It's been about a year since I last jammed my finger putting together IKEA furniture. It was for my brand new apartment, and even though I broke a sweat and a little skin at the top of my hand, I saved a ton of money - that's the benefit of outfitting your home in IKEA housewares. Now, your favourite Swedish furniture brand is selling the same agonizing experience in a bicycle made for everyone.
The Sladda is a $799 cruiser built to outrun and outlast anything else you could buy for that price at your local bike shop. It comes flat-packed, just like one of IKEA's shitty bookshelves, and ships with a set of instructions that contain no words and metal tools that do not appear the least bit durable. The instructions, as confusing as they appear, suggest that piecing the Sladda together is a 10-step process.
So I chose to see if that was true. Couldn't be that hard, right?
The Sladda is one of the messiest IKEA products I've ever laid hands on. There were heaps of trash including a TV-sized cardboard box the whole thing was shipped in. It takes a few minutes to get everything loose, and while you're breaking the whole package open, you begin to realise that it's going to take real effort to build this stupid bike.
Step one was to cut the wire ties keeping the box together. That immediately spilled all of the parts out in front of me and led to an unwritten sub step — identifying all the parts. The biggest was a heap of aluminium, plastic, and paper tied together. I set it aside, as it appeared to be the bulk of the bike, and opened a smaller box with loose parts. The parts didn't look anything like the directions.
Everything blended together.
There were more wire ties on the giant heap, so I returned to it with my scissors and just kept cutting in the hope that a bicycle would magically appear in front of me.
Once the all the parts were loose, things got easier. You have a seat post, kickstand, handlebars, pedals, front wheel, and mud guard (included, but not necessary for a functional bike).
The directions instruct you to attach the kickstand, probably to build you up before knocking you down later with harder tasks. The kickstand is hard to mess up. Later in the process, the nuance increases.
IKEA has you start with the easiest component first.
You tighten the kickstand into place, then slide the seat post into the frame. At this point you have half of a bike. The final part of the build is the front wheel and handlebars.
The front wheel is basically comprised of three components that need to be assembled. The mud guard goes on the underbelly of the bike frame, which makes it harder to reach the screw slots. I recommend flipping the bike upside down while you're working on the front wheel.
The wheel itself is easy to attach because it uses a quick release, so you don't need any tools to get it into place. You push a skewer through the wheel's axle hub (the very center of the wheel) and tighten a bolt on the end of it. You use the handle on the opposite end of the skewer to clamp the wheel into place. It's super intuitive and almost impossible to mess up.
The handlebars are a little trickier to get in place. There's a joint in the middle that swings open and closed to adjust the handlebars' distance from the seat. Opening the joint puts the handlebars closer to the seat and makes them easier to hold while sitting upright. Closing the joint moves the handlebars in an aggressive stance, leaning into the front wheel to be more aerodynamic.
Handlebar joint completely open. (Image: Gizmodo)
Handlebar joint closed, leaning all the way forward. (Image: Gizmodo)
I ended up choosing the more laid back position because that's more my style. After 1 hour and 7 minutes of vigorous hex key employment, I had a pretty decent looking bike. I went back and tuned all the different pieces, but most were done correctly the first time around. I made small adjustments to the seat height and handlebar reach — and that was it. Done.
As bikes shipped across country and put together in the office on a Friday night go — the Sladda was a breeze. It didn't appear to need a bicycle mechanic's services for tightening chains or adjusting brake cables. All it really needed was someone who can follow IKEA's weird picture instructions and turn a hex key.
You'll notice the frame is a weird hybrid combination of step-through and city bike frame. The same can be said about the bike's handlebars. They're a weird hybrid that are slightly curved and can be positioned aggressively (all the way forward) or in a more chill position, so you can reach them while sitting upright.
But those small features pale in comparison to what is easily the most cool part of this bike: the belt drive. We've tested other bikes with belt drives, and they always generate a much smoother ride that your traditional bicycle. They also don't require grease and last thousands of miles. There's no question when it comes to durability.
Another strangely high-performance part of the Sladda is the disc brake on the front wheel. There are coaster brakes on the pedals (meaning you can pedal backwards to stop), but the disc brake, usually found in higher-end bicycles, adds more stopping power and is easier to modulate.
What isn't easy to modulate are the gears on the Sladda. It only has two gears, and you can't even choose which one you're in. It runs on automatic transmission, meaning it adjusts between harder or softer gears based on your pedalling.
Consequently climbing hills was brutal — like I was getting no support from the highest gear. It's what I imagine riding a Citi Bike feels like. You can power through it, standing in the seat and pumping on the pedals — but it's not graceful.
Neither is going downhill, but it's a lot more fun. The bike shines on flat and downhill surfaces because of its large 15kg body. It picks up serious speed and the lowest gear provides a solid level of resistance to go even faster. IKEA also sells a basket and rear rack that, when mounted, would make this a solid commuter. I'd happily (and did) ride this thing around the neighbourhood park any day.
But would I recommend the IKEA bike? It surprisingly checks most of the boxes for me. Unlike many cheap bikes you order online and build yourself the Sladda has a belt drive and disc brakes and is virtually maintenance free. I just wish it didn't come with an automatic shifter. It became a real problem when I was going up super steep hills. Thankfully IKEA isn't the only company making cheap bikes with a belt drive, and for the same price, you can get a similar bike from Priority Bicycles with belt drive, no disc brakes, and far fewer pounds (and a much less customisable handlebar). The IKEA Sladda is a nice bike and it comes from a name that you're familiar with — but it's not the only bicycle on the street. Shop around before dropping your $US400 ($530).
- At 15kg, the bike is a heavy.
- An automatic transmission shifts gears for you while you pedal. It sucks.
- Handles bumps and potholes better than expected.
- The hybrid frame and handlebars make it comfortable for everyone.
- $799 is a reasonable price for the components, but I wouldn't consider it a deal.