Winter hasn't stopped riders of ice bikes Lisa Florczak, founder of Ice Bikes of Buffalo, rides one of her inventions at the Ice at Canalside in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP photos)
Winter hasn't stopped riders of ice bikes
Lexile

If it were possible for anything to be hot in Buffalo, N.Y., this winter, it was the newfangled "ice bikes" that debuted at an outdoor skating rink.

The bicycles on ice skates were an immediate hit when they glided onto the Ice at Canalside the day the new rink opened on the city's waterfront.

Since that December day, the bundled riders who have ignored breath-taking cold to rent them have convinced inventor Lisa Florczak that she's onto something. That, and the inquiries from several other cold-weather cities in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Canada interested in rolling them out next year.

"I had no idea if this would work or how people would respond," Florczak said as some Parkinson's patients tested the bikes for their exercise potential. "I thought I might end up being the laughingstock of the city."

Instead, she is relishing being part of Buffalo's efforts to revitalize its waterfront and draw people year-round, even when the Lake Erie breeze is something more endured than enjoyed. The bikes give even nonskaters a chance to try out the ice, along with the warm nuts and hot cocoa sold at nearby kiosks.

Florczak's family business, Water Bikes of Buffalo, was renting pontoon bikes that let riders pedal the Buffalo River in warmer months when economic development officials put out a call for ideas for the 33,000-square-foot ice rink being built nearby on a recreation area of the Erie Canal.

"They said the ice is going to be pretty large, and they thought they might need something more than just skating," Florczak said.

Curling, hockey and broomball leagues emerged.

"I thought: 'What a perfect opportunity to go from water biking to ice biking,'" Florczak said.

She bought a bike off the rack at Wal-Mart and worked with General Welding and Fabricating in Elma, N.Y., on a design. The bikes had to be sturdy, not tip and co-exist with ice skaters. Prototype testing showed that sharper blades, like on ice skates, were too fast, as were flat blades that worked like a ski.

The finished product is a 26-inch bike that sits on a rectangular base with a duller blade replacing the front wheel. Stainless steel so they don't rust in the snow, they ride like a regular bicycle, only without the need to balance. Riders brake by pedaling backward.

"It's pretty neat," said Dave Wolf, of East Amherst, after giving a bike a spin. "They take a little getting used to. No sharp turns. But once you get used to it, it's a pretty nice ride."

Wolf, who has Parkinson's disease, said he rides a three-wheel bike in the nice weather and likes the idea of a winter alternative.

The inaugural year had 15 bikes on the ice on weekends only, with riders paying $10 for a half-hour turn. There are plans to sell kits that will let people convert their own bicycles for about $1,500 and the company is hoping for orders from other cities that will make for a busy "offseason."

Ice Bikes of Buffalo, the name Florczak chose for the venture, is laser-cut into the running board. It was important, she said, that her city get its due if the bikes took off. She also wants to keep production local, after seeing relatives lose jobs during Buffalo's economic struggles.

"It's been," she said, "an incredible ride so far."

Critical thinking challenge: Why is Buffalo challenged to develop its waterfront year round?

Assigned 5 times


COMMENTS (26)
  • JU00baseball
    3/12/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    The only thing telling me this is a bad idea is because where else can youride it at ? The whole city is not going to be ice, so its not really a form of transportation like a regular bike is. So yeah i dont really like the invention.

  • Tywayne
    3/12/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    you can only ride it on ice. The whole city is not going to be ice. you cant really go far on that type of bike. I dont really like the invention because you really cant go far

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    3/12/2015 - 10:25 a.m.

    I think this a great idea for an activity, both in season or out of season. It gets your heart pumping just like regular bicycles. Even when it there is ice on the ground you can go outside and get some physical activity.

  • nicholas.jones07
    3/12/2015 - 12:37 p.m.

    I think that ice bikes are a great idea. People love biking and people love ice skating so I think that this will be popular with both groups. Plus, in places like Alaska people can use this to get around. If they sell around the world I think that the top buyers would from places like Russia and Sweden.

  • 1seanB
    3/12/2015 - 12:49 p.m.

    My critical thinking is that why would you even bike on ice? I didnt see them wearing helmets.... seems a little dangerous. I would never bike on ice. I would probably get a concusion if i fell on ice though.

  • 3WillS
    3/12/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    That is because it is part of it's economy. Without it, it would suffer greatly. I think that ice bikes are sweet. They are a fun way to bike in the winter. I really wanna try one.

  • 1GeorgeB
    3/12/2015 - 02:38 p.m.

    Buffalo has had many challenges this year because of the weather. One problem that this has arisen is the development of the waterfront. The problem is that in the winter people do not come out to Lake Erie during the winter. To solve this problem inventor Lisa Florczak created a bike that people with Parkinson disease to have physical activity. But now, many people have used the bike for pleasure to ride on Lake Erie.

  • 9alexmr
    3/12/2015 - 06:24 p.m.

    My opinion is that its a new way to skate. this is in the buffalo N.Y. They are very glade that they cam up with a way to skate.

  • newotnjp
    3/12/2015 - 07:41 p.m.

    I would just like to say that I think it is really funny that people would do this. I cant blame people around the Buffalo area doesn't usually have winters like this so I cant blame a creative person to think of a idea that will let them have fun outside. But 1500 dollars for the KIT only seems like a lot for a bike with out the front wheel in my mind.

  • 3EthanS
    3/12/2015 - 08:50 p.m.

    I am surprised that this has not been thought of sooner I like riding bikes and I love skating! In the summer there is water biking and in the winter there is ice biking. Soon there will be hover biking for when there is slush on the ground. Whoever made it is making $10 per half hour ride! if he made more bikes he could make a living just off of a bike and some creativity.

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