The Buffalo inventor

December 2015

Lisa Florczak.

Lisa Florczak stands at Buffalo's booming Canalside district. During wintertime, her ice bikes (below) are a regular sight on the frozen canals.

Three years ago, Lisa Florczak, BS ’89, was a stay-at-home mom who wanted to contribute to making Buffalo a great place to live. Today, she runs a booming full-time business and has received global recognition for her invention: the ice bike. 

Research and development

In 2013, she and her husband, Peter, launched Water Bikes of Buffalo on the city’s waterfront, and their bike rentals quickly became a popular seasonal attraction. Last year, as construction began on the Ice at Canalside—a rink on the footprint of the old Erie Canal—Florczak researched, developed and tested her idea for a bicycle that could safely traverse the ice without tearing it up.

With help from General Welding & Fabricating, she devised a frame that attaches to any standard 26-inch coaster bicycle and allows the rider to cruise around the ice.

Ice bike.

A grand unveiling

“We debuted the ice bikes in December 2014, and I’m telling you—what happened next, nobody could have predicted,” she says. “When the Associated Press picked up the story, it literally circled the Earth. Most recently, calls have come from Russia, Dubai and New Zealand inquiring about how to purchase the ice bikes.”

By the end of the season, the company’s fleet of 15 bikes accommodated more than 3,000 customers.

“I’ve heard from many people with special needs who can’t ice skate for whatever reason, and they love the ice bikes,” says Florczak. “It’s a beautiful alternative for many people, including me. I never learned how to skate, so I would go and watch my children. Finally, I can participate.”

Scaling the business

Florczak’s challenge now is to grow her inventory in preparation for worldwide sales, while also managing the day-to-day of her water bike, pedal boat and paddleboat rental operations. No matter how successful it becomes, she promises the company isn’t going anywhere.

“I’ve never been more of a Buffalo booster than I am today,” she says. “As long as I own the ice bike patent, this product will be manufactured and distributed from Buffalo.”

Written by Matthew Biddle, this story originally appeared as part of the cover feature in the autumn 2015 issue of Buffalo Business.