The great hope of bike-friendly cities: Ikea

If you haven’t yet seen a photograph of the new bicycle that Ikea plans to sell — hell yes, we’re calling it the Bikea — close your eyes and imagine what a bike made by Ikea would look like. Yep, you got it.

The official photo of the Ikea bike, which will be sold in Europe later this year.

The news was greeted in the bike world by a weird mix of surprise and derision. Does it come with an allen wrench? Do you have to put it together yourself? How will they get it into a flat box? It’s easy to write off the idea as a dabbler’s attempt at entering the bike market. The company isn’t exactly known for producing high quality goods, as that sagging bookshelf in your home office can attest. And there’s little doubt the bike snobs among us will be quick to ostracize Ikea bike riders as triflers who wouldn’t know a real bike if it rolled over their toes.

But I won’t be among them. I think it’s fantastic that Ikea is producing a bike. Mostly.

Here’s why: For one thing, the bike looks pretty good. I’ve long been lamenting the lack of affordable, practical bikes in North America. Such machines are still (relatively) rarely spotted on the streets of many cities, and it drives me batty to see casual cyclists still buying what seems to be the default for North Americans: mountain bikes. Mountain bikes are great for, well, mountains, but too many people buy them thinking they’ll use them off-road, but then never take them beyond the paved paths of their city, leaving them saddled with what can be uncomfortable rides loaded with too many gears, useless suspension systems and finicky parts that require too much maintenance. In a word, they aren’t very practical, and in a world where we put convenience above pretty much everything, impracticality can be a killer to people adopting a more bike-friendly life.

IMG_3491

I haven’t tried a Bikea yet, but it appears to be nothing if not practical. It looks well designed in that default Dutch mode, built for comfort and stability, with a unisex aluminum step-through frame and adjustable handlebars. It has an internal hub for gearing (although I’d prefer three or six speeds, rather than the two that are on offer) and a belt-drive, both of which should reduce maintenance requirements and improve reliability. It is built to accommodate easy add-ons, including a cargo trailer and, presumably, some kind of minimalist glassware or vase.

At $800, it’s not exactly cheap, but I think that’s a good thing. The risk is producing a poor-quality bike that won’t last. This seems like a reasonable price, as long as it’s a decent quality ride.

I know what you are saying: There’s nothing new here. Such bikes are available now, being produced by smart, quality bike makers all over the world. Your local bike shop has them for sale right at this moment. I agree, and you should go buy one. Like right now. As an added bonus, you’ll be supporting your local bike shop, not some Euro-giant furniture retailer, and you’ll get quality service from someone who actually lives in your community.

All of that is true, and that’s why I buy my bikes at such places. If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing the same. But therein lies the problem that the Bikea can address.

Unlike your local bike shop, Ikea has reach and scale, and the ability to reach those kinds of people who don’t read long shoegazers on the Internet about Ikea bikes, and have thought so little about what kind of bike they should ride they’d just go for that impractical mountain-bike-that-never-sees-a-mountain from their local Wal-Mart. If the Bikea is successful, it holds the potential to change the way average consumers think about everyday bikes, in the same way Ikea changed the way North American consumers think about home design. Like it or not, Ikea is a consumer influencer, and if the company can shift the way North Americans perceive everyday bikes, that can’t be a bad thing.

Once that idea moves, perhaps it will be the gateway bike, leading people to a Linus, or a Detroit Bike, or a Surly or Devinci,, purchased from their local bike shop, or any of the other great brands currently making our cities better. Bring it on, Ikea.

Hmm, does that Ikea bike look familiar? Something like this model from Detroit Bikes?

Now, if only the company can make a kids’ model, so we can forever destroy the department store, faux full-suspension, unserviceable pieces of shit that litter our landfills. C’mon Ikea.

Edmontonbikes.ca


Also published on Medium.

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6 Comments

  1. Daorcey

    I agree with you, Tom. Another thing I’d add (which I think you are implying) is that it will be very exciting to see the IKEA marketing machine take a whack at urban cycling. I’ve long lamented that urban cycling continues to be seen as a niche market and I think that is hampering the development of said market (which is doing a pretty amazing job of growing relatively organically from that niche). Just imagine what it will be like to walk into an IKEA and be sold on not just the bike, but the lifestyle associated with that bike. IKEA marketing is a powerful thing and it will be interesting to see how it succeeds.

    • I think you’re right about the marketing, Daorcey. The bike industry has been great over the years in marketing bikes as a niche sport, rather than a lifestyle or convenience. Maybe the marketing might of IKEA can help change that.

  2. Since I have arthritis, the “Detroit” frame would suit me better, as the frame is more open (low). But either would be fine for a child seat.

  3. Doug Wedel

    I bought the Ikea bike. The larger version with 28″ wheels. And the trailer. I actually bought the trailer first. I also bought the handlebar and back racks.

    I hate the grey. The only thing I like about it is that it BEGS to be repainted, so now after only a few rides it sits in pieces waiting to get taken apart more and all of it painted.

    I don’t think for me it will ever replace my folding Brompton for convenience but I can see this as a perfect city bike for a large amount of people. And it will be a great part time bike for me, once it’s painted up. 🙂

  4. Doug Wedel

    One thing the Ikea bike does do effectively is demonstrate the corporate position of one multinational on bikes and bike friendly cities. They are def not sitting on the fence. That’s something you can take to any bike infra proposal meeting in any city in the world.

    Another thing is this is a world bike. When I told people I got an Ikea bike I had people from around the world respond -What’s it like? How nice is it to ride? I didn’t know Ikea sold bikes/I have one too and I like the grey… (Oi!) The world brand and world access of their bikes and accessories has the ability to unite cyclists across the globe. That’s a lot of cycling advocacy packed into a flat cardboard box.

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