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. They glided onto the Ice at Canalside the day the new rink opened on the city's waterfront.

That was in December. Since then, 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. Localities in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Canada are 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. The city wants to 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. There also are warm nuts and hot cocoa sold at nearby kiosks.

Florczak's family business is Water Bikes of Buffalo. It was renting pontoon bikes that let riders pedal the Buffalo River in warmer months. Then economic development officials put out a call for ideas for a 33,000-square-foot ice rink. It was 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. Then she 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. It 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 they have no need to balance. Riders brake by pedaling backward.

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

Wolf has Parkinson's disease. He 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 (79)
  • DT00x3
    3/12/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    Buffalo is challenged to develope a waterfront year round so they can draw people year-round and even when the lakes are frozen so the can get money by using it for an ice skating rink basically.

  • s.s2001sing
    3/12/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    I think this is really creative! This gives people,who LOVE to ride bikes, a chance to ride in the winter on ice, with no problems...and yes it does seem like it has been an incedible ride so far, because it looks so fun! Personally i would ride one of those things. I think this is also a good idea for those who don't enjoy skating on ice.

  • 21dwwart
    3/12/2015 - 12:02 p.m.

    I really liked this article. I think the bikes wold be a lot of fun to ride. I wish we had some around here.

  • JackR-5
    3/12/2015 - 12:14 p.m.

    Biking on ice is popular in Buffalo New York. New invented has made a fade bike with ice cubes. It is very popular because you don't need to balance and it is a new thing to try. People rent the bikes for $10 for 30 minutes. The inventor took a bite to a welding shop they put skates on it so they could skate there. Right now everybody wants to try it. I think that biking on ice would be very fun. It's great that things are being invented even today.

  • nightowl
    3/12/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    i hope the ice breaks that would be kindof funny just to tell the doctor i was riding a bike on ice thats why my rib is broken ?

  • RJC2000Red
    3/12/2015 - 01:06 p.m.

    Because its very cold and the water creates ice so they cant do their daily activities

  • ocyrus86
    3/12/2015 - 01:06 p.m.

    Ive never saw someone ever bike ice, but it actually seems really cool.I think that I might go sometime next winter when the snow comes back.

  • SydneyD-Kut
    3/12/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    I think ice bikes are a great idea!! Its a great way to stay active during the cold.I also think its great that's its a family business. I think it really will attract people to buffalo.I also think its a great price to ride the bikes because it is not very expense.I hope one day we can have ice bikes in Michigan

  • chases-And
    3/12/2015 - 03:45 p.m.

    So in the new England states they have had a lot of snow. So they have made and ice bike because you cant really ride you bike on ice so they but skates instead of a wheel.

  • SadieB-1
    3/12/2015 - 08:22 p.m.

    Lisa Florczak put bikes on ice states that people can ride efficiently on ice in Buffalo, New York. Her family business is Water Bikes that people can ride up and down the Buffalo River. There are many kiosks with hot nuts and hot chocolate and the bikes were debuted at a new ice rink. Lisa says she thought she would be the laughingstock of the city, but the bikes took of. She calls the business Ice Bikes of Buffalo, and the only problem with them is that sharp turns take a little getting used to. I think this is a very creative idea and I would like to try riding one.

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