I first saw IKEA's SLADDA cruiser a year ago — in Sweden. I was attending the equivalent of Comic Con for design nerds: IKEA's Democratic Design Days. It was awesome. And the fact that IKEA was now making a bike was the cherry on top. It was so cute, so very IKEA. I imagined pedaling it over to the farmers market to pick up the season's bounty, loading it in my basket, and then peddling home to make tomato galette and mint and snap pea salad.
When, a year later, my bike finally arrived, I was giddy with excitement. And then I opened the box and realized: I'd have to assemble it myself. Well, of course, you might be saying. This is IKEA; some assembly required is basically their company motto.
So, I set about putting together and then taking my new cruiser out for a ride. Here's how it went.
IKEA SLADDA Bicycle: The Assembly
Like most IKEA products, the SLADDA bicycle comes with many plastic pouches of tiny screws and nuts and wrenches, plus a paper pamphlet of instructions with a cartoon man and lots of images. All told, it took me about an hour to get the bike put together.
At that point, I stepped back, looked at my work and felt proud. It looked like a bike! It had pedals and a handlebar and even an add-on basket (sold separately). The kickstand worked! I counted it a success and admired my work every time I walked past the bike in my entryway.
Here's the thing, though, about anything I assemble from IKEA: When I put it all together, it usually looks right, but I'm always wondering when it's going to fall apart. In the case of the SLADDA bicycle, the answer was exactly 15 seconds. I crashed and burned literally five feet from my apartment building.
Now, this says more about my ability to follow the IKEA instructions (I am not a visual person — can we please get some words?) than it does about the stability of IKEA products. But, let's be honest: Would you put your life in the hands of your LACK side table? (The correct answer is no.)
The Test Run: Take 1
It was a full week (or more!) from the time that I assembled my bike to finally deciding to take it out for a test run. Mostly that was because my new nephew arrived and I went up to Vermont to visit. It was also because it was either stinking hot outside or pouring rain.
Finally, the perfect day arrived and I decided to take it for a spin. Getting it out of my apartment was a bit awkward. It's a lot clunkier and a lot heavier than my normal bike (a racing bike). Also, the basket kept throwing me off and I couldn't tell if my handlebars were on straight. They seemed OK?
They were not.
Luckily, I escaped with only a minor scrape.
The Test Run: Take 2
A few tightening turns in a few different places seemed to solve the problem, so a week later, I took SLADDA out for another spin — to my favorite yoga studio, which is about four miles away.
I was surprised to make it up the VERY STEEP hill without dismounting. The bike has a two gear hub that automatically downshifts when you stop or when you're climbing hills. I also liked the fact that I could back pedal to brake, but that there was a hand brake as well. You can never have too many brakes, in my opinion.
The bike did make some disconcerting rattling noises, which were even more alarming on my (downhill) return trip. Was that the front basket clattering or was my wheel about to fall off?
Speaking of baskets, while the basket is quite cute, I didn't feel confident enough to put anything in the basket. Instead I wore my backpack — which sort of defeats the purpose of a basket? Probably I wouldn't have tipped over, but, given that I built this bike, I wasn't taking any risks.
I did get home safe and sound, no mishaps, which is always a plus and never a guarantee when cycling in Brooklyn.
The Bottom Line
I really want to say I loved this bike. I love IKEA! They make things that are smart, stylish, and affordable. But, while SLADDA is stylish — I got quite a lot of compliments — it's not all that affordable relative to other cruisers (it's $499 if you're not an IKEA Family member!). And I'm not sure how smart it is to ride a bike you don't feel 100 percent safe on.
I got this bike, hoping to take it to my neighborhood farmers market. The basket could have hauled my fresh bounty! But there is a giant hill (a mini mountain?) that I'd have to climb (both ways!) and I'm not sure I'm willing to do that just yet. Before I rode it again, I'd probably take it to a bike shop to make sure that wheel wasn't going to fall off after all. My advice? Stick to all the other goods IKEA does so well.
Go shopping: 15 Smart & Inexpensive Kitchen Goods to Buy at IKEA