The designers at the world's largest furniture retailer are at it again. Ikea is expanding its product line in another surprising direction. First, there was this nifty hydroponics gardening kit for your countertop. This one isn't even for the home.

This summer, Ikea will begin selling a unisex bicycle in its European stores. Called the Sladda, Ikea's new product looks similar to a Dutch bike with upright handlebars. Like all Ikea products, it's a product designed for the masses. It's minimalist and it comes in only one color. The bike will run €699, or about $800. It will be available in two sizes and feature adjustable handlebars so children as young as 12 can use it.

The Sladda -- which roughly translated from Swedish means to slip or skid sideways -- was designed in collaboration with Swedish design studio Veryday. With a lightweight aluminum frame, it's meant to be easy for urban dwellers to carry up and down stairs.

It was designed to require as little maintenance as possible. Since chains easily rust, need oil, and require maintenance, the Sladda uses a belt drive instead. The belt drive is supposed to last up to 15,000 kilometers, or a little over 9,000 miles -- two to three times as long as a regular chain. To brake, you simply pedal backward. The bike also uses an automatic system to change gears.

Like an iPad, but a bike.

Oskar Juhlin, director of industrial design at Veryday, said the design of the Sladda is centered around making life easier for rides so it can be a strong alternative to a car.

You can buy the Sladda as-is, or you can buy any number of accessories to make the bike better suited for your lifestyle. Add-on products include racks, a custom bag that doubles as a backpack, and a trailer. By comparing the Sladda to a tablet with apps in a  press release, Juhlin also hinted that other manufacturers may be able to create accessories for the Sladda.

The Sladda has already started to rake in the design awards. It's been awarded a  Red Dot Design Award. The bike also won a "Best of the Best" Red Dot award.

Why it's time for Ikea to move beyond furniture. 

When you're the largest furniture retailer in the world, what happens when you've saturated the market with your products?

Earlier this year, design magazine Dezeen reported that Ikea's sustainability chief Steve Howard admitted the demand for home furnishings has hit its max in Western markets. "If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff," said Howard during The Guardian's Sustainable Business debate. "We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff ... peak home furnishings."

Howard said Ikea aims to double its sales by 2020. This step toward more environmentally friendly products provides a bit of insight into the company's strategy to deliver on that goal. By offering a wider variety of products that serve more purposes beyond in-home functionality, it looks as though Ikea is headed in a smart direction for growth.

Published on: Apr 15, 2016
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