Let’s say you are a real bicycle aficionado and let’s say you meet a real genie, the kind that will make your fondest wishes come true, and you tell the genie that, for some unfathomable reason, you have always wanted that bicycle decorated with actual butterfly wings by the contemporary British artist Damien Hirst and used by Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.
If that’s the case, it’s almost certain that the genie will reply: “Good luck with that, pal. No can do. I just can’t afford it.”
The reason for the genie’s turndown is that you have just wished for the Trek Butterfly Madone, the most expensive bicycle in the world. At a Sotheby’s cancer benefit auction, this one-of-a-kind two-wheeler fetched an astounding $500,000!
There is no information on whether Armstrong’s admission of having used illegal performance-enhancing substances during the Tour or the annulation of his seven consecutive Tour victories have affected the bike’s value. In any case, he rode the Butterfly Madone in the 2009 Tour, in which he finished third.
However, there is a downside to owning the most expensive bicycle in the world, if you can afford to buy it (or meet a genie who can). You may find yourself the target of outraged animal lovers because of the butterfly wings, which Hirst used to celebrate Armstrong’s return to cycling in 1998 after surviving cancer. Nevertheless, it infuriated the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which termed it a “horrific barbarity.”
Armstrong and art are also the reasons for the price tag of the world’s second most expensive bike, which bears the artist’s name. The Trek Yoshimoto Nara sold for $200,000 at another Sotheby’s charity auction. It bears the Japanese artist’s signature images of cartoon-like kids, wearing boxing gloves, as well as UFOs and a logo of the disgraced rider’s Livestrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides support for people affected by cancer.
Armstrong rode the bike during a Tour de France stage. In the same Sotheby’s charity auction, Trek sold a number of other bikes designed by famous artists and based on the bikes ridden by Armstrong in top cycling events. They fetched a total of $800,000.
Armstrong, art, and Sotheby’s also feature in number three on the list of outrageously priced bicycles. The Kaws – Trek Madone was auctioned off for $160,000 at another charity affair and was produced for Armstrong’s daily cycling routine, which means that it boasts great aerodynamics, state-of-the-art accessories, and loads high. Kaws is a well-known American artist and designer, and the bike is decorated with his well-known “chomper” teeth on the frame and wheel rims.
The fourth most expensive bike has nothing to do with Lance, artists or auctions – but it does have a little something that actually justifies its $114,000 price tag. Its frame, wheels, and spokes are plated with 24-carat gold. Made by the French company Aurumania, it also contains Swarovski crystals, grips and saddles made from high-quality leather and a leather badge at the front that displays its limited-edition number.
There are only seven Aurumania Crystal Edition Gold bikes in the world, and if you have one or are thinking about buying it, you will certainly want a fitting place to park it. Fortunately, Aurumania also sells a crystal and gold wall rack for a mere $6,000.
Finally, number five on the list means we have to talk about Lance Armstrong and auctions again. The American cyclist rode the bike in the 2005 Tour de France, the last of his seven consecutive victories in the race and the last year during which he admittedly used banned substances.
The same year, the Trek Madone 7 – Diamond was sold at the annual Lance Armstrong Foundation auction for $75,000. As its name suggests, it was embellished with diamonds. They were set in a plaque of 14-carat yellow and white gold studded with seven 1-carat Gemesis diamonds.
Imagine owning one of these astronomically-priced beauties. Where would you ride it? In your garage? Your living room? If you can afford the bike, you can probably also afford to own an estate with no-access bike paths that are smooth as silk and dust free.