and style in common. So it's perhaps not surprising that some of the most advanced premium bicycles are designed by, or sold by, automobile companies.
Ferrari has had a longstanding association with Colnago, a maker of road-racing bikes in Cambiago, Italy. McLaren once had an arrangement with Specialized, an American bike maker, for a limited production run. Volkswagen has sold Trek editions of some cars, with bike included. Porsche's current pair of bicycles come out of a partner's plant in Germany, and at one point Audi sold a limited-edition bike with a wooden frame.
While bicycle engineering is generally one way, borrowing on the vehicles' colors, logos and material textures, sometimes the sharing filters up from the bike manufacturers to the car engineers. Take the very limited-edition Aston Martin One-77, created by Bf1 Systems, which devises electrical systems for Formula One racers. The One-77 (only 77 were made) has a touch screen integrated into the handlebars; sensors provide data on speed, power and cadence. Chris Lambiase, group publisher for Rodale, which publishes Bicycling magazine, said Bf1 "didn't have the resources to build out their technology in a car, so they thought, 'Hey, let's do a bicycle.' "
So how is it? A writer for Cyclist magazine in Britain who had an opportunity to audition the $38,500 One-77 "for the briefest of spins" wrote that in a sprint, "the wheels might tuck under as the bike flicks from side to side. This, added to the knowledge that a spill could end up with you having to sell a kidney, makes for a very nervous ride."
The French company Peugeot made bicycles for European customers as early as 1882, years before the Peugeot brothers built their first automobile. The first bicycle, built by Armand Peugeot, was a high-wheeler called a penny farthing.
Peugeot bikes were often ridden in international championship series, and they developed a wide following in the 1960s in the United States because of their light weight and affordability.
Prominent European brands have cornered this market, with a smattering of Japanese entries and one-offs; Ford and General Motors don't bother. (In 2011, G.M. pulled a print ad that advised college students to "Stop pedaling ... start driving" after it provoked a consumer reaction.) Chrysler, of course, has ties to Fiat and Ferrari, which both offer bicycles, and its Jeep division puts its name on mass-market bikes.
In general, however, one won't find high-end models in the local bike shop or at mass-market merchants. They are available usually in limited editions, through the automakers' lifestyle boutiques and online accessory catalogs.
"At the higher end of the cycling market, cyclists tend to be car people -- and watch people," Mr. Lambiase said. "There's appreciation of what I call art in motion: a psychological connection among cars and bikes and performance -- beautiful and precise machinery." For the right buyers, usually the affluent, Mr. Lambiase says, "it's the aesthetic details, the paint job, the leather on the saddle, which makes them special." He added, "They take these bikes seriously, and if they have the passion for the auto brand, they buy them."
Automakers that offer bikes say they are low-volume, niche products that contribute only fractional revenue. For example, a BMW spokeswoman, Nicole Fallenbeck, said that in 2012 the German company sold 650 branded bikes in the United States.
Here's a closer look at four bikes sold though carmakers:
BMW The company says it borrows design engineering from the motorized side of its business and has been refining its bikes for more than six decades. BMW bicycles sold in the United States range from less than $1,000 to $2,800 and include cruise and touring models for more gentle use. The $2,799 M Carbon Racer in black and red -- the "M" signifies BMW's Motorsport division -- is meant for more demanding use. Specs include a full-carbon frame weighing just over 16 pounds, a Shimano Ultegra 20-speed derailleur system and sizes of 21, 22 and 24 inches. There's a sassy children's bike as well, for $353.
LAMBORGHINI The Impec Lamborghini 50th Anniversary Edition, built by the Swiss company BMC, costs about $32,000. Incredibly sexy, the bike is loaded with carbon-fiber components and suede-covered handlebars and saddle. Only 50 will be offered on a build-to-order basis.
MINI For $548, a bike built by Dahon, which has been producing folding bicycles for about 25 years, collapses to fit in the trunks of Mini cars. The contraption is fairly light, at about 24 pounds, with an 8-speed shift system and 20-inch wheels.
PORSCHE The sports car company offers RS (Racing Sport) and S (Sport) models. With a sleek style inspired by the 911 sports car, the RS is the pro model at $8,000. Constructed with carbon fiber -- it weighs less than 20 pounds -- it has a 20-speed Shimano gear system and custom pedals. The $4,500 S, framed in aluminum and offering 11 gears, is slightly heavier and comes in three sizes.
Although the pair of Porsche-branded bikes released last year are built by the German bike maker ADP, they were designed in a Porsche studio in Austria "to incorporate the Porsche genes of weight and styling," according to Adam Miller, product manager in North America for Porsche's Drivers Selection goods.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.