The Porsche bicycle missing link?
Aritlcle by Jim Hemig and forwarded to HDR by Lisa Sarmiento
Photos courtesy Jim Hemig and Christophorus/Porsche
Up until a month ago, I rode my 20-year-old Porsche mountain bike believing it was among the first bicycles Porsche ever produced.
The 1996 Guards Red Porsche Bike S looks as if it’s brand new, although the shifting and braking components do reveal its true age.
I have a lot of fun riding this bike around. I get double-takes and stares from both car buffs and bike riders alike. Enough attention that I wrote a short story about this rare bike for the weekly Porsche Club of America email newsletter.
The day I received the PCA email newsletter, a phone message hit my voicemail inbox.
“I know about how your bike was first created,” Karen Dell’s voice said on the recording.
Karen is a PCA Sierra Nevada Region member whom I met when I lived in Reno, Nevada. Karen tracked down my phone number from the region roster.
I quickly called her back to learn more.
“I worked with Porsche Cars North America when it was based in Reno. I used to send bike parts to Dr. Ulrich Bez in Germany,” she explained over the phone.
Karen told how she would find and ship parts to Germany, only to hear the components were too heavy, and she was asked to find others and ship them as well.
Dr. Bez happened to be the same man who led the Porsche Vehicle Research and Development Department and the Formula One and World Endurance Championship motor sport programs. He was the man behind the 911 Turbo, the Carrera RS 2.7, the 968, and the 993.
And, apparently, the first Porsche bicycle.
Karen had a magazine with an article that featured this early Porsche bike for which Dr. Bez was seeking parts. Upon my request, Karen found a local copy center that would scan the pages of the magazine and email them to me.
To my surprise, I received images from the May 1991Christophorus magazine, issue 229, that featured a bicycle unlike any Porsche bike I had ever seen.
Porsche commissioned a few bicycle designs in the mid- to late-1990s, particularly the Guards Red Bike S mountain bike I proudly ride, as well as the ultra-rare purple and yellow Bike R road bike and the extremely high-tech and bright yellow Bike FS Evolution. All are wonderful bikes for the mid-‘90s.
This bike in the May 1991 Christophorus was unlike any of those and predated them all.
The Christophorus article was written by Jürgen Pippig and explained in the second paragraph, “Since Weissach engineers and technicians are often enthusiastic hobby sports fans, it was really only a question of time until the strong two-wheel lobby within the technology smithy created a mountain bike which is the 911 RS of mountain bikes.”
The story went on to explain the goal of the Porsche engineers was to produce a prototype bike of consequent lightweight construction, uncompromising function and aesthetic proportions and shape. Sounds like more fun than function to me.
The end result was a very cool mountain bike for the time. And at a mere 9.85 kilograms (21.7 pounds), it was incredibly lightweight. This bike was designed and built before the days of front shock absorbers, let alone a full-suspension mountain bike.
The story ends with a hint of the possibility of an exclusive run of 300 such bikes. But an exhaustive Internet search could find no such record of this bike, not the prototype published in Christophorusmagazine, nor the possible 300 produced for lucky Porsche enthusiasts.
This bike, called the Porsche Bike Spyder 9.85, is likely a one-off, an original prototype that led to all the later Porsche bicycles that have since followed.
I also could find no record of Dr. Ulrich Bez’s involvement. Only the mention of “engineers and technicians.” My knowledge of Dr. Bez’s contribution was only made possible by Karen Dell, an employee of Porsche Cars North America in the 1980s and ‘90s and current PCA member, who has an excellent library of historical Porsche magazines and an interest in sharing her knowledge.
The Christophorus article mentioned very selective bike parts were shipped from France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Japan and the USA. Karen Dell was that USA connection.
I’ll admit I am a bit of a Porsche bike super-enthusiast. With Karen’s help, I think I just found the proverbial missing link between Porsche automobiles and the current limited-run bicycles. Where it all began.
Now if I could only find one of those 300 Porsche Bike Spyder’s and park it in my garage next to the Boxster, Cayenne S, and Bike S — that would really be something.