Is the Danforth Still the Home of Toronto’s Best Affordable Bikes?
For two decades, Cyclemania has been the go-to shop for the $300 urban bike. Can the market support two recent organizations that make similar products?
Cyclemania has been located on the Danforth for 17 years and follows an uncommon business model: owner Lubo Hoferica designs many of his low-end bikes himself. It’s common for boutique shops to help riders pick all the parts for their bikes, but their customers are willing to spend thousands of dollars.
Hoferica instead imports frames from Europe or Taiwan and then builds up Cyclemania-brand bikes with parts he has selected. These bikes mainly fall within the $300-500 range. But Cyclemania is no longer alone in designing affordable bikes for Toronto’s specific cycling environment of snow, salt, and streetcar tracks.
One potential rival, Beater Bikes, started in late 2009. Owner David Chant also runs an art gallery and commercial production company located at College and Spadina.
In Beater’s first production run, which has now sold out, the company offered only one model. The $300 bikes, inspired by the 50-year-old roadsters Chant sees still being ridden around Toronto, were manufactured in China and assembled in Bulgaria.
Hoferica has fixed a couple of Beaters. The bike is “well built even if it doesn’t cost a lot of money, ” he says.
The nonprofit co-op Bike Sauce, which opened in April 2010 at Queen East and Broadview, also sells refurbished, volunteer-built bikes in the under-$300 range.
At Bike Sauce, however, no two bikes are the same. Their prices start at $40. “And I don’t think we’ve ever sold anything over $300,” says co-founder Anibal Davila.
Bike Sauce also sells project bikes from $20, where volunteers provide customers with parts, tools and instruction.
Indeed, although Bike Sauce sells every bike they put together, “selling refurbished bikes is not our mission. It’s how we sustain it,” says Davila. “Our mission is to provide DIY space.”
Canadian Tire and Walmart
Canadian Tire and Walmart sell what Chant calls “fashion bikes,” which are priced similarly to Cyclemania and Beater bikes but are equipped with flashy components to make them look more expensive. Prioritizing flash leaves less money for simple, high-quality parts where they are needed.
“If [chain stores] directed their energies into the same price point but making their bikes practical, they’d be unstoppable,” Chant says. “Are we stealing customers from Walmart? I hope so.”
“I think there’s tons of room until we can drive Canadian Tire out of business,” Davila affirms.
The Bike Market
There’s room in the market for Cyclemania, Beater, and Bike Sauce, all the founders say.
Beater is a “competitor in that [one] model, but it’s only one bike,” Hoferica says.
“Local bike stores are just that, local,” Chant says. “The competition is good and there’s room for more.”
Ultimately, the city can support all three organizations because they focus on different markets. Cyclemania is a full-service bike store that sells many different models with their own brand, Bike Sauce is a co-op that sells used bikes, and Beater is a manufacturer.