Exemplified by Balenciaga’s recent bling bike, a great chance to show off something new or useful is wasted by designers

By Mon Garcia | Lead photo courtesy of WWD.com

Very few cross-industry collaborations or cross-branding attempts really work out, and Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia’s attempt to bridge the fashion and cycling worlds was lame and limp—although not entirely out of character.

The designer is known for repackaging ordinary items or, as dazeddigital.com phrases it, “reappropriating the banal.” Under the Balenciaga label, he has infamously rebranded an almost exact copy of Ikea’s practical Frakta bag, jacking up the price from £2.50 (around $1.00) to £1,365 (I’m not counting). It inspired the Swedish company Acne to release the following “clarifying” info:

Photo courtesy of Curbed.com

Now that we know who’s behind it, on to the bike. So, what is it, really?

Photo by Giovanni Giannoni courtesy of WWD.com

Walked on the runway during Balenciaga’s SS18 Menswear Collection, the bike was an appropriate advertisement for the brand’s take on sporty casual wear. It was also an advertisement for the bike, as it would be sold at French boutique Colette. Coming in five different styles, including one that sports a baby seat in the back (for those fashionable new parents, I guess), the bikes would cost £3,000 each.

What does that kind of money get you? Something quite disappointing, actually. It is reported that nothing really new or different was on the bikes, and their materials and componentry were dated and basic. For example it runs a 3×9 drivetrain (three chainrings mated to a nine-speed cassette), when most modern steeds for all-around non-hardcore use would probably run a 1×10 or a 1×11, for simplicity and ease of maintenance.

Here’s what it looks like:

Photo courtesy of WWD.com

It really is quite an ordinary-looking bike, and nothing that most cyclists, even beginners or enthusiasts, would marvel at. In my opinion, even the color scheme is boring, reserved for the most basic and utilitarian models from bigger bike brands. Black and raw aluminum make it easy to clean and easy to retouch (all you need is a Sharpie or some acrylic paint to cover scratches). In retrospect, that may help in keeping the “value” of the bike over the years.

But that’s the thing. In terms of value, this bike doesn’t really have much. Nothing technologically groundbreaking, no interesting color scheme, nothing even to make it distinctly identifiable with the brand it’s touting—unless that brand really wants to be known for “reappropriating the banal.”

I guess the only way to salvage it is to look at it as a collector’s item. The rare production run of a bike in Balenciaga branding, which I hope they don’t do ever again. And if they don’t, that only means these become rarer as the years go by.

As far as fashion and cycling collaborations go, I prefer fashion brands stick to something closer to their expertise. The Dolce & Gabbana and Paul Smith collaborations on the Giro d’Italia jerseys from a few years back were a hit. Useful, and some people (like me) consider them valuable and rare collectors items that are worth it.

Italian actress Cristiana Capotondi, flanked by badboy cyclist Filippo Pozzato, presents the collection of Giro d’Italia jerseys by Dolce & Gabbana for the 94th edition of the race back in 2011. Photo courtesy of Italian Cycling Journal

As for designer wheels like the Balenciaga bike, if you’re willing to overspend on some outdated technology or want to gamble £3,000 for auctions someday, well… that’s up to you. I’m happy with $1 non-rebranded Ikea bags and really useful, practical stuff. Marginal utility and all.