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We Tried Riding (And Building) Ikea’s Flat-Packed Bike

The Sladda requires some assembly, but once you figure out the instructions, you have a very rideable urban bike.

If you can build a Billy bookcase, you can build an Ikea bike.

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When Ikea’s new Sladda bike arrived at my apartment–flat-packed in a giant box almost as tall as I am–it took me a few minutes just to open the package. Inside, the carefully arranged, only partially assembled pile of bike parts looked incomprehensible to someone who has never changed a tire. But a little more than an hour later, without any real understanding of what I was doing, I had a fully assembled bike.

[Photo: courtesy of the author]

It wasn’t perfect; I realized, when the front brake didn’t work, that I’d put on the wheel the wrong way. I had to reassemble the kickstand. Ikea’s usual wordless instructions weren’t always clear. But by using the same self-assembly and packing approach that it uses for furniture, the company was able to keep the price of bike relatively low.

As with its furniture design, Ikea focused on how to make the bike as flat as possible in a box. The quick-release front wheel is slightly narrower than a standard wheel, for example, and the extra millimeters of space make it possible to fit one additional layer of bikes into a shipping container.

Video: Ikea Released Its First Bike—And We Attempted To Build It

The general philosophy of flat-packing is that it saves fuel and cost in shipping. “When using flat packages we improve the filling rate in shipping containers, which means that we can pack more products into each truck or container,” Per Stigenius, product developer at Ikea of Sweden, tells Co.Exist. “This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of making transport more efficient, and it helps us to reduce our costs and in return to lower the price for the customer.”

The bike also comes in a single color–a minimalist gray, with one small Ikea decal–and only two sizes, also helping keep the price lower.

The bike costs $499 (for Ikea “Family” members, $399), but includes high-end features like a low-maintenance belt drive instead of a chain, and automatic gears, along with extras like front and rear lights. The solid (and somewhat heavy) frame comes with a 25-year warranty. It’s easy and comfortable to ride, at least in a flat city; on the rainy day I tested it, the bike stopped easily and the fenders kept me relatively dry.

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Maybe the most interesting feature of the bike is the click-on system for attachments: Ikea also sells a cargo trailer that easily connects to the back of the bike, and front and rear racks that pop on and off more quickly than those on a standard bike. The system is meant to make it easier to temporarily carry a heavy load, and, in theory, get more people out of cars.

[All Photos: Ikea]

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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