In terms of their viability in an Internet-fueled economy, bike shops have one distinct advantage over book shops: It ain’t cheap to ship a bicycle. Bikes are big, and bikes are heavy—a lethal postal combination—and as a result, in-person purchases still make plenty of sense. To the designers at Bleijh Industrial, a Dutch studio, this posed an irresistible challenge. Is it possible to build a more shippable bike? Their answer: yes, with some assembly required.
The Sandwichbike won’t look much like a bike at all when it shows up on your doorstep. It arrives as a flat-packed box full of parts, just under fifty in all, along with the tools you’ll need to put it all together. And even after you get it assembled, it still might not look like any other bike you’ve seen.
That mostly has to do with the frame, from which the product takes its name. Instead of the conventional welded steel, the Sandwichbike opts for two weatherproof pieces of plywood, stacked like a sandwich and held together with snap-in-place "smart cylinders." The whole thing may seem a little like one of those kits that let kids build their own toys, but the designers assure us that the final product is a "durable rock-solid piece of technology."
It’s a novel build, even if it doesn’t immediately inspire confidence. And that novelty was very much one of the project’s goals. Basten Leijh, the studio’s founder, says the Sandwichbike was an opportunity to challenge conventional wisdom about many facets of bicycles, including their design, construction, and sale. "We found it useful and interesting to redesign all steps of the cycle," he says. "New production, new materials, new graphic possibilities, new ways of selling bikes, [and] the possibilities of re-collecting parts after use to use again in new bikes."
As is the case with any successfully completed Ikea product, there has to be some satisfaction to building a bike with your own hands, though admittedly the stakes for a poorly assembled coffee table are a lot lower than what we’re talking about here. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to ride one, the Sandwichbike does prove one thing: with a little effort, we can make just about anything suitable for e-commerce.
The studio is finalizing production plans for the Sandwichbike, so there’s no word yet on what it might cost.