It’s not every day that you find a bike store in one of North America’s largest bank buildings. In the concourse level of First Canadian Place — Canada’s tallest skyscraper — sits Savedbybikes.com, a 200-square-foot retail bike store.
Located in the heart of the one of the continent’s financial centres, those 200 square-feet of real estate don’t come cheap. Yet for now at least, Steve Inniss — the man who opened and has run Savedbybikes.com since May 15 — is willing to foot the bill in order to expose his unique product to an audience largely composed of well-to-do business people, many of who commute large distances every day to get to work.
Savedbybikes.com is the exclusive Canadian distributor of STRiDA bikes, a foldable bike first designed in the UK over two decades ago. Now vastly popular in Europe and especially Asia, where massive STRiDA cycling clubs exist, Steve hopes the bike will have similar success in Toronto.
Ideal for white-collar commuters working in the downtown core, the triangular STRiDA is the only bicycle that can currently be taken to one’s seat on all forms of public transportation in and around Toronto, even during rush-hour. It also happens to be the only bike Brookfield Place currently allows workers to bring on the elevator and to their desk. Once folded, the bike takes up a similar amount of space as a folded baby stroller.
STRiDAs are also capable of being rolled when folded, a perk seemingly designed for Toronto’s massive pedestrian-only PATH network, where other bikes are not allowed. Also, STRiDA uses a kevlar belt similar to those found on a Harley Davidson rather than an oily chain to make riding the bike business suit-friendly.
I decided to demo the STRiDA for a night and found that, after a shaky first minute or two, it handled Toronto’s downtown streets pretty well (streetcar tracks, sewers and potholes included). The bike keeps you comfortably upright, its one gear allows you to go about 20km/h on flat ground and folding up the bike into its unicycle-like shape takes a matter of seconds.
Despite it’s success worldwide, selling the STRiDA in Toronto has so far not gone quite as smoothly as planned. As I chatted with Steve in his store, the underground concourse was swarming with well-dressed people on Blackberrys, many of who were taking time out of their lunch break to check out Savedbybikes.com’s products. Yet the price tag was enough to put many them off: $980 + tax can sound like a lot for a bike, even if it is foldable, hand-welded, 22lbs and has disc breaks. [ price comparisons ]
Since opening the shop, Steve has totaled just over 40 sales, significantly less than he had hoped for by this time. Nevertheless, the word is spreading and Steve remains hopeful. His STRiDAs are demoed more than 40 times per week, with around 12 of those lasting over night so that they can actually be tried on a person’s commute home that evening and back to work the following morning.
Store photo by Jake Schabas; Jake Schabas photos by Sara Schabas.