Cars and cycling seldom go well together. But in the case of Skoda, cycling and bicycles are rooted deep in its heritage.
In fact, Skoda first produced bicycles before cars. It is still deeply passionate about it - Skoda even has a website all about cycling, called We Love Cycling.
Plus, Skoda has supported other cycling races around the world, such as the Tour de France, and the Titan Challenge - a six-day mountain bike stage set in the desert. Deserts are certainly tough for vehicles, not just cyclists. But Skoda has in fact completed the Dakar Rally with a Kodiaq support car, too.
Skoda pushes on with two wheels closer to home. This time, it is for the Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade, a cycling event with a charitable cause.
Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade started out in 2005 from a group of passionate cyclists. The 12th edition this year will benefit The Salvation Army’s Peacehaven Nursing Home.
This is Skoda’s second partnership with the Charity Bike ‘n’ Blade as Official Safety Car. The six support cars for the ride included the Karoq, the Kodiaq, the Superb, two Octavias and of course, the hot-blooded Octavia RS245.
Setting off on Friday morning, we headed to Ipoh for a night's rest, as we will be heading up to Cameron Highlands in the wee hours of Saturday.
Some 50 cyclists will be taking part in this leg up, Cameron, with a distance of about 61km. Now, 61km might not seem like a challenge (we're not cyclists), but with over 1,000m of upward elevation to the top, and Malaysia's tropical climate, it is a pretty daunting task.
The six support cars will be tasked with different duties. The Kodiaq would be at the back of the cycling pack, working as the sweeper. The Octavia RS, on the other hand, was the lead car, which included running up and down the hill in search of cyclists who needed help, or water and bananas.
The lead car would raise signals to the nearest available support Skodas and appropriate team to leap forward and assist. Therefore, the performance of the RS really came in handy.
The Karoq, Octavia and the Superb would then carry out duties ranging from medical and technical assistance to distributing food and drinks along the route. Our chariot of choice was the Skoda Superb 1.8 TSI Ambition.
From what we saw, Skodas were perfect for the tasks on hand. The Kodiaq, with its higher ride height, allowed the volunteers to have a better view of the road and cyclists ahead of them.
Volunteers driving the Kodiaq also told us that the height also gave him the added advantage of being at eye level with the cyclists, whenever he needed to pull up to their side and convey a message to them.
Plus, with more than an adequate performance from the turbocharged engines, all Skodas were able to make the climb up and down Cameron quickly to attend to the cyclists' needs. The Superb was perfect for us, too, as its performance and comfort-oriented suspension meant that we could quickly get to where the action was.
The practicality of Skodas across the range played a big part. While roof and bicycle racks can be fitted to all cars, Skodas excel in interior space, too. So all the cars could fit big ice coolers for drinks, including spare bicycle wheels, cycling gear, tools and first aid supplies if there was a need for it.
By 11:00 am, some riders had in fact reached the endpoint, and most of the cyclists made it to the lunch stop by noon. With the help of Skoda’s support vehicles and volunteers, all of the cyclists made it up.
From our short experience covering a cycling event up close and in action, the Skodas proved to be versatile, reliable and always ready to go. It thus also makes sense that Skoda has been the official vehicle for one of the biggest cycling events in the world, the Tour de France, for the 16th year running.