Back in simpler times, say 30 or 40 years ago, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, a country that of course leaned heavily to the East. Socialist politics didn’t think much of the western world and were of the opinion that we’d be better off on our own. Imports from the other side of the border weren’t favoured upon, so if you wanted to buy a cheap, simple and reliable bike, you turned to the Rog bicycle factory. Not only were they the largest bike producer in the country, they were just about the only one. The basic model was called the Pony and it was very simple indeed – it was intended for use around town and had a single speed transmission and no brakes in the back. Much like track bikes of today, with the major difference of looking nothing like track bikes.
The model above even featured a hinge on the downtube, which meant the bike could be folded together. I’m not sure who would ever use such a feature, but then I never lived in a small socialist flat. Ponies were much loved among cyclists, as was Rog itself. Sadly with the collapse of the former republic Rog began facing competition from imports and soon fell upon financial difficulties. It remained in business for about a decade after Slovenia declared independence and was then forced to close it’s doors. Slovenia had no big bicycle producers any more and that left a huge gap in the hearts of the domestic cycling fans.
Then for a long time all was silent. Like the company itself, most of their bikes were lost through the years, ended up at scrapheaps or left to slowly rust in some old barn or garage. Some were kept in good repair by enthusiasts and despite being at least two or three decades old, you can still buy them online for about 100€, give or take a few cents. Surviving classic Rogs have a certain cult status, a retro vibe to them that’s easy to appreciate.
On the wings of this new-age brand appreciation, a new company called Gor Bikes was created with the purpose of continuing the Rog Pony production with a modern twist to the classic design. They bought the licensing rights and a new website at www.rogbikes.com was launched, promising a revival of the old favorite.
After much heated anticipation the reimagined Pony was revealed late last year. Public opinion was unanimously in favour of the new, modern look. Then a second later everyone saw the price and was immediately put off by it. You see, while the original was cheap and cheerful, the new bike was anything but, at least not for our standards of living.
There are two basic models to choose from, each with a few further levels of trim. The one pictured above is called the “Pony Classic” with prices starting at 329€ for a base bike with direct drive, no gears and no rear brake. There is however a Brooks Saddle as standard and an internal hub dynamo that charges both front and rear LED lights. The equipment is all Shimano and Sturmey-Archer, so quality of parts is assured by default. 100€ up from the base model is the Classic 3 with 3 internal gears, a rear brake and some premium bits. Then at the top of the Classic range is the 5, which has – you guessed it – 5 gears, even more premium bits and a couple of special colours to choose from. It costs a whopping 789€. Keep in mind that for the same money you can get an entry level Specialized Allez, which is a full fledged road bike. If you take the time
The other model in the Pony selection is called “Sport”. I’m not sure how sporty you can get on a bike like this and judging by the pictures on the website it’s merely a Classic model minus the back pannier. The specs are also a mirror copy of the Classic, only this time there is no single speed edition. Prices are also the same at 429€ for the basic Sport spec and 789€ for the Sport S, pictured below.
First deliveries are scheduled for March this year and presumably they deliver to whomever wants to order one. The first series is limited to 500 bikes and you get a shiny plaque with the serial number, a bit like a Lamborghini. No worries it’s going to run out any time soon – the website shows the number of bikes sold in the series, so you can track the sales numbers if you wish to. It’s been a while since the unveiling and due to the popularity of the original, you’d expect these Ponies to sell like hot buns. Well, not exactly. Not even close. In about 2 months they’ve sold 115 bicycles, which is a lot less than I expected, no doubt due to the relatively high price. Even I’d gladly order one if it was a bit more reasonable. Plus you get a rather splendid looking Rog Gangsta hat with your order, so you can cruise with yo’ Pony like a playa down the streetz of Ljubljana
Overall it looks like a very nice product and I have no doubt it will meet buyers’ expectations. It’s a nice attempt at reviving a cult classic and I’d really like it to succeed. It’s just a shame though that it’s gotten off to a shaky start.
For more on the new Pony head on over to their official website at www.rogbikes.com.
*Images are not mine this time, I’ve shamelessly borrowed them from the official website. The cover image is from someone called Hedonist on his own site here.