STRiDAs and skyscrapers: Bike store opens in First Canadian Place

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.

9 comments

  1. I pass this kiosk-sized store daily, and there is almost always a gaggle of people checking out the wares. The bikes are neat, but far too expensive for my humble means.

    I’m curious about this claim: “[The STRiDA] also happens to be the only bike Brookfield Place currently allows workers to bring on the elevator and to their desk.”

    Really? Security would stop people from bringing other compact folding bicycles into the elevator?

  2. I think he needs another product. That’s alot of coin for a ‘bike-shaped-object’! ‘Brookfield’, like the rest of the property managements in this city, need to get a clue too: you can charge cyclists to park their bikes in your car-parks if they have a hope of finding them there in the afternoon. People pay to park their bikes in Japan. There’s security, and the cost is low even there, because you can put a dozen bikes in the space for one car.

  3. So great to see this guy taking a risk and doing something different. I hope he can make it a viable business. . .

  4. At least the new Stridas don’t ride like a wet noodle. The mark 1s were bendy as anything.

    Oh, and it’s not a bike, it’s a mobility device. That’s the line I used when anyone stops my taking by Brompton places.

  5. I pass this guy everyday; always lots of people. The big missing link here is a way to carry your stuff — the stumbling block for a bike for me is what to do with my briefcase. If he just sold oversize canvas backpacks or something commuterish and unugly, he’d have me a lot faster. (Yes, such things are no doubt available for sale. Like lots who work in and around the PATH system, I’m busy and have other priorities and am not really looking. Make it easy, Steve!)

  6. Strida is not useful for anyone who rides in a skirt, nor for anyone with even a hint of arthritic or other stiffness – It looks hard to mount. For that money I’d MUCH rather have a Brompton folder.

    Hélà¨ne, I bought bicycle bags in the Netherlands. Think a briefcase would fit: lots of people commute to professional jobs by bicycle in the Netherlands. If you are a lawyer, with a big, heavy case actually full of legal briefs, think it might be safer to strap the case onto the bicycle. I’m sure you’ll find examples of briefcases in Netherlands and Denmark at http://www.amsterdamize.com http://www.copenhagenize.com and http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com

    Hope Saved By Bikes makes a go of it, with the high rent they must be paying!

  7. “I’m curious about this claim: “[The STRiDA] also happens to be the only bike Brookfield Place currently allows workers to bring on the elevator and to their desk.””
    Greg, it’s not just Brookfield Place, but all buildings managed by Brookfield, and also Northam Realty, etc. The issue is the oil or grease on bicycle chains that can get on other peoples clothing. The Strida bike has been approved; other folders, officially, must be in bags.

    Same rule actually on GO Transit. -Steve

  8. I’ve never seen one of these bikes before. Do they sell them in California at all? They look easy to store but dangerous to ride, in my opinion. I don’t think I’d buy one ever if they were less expensive.

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