David Chant, owner of Resist Gallery in Toronto, had enough of the cheap but disfunctional department store bikes. He decided to do something about it by "curating" a bike for the masses: the Beater Bike. Dave endeavoured to create an inexpensive bike that was still strong and practical for the urban experience. I went to its launch party at Dave's Gallery/Showroom.
These sturdy, steel bikes are assembled in Bulgaria and the frames come from China. Canadian tariffs are much lower on EU bikes compared to Chinese bikes: 15% versus 150%. Dave took the "Henry Ford approach of offering any colour the customer may want so long as it was army green. The costs are reduced by offering only one size, one colour, and two different frames: step-through and "regular".
The whole process started only 9 months ago, but was delayed by the unavailability of ships to Montreal due to the global recession. Despite the late launch Dave is confident that he'll sell them through the fall and chalk it up to a learning experience. Next year Dave is planning to offer an even more stripped down bike, possibly an "ugly" fixie or coaster brake with a front drum brake. He'll also be looking for bike stores to start stocking the Beater Bike.
Dave hopes to keep the price below the psychological level of $300, purportedly to better match the prices at Canadian Tire and Wal-mart. His bikes currently don't have an "official" warranty. Given that no large retail shop carries these bikes it's uncertain what kind of impact these bikes can have. It's likely that any bike shop that carries Beater Bikes will need to put a minimum mark-up of 30% which would put the price before taxes to above $400. Still a reasonable price, given what people get for it, but not at the level to overcome the North American psychological barrier of seeing bikes as play things.
Is Beater Bikes falling into the trap of people expecting to pay so little for an important form of transportation? What's the point of paying $300 for a bike if you have to spend $200 a year later to get an overhaul? One, you don't end up saving much money, and two, you're creating more trouble for yourself down the road. This is what some people call a BSO (bike-shaped object). Dave's heart is in the right place of wanting to draw people away from department stores, but he's not helping much to help people take bicycles as serious modes of transportation.
For now you can purchase the Beater Bike from his gallery, 284 College, or online.