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Recently, I've started to see the term "SUV bike" in different contexts. They seem to be referring to expensive e-bikes (pedelecs or s-pedelecs, either freight bikes or regular), with price tags up to €10,000 or above. The article where I first saw the term used the characterisation "SUV" negatively, but it seems to be also used in marketing; fahrrad-xxl.de classifies them as a subset of electrically assisted trekking bikes, not as freight bikes.

What characterises an "SUV bike"? Are those a subset of e-bikes? A subset of freight e-bikes? A meaningless marketing term? Are there specific properties that sets an "SUV bike" apart from a "non-SUV bike"?

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    When I hear SUV bike I imagine an unnecessarily heavy and big impractical bike with half-baked (therefore unusable) off-road features. Combined with a big motor and big battery to compensate for the drag of all of the above. Just like a SUV car.
    – Michael
    Feb 16, 2023 at 7:26
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    @Michael: It seems to perfectly describe the SUV bikes I've seen. Feb 16, 2023 at 7:52
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    shouldnt it be SUB : sport utility bike, instead of sport utility vehicle ??
    – pippo1980
    Feb 18, 2023 at 18:25
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    @user836049 Only in Spanish ;-) No, a bicycle is a vehicle. If a SUV bike is a SUB, then a SUV car should be a SUC.
    – gerrit
    Feb 18, 2023 at 20:24
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    @gerrit you shoul tell to dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/vehicle vehicle : a machine, usually with wheels and an engine, used for transporting people or goods, especially on land ... but The law states that a bicycle is a vehicle and a bicyclist has all of the same rights and duties.
    – pippo1980
    Feb 18, 2023 at 20:59

5 Answers 5

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This is a marketing term and means whatever the marketer wants it to mean.

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    Interesting choice. As a commuter cyclist, I detest SUVs.
    – gerrit
    Feb 15, 2023 at 18:15
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    That being said, the U in SUV stands for "utility" so it kind of makes sense that those bikes have a cargo rack. In my opinion drop bar would be more sporty but it might limit sales. I doubt these are sold to people who have experience riding or buying bikes.
    – ojs
    Feb 15, 2023 at 18:17
  • @ojs I hope people who spend €10k on a bike have recent experience riding or buying bikes. But maybe they don't.
    – gerrit
    Feb 15, 2023 at 21:08
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    @ojs What a coincidence -- SUVs (the cars) aren't sporty, either, nor does their average driver have experience riding or buying cars.
    – jayded-bee
    Feb 16, 2023 at 9:10
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    SUVs are neither "S" or "U", which works out just fine for the car company because they basically sold them a normal "V" for inflated prices.
    – Nelson
    Feb 17, 2023 at 2:58
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As pointed out by Adam, it's a "marketing" term and can be used the way the marketer wants. Some people in this group also consider that gravel bikes are the SUV of the bike world. The trend I've seen however is more of a subset of the trekking e-bikes (with a focus on off-road rather than road/city).

I'm only aware of two brands that use this acronym in the name of their products: Canyon with the Pathlite:ON SUV and Orbea with the Kemen SUV (both have non-SUV variants). In both cases, the SUV variant is presented as being more capable off-road than the non-SUV variant. It may however not be representative of choices made by other marketers...

EDIT: I found another mention of the term by Fox, that has designed a e-SUV fork. Fox defines the segment as: “The term e-SUV captures e-MTBs that are designed for versatility; like their automotive counterparts, e-SUVs are capable, geared towards adventure while providing integrated features that cover riders for day to day needs as well. e-SUVs demand durability, functionality around fender, light and equipment mounts, and higher weight limits thanks to the gear people take with them on their off-road journeys”

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  • @mattnz With XC tires instead of gravel tires, there is some truth behind it. Because of course, you can't change the tires later :)
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 15, 2023 at 20:32
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They look like E-bikes built along the lines of MTB (wide tires, schock absorbing fork, hydraulic disk brakes, frame also looks similar maybe slightly longer, MTB drivetrain and gear ratios) but most often also with luggage rack, built-in lights and fenders so city-friendly. Dropper posts are common. Brake cables are protected by having them internal (source). Luggage rack supports significant loads. The frame is almost always aluminum, even if I have seen a few very expensive models that use a carbon frame (image credit):

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These bikes are universal, good enough for any road in any weather and any time of the year (accept studded tires), from city (both shopping and commuting) to the moderate mountain trail. They are convenient to ride but heavy, part of this comes from the large battery that can assist over tens of kilometers (I have seen a model with two large batteries and over 100 km range).

The price varies but the clever price is about $4000 with some models going as low as $2700 and up to $12000 on the top side.

SUV is the abbreviation from the "Sports Utility Vehicle" and probably inspired by some riding off-road vehicles on regular roads. But while road traffic rules often prevent an ordinary Jeep driver from riding out of tarmac, SUV bicycles do get into paths where they off road capabilities are in place.

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    20 years ago something like that was called ATB - All Terrain Bike in my region. Not sure if that is still a thing...
    – Arsenal
    Feb 16, 2023 at 13:51
  • If weight is not critical or offset by electric power, steel frames should be an option too (I don't know if the Geos is an SUV, but it looks fancy).
    – gerrit
    Feb 16, 2023 at 15:48
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    The "Utility" part means that these bikes aren't meant to be ridden for the sake of riding. The marketing team is trying to tell you these are perfect for hauling a bit of camping gear up trail, going fishing, etc. . . It's marketed as a bike for people who need a bike incidentally, not necessarily a bike enthusiast.
    – Turbo
    Feb 17, 2023 at 0:03
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I'd never heard the abbreviation applied to bikes until yesterday's dropper post question at Rationale behind dropper posts on "SUV" e-bikes

Regardless - there's one minor point which risks being lost unless highlighted.

The V in SUV stands for Vehicle, so there's a tacit admittance that the bike IS a vehicle and that represents a significant shift from the "bikes are kid's toys" mentality.

And that's a good thing.

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  • +1 I just heard it from that post and I'm ready to stan SUV bikes. More than mountain, more than cargo, large, general purpose bikes. If it catches on as a barb, it will only make the bikes more popular.
    – SamA
    Feb 16, 2023 at 14:30
  • @SamA did you mean "stab" ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 18, 2023 at 21:21
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    Nope, "stan" meaning stand up for, or be a devoted fan of, as the kids say... Hope I'm doing that right... I'm a fan of this kind of bike
    – SamA
    Feb 19, 2023 at 4:04
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    @SamA thanks for clarifying that - I guessed it was a negative statement initially.
    – Criggie
    Feb 19, 2023 at 6:50
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"SUV" is pretty much a meaningless term now.

Sports Utility Vehicle -> Needs to be a utility vehicle for carrying sports equipment, that no longer seems to apply, especially not for a bicycle! In the past it was a car/truck that could carry hunting equipment, skiing gear etc.

It has descended from a fairly close technical description to a marketing buzz word, and at that point it lost any useful meaning.

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    English is not my mother language, but I understood SUV differently: "Sporty" vehicle with utility features, by opposition to a "commercial" utility vehicle, that is only meant to carry persons or stuff, without consideration of the image it may give. The sporty side being inspired from the off-road world, rather than the performance one.
    – Rеnаud
    Feb 17, 2023 at 12:49
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    @Renaud: That's correct; the "sport" in SUV is meant by the marketing team in terms of motorsports, like driving off-road. (Or on rough dirt or gravel roads.) Not about carrying sports equipment as cargo. Not that most SUVs are actually good for off-roading, but with 4 wheel drive and higher ground clearance they're a bit more capable of handling dirt roads in parks to somewhere you might want to camp. In practice "carrying sport / camping equipment" is more accurate, but that's not how the marketing term SUV started. Feb 17, 2023 at 19:50

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