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
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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?

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COMMENTS (26)
  • 5ReisW
    3/12/2015 - 09:31 p.m.

    My five W summary of the article. Lisa Florczak has come up with a brand new way to enjoy the ice in winter. Her invention is the Ice bike. It is a bike mounted on a frame with dull skates replacing the front wheels so its like a mix between skating and biking. The Ice bikes were rented buy curious customers on the Buffalo, N.Y waterfront. She made these bikes so that people could enjoy winter more and some of the proceeds are going back to the city to help the economy.

  • Johnsooe
    3/12/2015 - 09:48 p.m.

    My opinion is I do not think their would be a logical use for these. I understand the use for recreation, but not using it for a real purpose. Who actually needs this? Not many people use the river to get to and from destinations.

  • 5RyanM
    3/12/2015 - 10:19 p.m.

    Opinion-My option is that this is a cool idea however think that the prices are a little steep for half an hour. I also think that the price for the DIY is way too high. However, I would definity want to try this.

  • 8DylanC
    3/12/2015 - 10:54 p.m.

    I know that the East Coast was hammered with snow this year,so that would provide many challenges.. Firstly, a 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. In order to solve this problem, inventor Lisa Florczak created a bike so that people with Parkinson's disease would be able to ride a bike. Although, as of right now, many people thoroughly enjoy riding the bike on Lake Erie.

  • 5SethM
    3/13/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    That is so awesome! I ride my bike year round, and it would be so cool to be able to ride on ice. Especially without falling. Who ever invented this idea is going to be a millionaire in no time.

  • 1GracieH
    3/13/2015 - 12:24 p.m.

    That's funny that they invented this for people who still want to be active in the winter! It's a good thing that the bikes are nice and heavily built. I also figured out that you can't BUY the bikes, but you can take TURNS on it.

  • 1NolanG
    3/13/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    New ice bikes being used by bikers who live in icy areas. These skates for bikes were made by Lisa Forzclack for people to try out biking and skating in a new way- togther! She has thought of selling these in distributions to other areas.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    3/14/2015 - 05:05 p.m.

    When I first started to read this article the whole idea of riding a bike on ice seemed really weird, but it also has many benefits. People who have trouble skating or keeping their balance on a bike or skates can turn to a ice bike, which doesn't require balance on it's rectangular base that connects to the bike.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    3/15/2015 - 06:04 p.m.

    This is a really cool invention that is both useful and unique. People always complain about winter because of the ice and snow everywhere. However, this bike allows people to mobility to still travel to certain places even with that ice and snow. I hope that these bikes find their ways into stores by this winter.

  • CorsonZ-Tan
    3/16/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    This is a very cool way to have fun. I hope that this idea goes across the country maybe even the world. That is a really cool idea and seems very fun. I truly want to try it myself seems hard at first but i bet if you get use to it then it would work perfectly fine.

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