If it were possible for anything to be hot in Buffalo this winter, it was the newfangled "ice bikes" that debuted at an outdoor skating rink. The bicycles on ice skates were an immediate hit when they glided onto the Ice at Canalside the day the mammoth new rink opened on the city's waterfront. Since that December day, the bundled riders who have ignored breath-taking cold to rent them have convinced Lisa Florczak that she's on to something. That, and the inquiries from several other frosty cities in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, and Canada. "I thought I might end up being the laughingstock of the city," Florczak said of Ice Bikes of Buffalo. Instead, she is relishing being part of Buffalo's efforts to revitalize its waterfront. The bikes give even non-skaters a chance to try out the ice, along with the warm nuts, hot cocoa, and craft beer sold at nearby kiosks.
Florczak's family business, Water Bikes of Buffalo, was renting pontoon bikes that let riders pedal the Buffalo River in warmer months when economic development officials put out a call for ideas for the 33,000-square-foot ice rink being built nearby. "I thought, what a perfect opportunity to go from water biking to ice biking," Florczak said. She bought a bike at Walmart and worked with a welding company on a design. The finished product is a 26-inch bike that sits on a rectangular base with a duller blade replacing the front wheel. "No sharp turns," said one rider. "But once you get used to it, it's a pretty nice ride." The inaugural year had 15 bikes on the ice, with riders paying $10 for a half-hour turn. There are plans to sell kits that will let people convert their own bicycles for about $1,500 and the company is hoping for orders will make for a busy offseason. "It's been," Florczak says, "an incredible ride so far." (Read more Buffalo stories.)