Portland Business Finds Niche Building Book Bikes

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Icicle Tricycle’s book bike has found a solid place in the line-up next to the company’s ice cream and coffee trikes. (All photos courtesy Icicle Tricycles)

Books and bikes are powerful tools that have helped improve people’s lives for ages. A local company combines them in way that makes the sum greater than its parts.

The “Book Bike” from Icicle Tricycles has become a staple in libraries across North America. First offered in 2008, these human-powered bookmobiles have become a hot seller for the company headquartered in Portland. Owner Ryan Hashagen says there are hundreds of them in use and the pandemic has boosted demand even higher.

For some customers, the trikes double as promotional tools and mobile units that can take books outdoors. Others use them exclusively for street-based book sharing services. And they’re not just for libraries. Icicle Tricycles has sold book bikes to bookstores, nonprofits and museums.

One of Hashagen’s favorite customers was the Canada-based, First Nation nonprofit Yukon Literacy Council. They use a book bike to reach people in remote villages. “They put one of our trikes in the back of a pickup and pedal it into villages to restock reading shelves in community centers and schools,” Hashagen shared.

Hashagen has been pedaling, building, and selling trikes for 22 years. He runs two locations in Portland; one in Old Town and one in the Central Eastside (Icicle Tricycle also has a location in Victoria, BC). Many of you might know him as a dedicated transportation activist who has taken leadership roles with Better Block PDX and as a member of the Central Eastside Industrial Council transportation advisory committee.

Icicle Tricycles has refined the design each year and Hashagen says the 2021 model is “Our best design yet.” Each trike is built to the customer’s specs and custom graphics are a popular option. The company prints the vinyl wraps and builds the wooden boxes in their workshop where the bikes are designed, assembled, and shipped.

The latest version comes complete with a built-in chalkboard, a front shelf to use as a laptop workstation and/or payment center, and of course tons of book storage space. There are shelves inside the cargo box and on the side door that swings open. The bikes come with a 7-speed drivetrain and my personal favorite option: An umbrella holster. Depending on the configuration, each bike can carry around 150-300 books. If you’re worried about the weight, they have an electric-assist option available.

Prices range from $2,500 to $3,500 for a turn-key book bike (add $1,200 for the e-assist). Follow the company on Twitter at @IcicleTricycles or at IceTrikes.com.

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