Ikea

The Sladda bicycle was an attempt to help city-dwellers ease into life without cars. Now a sweeping recall is bringing the product to its demise.

In the end, the Ikea bike wasn’t tough enough for the streets. The Swedish furniture company announced last week that it’s recalling all of its Sladda bicycles due to safety issues and canceling all production. Them’s the breaks.

Marketed as the “the perfect bike for urban mobility,” the flat-packed Sladda stood in as a muse for the company’s sustainable vision for city living. At $399 it was relatively inexpensive for a new bike, and easy enough to imagine hopeful shoppers picking one up alongside dressers and bookshelves after moving to a new city.

When it launched in Europe in late 2016, a feature on the Sladda’s designers in Ikea Today pitched it as a practical, everyday vehicle designed to “break down barriers” for would-be urban cyclists. Ikea emphasized the “big picture” of getting more people riding bikes as an alternative to cars in our increasingly urbanized world—even if there was some assembly required. But in retrospect, even as the home furnishing company celebrated the Sladda as “a Scandinavian bike for the world,” Ikea was appropriately down-to-earth about its prospects as a bike maker:

IKEA will never be a bike company but it can use its principles of Democratic Design—form, function, sustainability and low price to influence behavioural change. For IKEA, this is an investment in the future.

Ultimately a flawed drive belt did the commuter bicycle in. The company said in its recall statement that it has received 11 reports of the belt snapping, with two incidents resulting in minor injuries, adding that “a well-established component supplier” advised them to recall the bike.

The belt drive in action. (CityLab)

That belt drive was originally a selling point, chosen over a conventional metal chain to eliminate maintenance needs and make bike ownership a little easier for the novice. But that choice also made it impossible for Ikea to simply swap in a chain on the bike, which won awards for its design. Fast Company reports that Ikea sold about 4,900 bikes in the United States.

Ikea is offering a full refund on the bike and the accessory racks, panniers, and utility cart that promised to turn the two-wheeler into a convenient car-replacement vehicle for cargo. (When I reviewed the Sladda last year for CityLab, it managed to pull an Ikea dresser safely on an attachable trailer.) So raise an Allen wrench in tribute to mark the shelving of the Ikea Sladda—you were too fragile for this world.

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