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Exclusive: Portland bike maker partners with Audi

Posted by on March 31st, 2011 at 12:36 pm

The ‘duo’ from Audi, made by Portland-based Renovo Hardwood Bicycles.
Click to enlarge

BikePortland has learned that Portland-based bike manufacturer Renovo Hardwood Bicycles will manufacture a line of bicycles for Audi of America.

Renovo Hardwood Bicycles-10.jpg

Renovo owner Ken Wheeler in his shop.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Since Ken Wheeler, the former CEO of a company that made composite airplanes, launched Renovo just three years ago, the company has raised many eyebrows. Today, Audi (based in Virginia) is expected to publicly announce a partnership with Renovo to manufacture three models of hardwood bikes under the “duo” brand name. Audi plans to unveil the bikes at a dealer event in Dallas in April.

Here’s an excerpt from the Audi press release:

“… the duo – an Audi-inspired bicycle collection that embodies the best of both worlds: luxury and performance. An evolution of Audi’s ongoing commitment to progressive ideas, the duo serves as both a work of art and a mode of transportation that blends beauty and craftsmanship with performance and technology…

Unlike other mainstream frame materials, and reflecting Audi’s commitment to sustainability, the Audi duo is also recyclable and biodegradable. Audi is the first automaker to manufacturer to recognize the benefits of wood and offer a bicycle made from it…

Audi is also the first automaker to offer a bicycle, not as a design exercise or a rebadging of a commonplace bicycle. Instead, Audi is launching the duo as an embodiment of its core principles of progressive innovation that also blends craftsmanship and styling with performance and technology.”

Details of the “duo Sport”:

The duos will be made in three versions, City, Sport and Road and will feature high-end components. Prices range from $6,530 to $7,460 and each one is handmade in Renovo’s shop in Southeast Portland. Here are the three model descriptions:

  • duo City – A cafe/leisure bike, urban explorer and all-weather commuter; the most approachable bike for casual cyclists. Features include an upright position for short distances, comfort and traffic vigilance; wide puncture-resistant 32mm tires; LED lights; fenders; rack The duo City drivetrain features the smooth, quiet and grease-free Gates CenterTrack belt drive coupled to the Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub gear hub, for effortless, and maintenance-free shifting. Price: $6,530*
  • duo Sport – A fitness, long-distance all-weather commuter, perfect for cyclists seeking long-distance comfort and safety. The Sport drivetrain features the smooth, quiet and grease-free Gates CenterTrack belt drive coupled to the Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal gear hub, for  effortless, and maintenance-free shifting. Other features include drop bars for long distances; minimum fenders; medium width and puncture-resistant 28mm tires for less rolling resistance. Price: $7,350*
  • duo Road – A performance road bike, good for club and century rides. Features include narrow tires; no fenders; minimal accessories; and SRAM Red, compact 20-speed gear train. Price: $7,460*

Screenshot of Audi’s duo teaser site.

Audi has set up a teaser site which says the duo line will be officially launched on April 2nd. The bikes will be available for purchase through the Audi Collection website.

For more on Wheeler and Renovo, check out our story and photos following a shop visit back in February 2008.

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  • J.R. (Dir. Keeping Lights On) March 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm


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  • John Lascurettes March 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Congrats to Renovo. Your bikes are a thing of beauty and I’ve had lust for a Panda for a long time. What a great infusion for your business. I hope it leads to much more success.

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  • Gmck March 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Wow. A cafe/leisure bike for ONLY $6,530.

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    • spare_wheel March 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      Price for steel bike with better or equivalent components: $900-1500
      Price for aluminum bike with better or equivalent components: $900-1500
      Price for carbon fiber bike with better or equivalent components:

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      • MIddle of the Road Guy April 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm

        I doubt they are fretting that you’ll never buy one.

        I can buy a cheap steel bike and deck it out in dura ace, or I can leave those components on my Vanilla. I know which one I’d rather ride regardless of the cost.

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  • JOe March 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    It’s beaver caviar!

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  • HuRa March 31, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Wonderful! I feel so excited to find a way to buy myself one of those beauties!
    I adore the wood and the idea of a luxury bike really turns me on 🙂 I would never own a car but I would definitely purchase one of these. Once I have the funds, I will!
    This begs for a new way of dealing with locking it up, though. Maybe a personal (motorcycle-style) cover would help keep it so pretty.

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  • Paul Hanrahan March 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Sure, I could never afford to buy one, but it has features I appreciate: Internal hub with belt drive and disc brakes. An excellent combination for a less maintenance commuter bike. Plus they look very nice.

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  • mmann March 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Personally, While I love the beauty and feel of wood in lots of applications, I find the Renovos up close kind of clunky looking – in the same way I find carbon Fiber clunky looking compared to classic skinny steel. But I’m old school that way. I also realize it’s all about the ride, and maybe if I actually rode one, I’d be in love.
    What I think is cool about this is a CAR company deciding to expand their line by offering BIKES. Writing on the wall, or boutique marketing?

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    • A.K. March 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      I agree about “clunky” looking carbon bikes, however LOOK makes some really nice looking carbon bikes, with details such as lugs, that are very drool-worthy. I hope the trend of “fat” oblong tubes goes away soon.

      The few Renovo bikes I’ve seen have looked pretty nice, but I think the choice of wood and stain color may have a lot to do with that.

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    • Mike March 31, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Mike-
      Re: Auto makes marketing bikes – not writing on the wall. For previous examples of this marketing ploy (that has never been successful) you can look at Cadillac, Hummer, Jeep, and Ferrari. I am sure I have not named them all.
      Audi will do it for a year, maybe two, and it will be over.

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    • BURR March 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Audi’s not the first, I’m pretty sure BMW already offers a BMW badged Montague, and there may be others

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  • Quentin March 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Nice bikes, but why would someone want an automobile brand name associated with their bike? I’m familiar with Renovo bikes and I have a lot of respect for the quality and engineering that goes into their bikes, but for a car company to drizzle their marketing b.s. all over a bicycle(s) is disgusting.

    “…reflecting Audi’s commitment to sustainability…” Yeah, right. Car companies are committed to sustainability like tobacco companies are committed to public health.

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    • MIddle of the Road Guy April 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm

      Maybe some people like both nice cars and nice bikes. And thankfully, are far less judgmental that you, too.

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  • Ryan Marquardt March 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I’m happy for Renovo!
    I can’t figure out, though, why Audi would want to venture into such an un-fun mode of transportation. Remember this little gem….

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  • David March 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    The duo Sport looks like the perfect commuter bike for what I want except for the frame – I want steel. Anyone have suggestions for companies that make the bike of my dreams (for cheap, of course!)?

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    • Schrauf March 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      Ah ha – Kona Honky Inc. in steel – available right now at The Bike Gallery in some sizes. I just added rack and fenders. Amazing “quick” commuter.

      Peel off the gaudy stickers on the wheels.

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      • David March 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm

        Except it lacks: internal hub and belt drive. And has carbon fork, whereas I’d prefer steel.

        The Jamis Aurora Elite looks pretty good, except again I seek internal hub and ideally belt drive but would be ok with chain.

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        • spare_wheel April 1, 2011 at 8:23 am
          • David April 1, 2011 at 9:16 am

            Beautiful! Looks like there’s one dealer in my area (NYC). Thanks!

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        • Paul April 1, 2011 at 11:43 am

          Several options with these features, including Trek Soho DLX and Tout Terrain Metropolitan

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  • Rob March 31, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Not to be picky, but Audi may want to proof read their press releases in the future: “..Audi is the first automaker to manufacturer to recognize the benefits of wood and offer a bicycle made from it…”

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  • captainkarma March 31, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Well. If I had 6 grand to blow, I’d donate it to nuclear sick refugees.

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  • Matt M March 31, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Congrats to Ken! I hope the partnership is profitable. Sometimes these kinds of partnerships look better in writing than they end up looking when it comes down to actual dollars in the bank. They are frequently more beneficial for each respective company in terms of building better brand recognition than anything else. At the end of the day, I hope it brings Ken more direct sales for Renovo badged bikes.

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  • Jerry_W March 31, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Maybe a partnership with Orkin too 😉

    Congrats Ken, the whole world needs to experience your beautiful work!!

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  • Ethan March 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Why on earth would they put such a pedestrian rear rack on there?

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  • sabernar March 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    If one of those was locked up on a bike rack somewhere, couldn’t a thief just, you know, cut it with a wood saw and grab all the high end components and wheels?

    As for BMW bikes, I rode a BMW mountain bike in the 1996 Olympic Closing Ceremonies.

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    • kamajii March 31, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Just, you know, like a carbon or butted steel frame?

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  • Geoff March 31, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I’ve ridden my Renovo for 3+ years, over 5000 miles. It’s an amazing bike and I still love it.
    If it was stolen, I would buy another one.
    Ken is a great guy making a great bike. Best of luck.

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  • Cecil April 1, 2011 at 4:32 am

    Sounds like an elaborate April Fools’ prank to me. 😉

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  • Editz April 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Dunno. At $6,500 you might consider calling it the PT Barnum.

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  • Dabby April 1, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Sweet for Renovo.

    While wood is not my frame of choice, Audi’s are my car of choice.
    Will have my 87′ Audi 4000 Quattro for the rest of my life…..(mostly aluminum frame by the way)
    The bikes I ride are steel from the same time frame however…
    Damn 80’s.
    So good.

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  • GlowBoy April 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Automaker-branded bikes are a fad that comes and goes every few years. They are almost always total crap, overpriced for what you get, or both. This time it’s just overpriced.

    Renovo frames start at $1,495. Even if you have to have a hardwood bike with belt drive, disc brakes and a Nexus 8-speed, you could easily build one for under $4000 complete.

    So you’re paying about $2500 for the Audi logo. Which will get you branded as a dork on your next group ride anway.

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  • Bill Stites April 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Congratulations Ken! It is great to see your amazing work recognized.

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  • jim April 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    A little Audacious if you ask me. Also that headlight bracket looks seriously wimpy. And no kickstand? Are you suposed to just lay it down on the ground and scratch that $6500 dollar paint job?

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