Don’t look now, but people in Japan are driving Hummers. By driving we mean pedaling. And by Hummers? We mean bicycles.
It’s true. An outfit called Global Innovation Company is distributing a line of bicycles bearing the names of foreign and American car manufacturers: Ferrari, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and Hummer, to name a few. The company was founded in 2002 by Katsuyoshi Ikeda, a man who thought younger cyclists would be more inclined to buy bicycles if they bore the logos of well-known, foreign car companies. Apparently no one told the Japanese that cars have lost their cool, because it seems to be working: Just last year, they bought 170,000 bikes flaunting the names of once-storied, combustion-powered four-wheelers.
The bicycles, manufactured with the carmakers’ blessing, are sold by the aptly named Import Bicycle Factory, which has a head office and shop in Yokohama, with sister stores in Kashiwa City and Kuki. Most of the lines — with the exception of Chevrolet — appear to include bikes for the whole family. Want Spartacus Atticus Thurston III to ride in style? Outfit him with this Ferrari kids’ bike with training wheels. Little Jimmy having issues with other kids in the playground? Have him roll up in this little Hummer (maybe take off the basket) and he can learn road rage years before other kids even realize their feet will one day touch the pedals. Gas pedal, break pedal …
Of course, Japan’s love of two-wheeled vehicular motion is nothing new. Bicycle parking lots the size of middle America’s Walmart Supercenters? Japan’s got ‘em. (Hello, 2 million bicycles’ worth of parking.) Ivy-covered above-ground bicycle storage containers? Check. (Let’s not even get started on their underground bike-parking contraptions.) Enough bicycles sold per year to outfit almost all of Los Angeles’s nearly 4 million residents three times? Yeah, Japan’s got those too. Schaaaa-winn.
But here’s the kicker: The car-bikes sold at Import Bicycle Factory, including the models proudly displaying American car manufacturers’ marks, are made in China. That’s no surprise, given that most bicycles in the U.S. are constructed by our friends in the Far East. Still, the irony of selling Hummer- and Cadillac-stamped bicycles, manufactured in China, to car-loving cyclists in Japan, while here at home GM tells us that we’re less manly if we ride a bike? That is worthy of some sort of award, especially as our own automobile industry continues to slump toward recovery.
Note to American automakers: Maybe it’s time to come out of the closet and start stamping your imprimaturs on bikes made here, stateside, for the growing bicycling public in the U.S. Trust us. Chicks dig that stuff.