Dave Chant takes a pragmatic approach to encouraging more people to try two-wheeled transportation.
“My advocacy is through ubiquitous bikes,” says the founder of Toronto-based Beater Bikes, a company that makes economical city rides pared down to their care-free essentials. His Mark Two models recently debuted in the U.S.
‘Cheap Can Be Good‘
Chant reasons that the simpler, more maintenance-free and affordable bicycles are, the more attractive and accessible they become as a transportation option — especially in urban settings. While much of the industry focuses on adding new features and technology, Chant says he strives to strip unneeded extras away, concentrating on sourcing basic, quality components at low cost including, for example, single-piece cranks. Perhaps not surprisingly, Chant reported last week that New York City is thus far the leading market for his Beaters.
“I started the company in reaction to the cheap bikes sold in department stores that have stuff you don’t need: nobly tires, frames without ergonomic sense, full shocks,” Chant says. “The idea is to build a good, simple bike.”
“Making it a beater, you don’t have to worry about locking up, so you’ll use it more,” he continues. “Because it’s inexpensive and decent to ride, there’s no barrier to use — nothing to hold you back.”
How affordable is a Beater? Try $299.99 for a single-speed and $399.99 for a 3-speed. That buys a steel frame, wheels with double-walled alloy rims and either a coaster brake hub or a 3-speed Sturmey Archer coaster hub. City-ready features include front and rear fenders, 3/4 chain guard, a rear rack and retro light on the step-through and front and rear racks on the roadster, and a double kickstand.
“You can have any color, as long as it’s British racing green,” Chant adds.
Birth of the Beater
Chant had no background in bicycle making when his idea for Beater was born. He was a cycling enthusiast and racer who had six bikes in his garage, and whose resume included advertising, TV production and art. So, he channeled his passion into a business. Chant offered the first, limited editions of the bikes through his Toronto showroom and online in 2009 and 2010, and lent bikes to test-riders in Toronto and NYC to get them out on the streets.
As he evolved the business, Chant tinkered with the balance of features, continuing to streamline and improve his designs. Early six-speed derailleur model? Too complicated. Rivets in the saddle? They looked good, but tended to rust, and who needed the hassle? A decal evolved into a head-badge. (For a period last summer, Chant was personally adding new head badges to Beaters parked around Toronto.)
I was one of the early testers in NYC, so it was a great to see the final designs introduced last September at the Interbike industry trade show in Las Vegas. Prior versions, now discontinued, and concept bikes can still be viewed on the company’s website. Retailers are listed there, as well: in NYC Beaters are sold through Hudson Urban Bicycles.
“A cheap bike can be a good bike,” concludes Chant. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Top photo: Beater Bikes