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Detroit Bike City

A few years ago, I read a blog about bicycle laws written by a Detroit personal injury lawyer.  It was clear the writer was a good attorney who understood the law, but not a person who spent much time on a bicycle.  In the blog, the lawyer stated that Detroit was not a place where anyone would ride a bike.

Predictably, there was a bit of backlash in the comments that followed the blog. Readers made it clear that they rode bikes in Detroit and that they felt it was a great place to ride.  Reading the blog and the comments that followed brought back memories to my first several years as an attorney.  I would often ride loops around Belle Isle after work, before the coed lawyers softball games, or even on my lunch break.  Yet, I also knew there were many Metro Detroiters who had no idea what a great city Detroit was for bikes and, more importantly, the potential the city had to be a truly outstanding bicycle city.

Fast forward a few decades and anyone who lives or spends any time in Detroit knows it is, without reservation, a great bike city.  While in the early 90’s, dedicated Detroiters and hard-core commuters frequently rode bikes in the city, it now has something to offer for all cyclists.

Detroit is where i roll

Bicycle Infrastructure

Detroit has over 150 miles of bike lanes which continue to grow at a rapid pace (not bad for a city that had absolutely zero bike lanes just 6 years ago).  Thanks to the Detroit Greenways Coalition and the work of other organizations, an intricate network of greenways is also being developed, which includes existing projects such as the Detroit Riverwalk and Dequindre Cut.  The city also has a large number of parks that are ideal for biking, including Belle Isle (a 982-acre island park with interior roads and a wide open road that circles the perimeter of the island) and Rouge Park, which has 6 miles of paved pathways.

Recurring Rides

Beat the Train For years, this group has met at Detroit’s Historic Fort Wayne every Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. for a two-wheeled urban adventure covering approximately 30 miles.

Slow Roll. The largest recurring bike ride in Michigan which takes place every Monday night, at various locations throughout the city.  The ride typically has over 3,000 riders.

Palmer Park Bike Rides.  A casual-paced recurring ride leaving from Palmer Park on Thursday nights.

Organized Rides

Tour de Troit.  An annual ride of approximately 30 miles with a police escort and SAG-support which occurs each September.  In 2014, the event had over 7,000 riders.

Baroudeur.  2015 is the inaugural year of this Detroit gran fondo, which has been organized by Wayne State University in an effort to raise money for student scholarships.  The event will take place on Saturday, August 22, 2015, and riders will have the option of traveling 20, 55, 62, or 100 miles.

Bike Shops

Back Alley Bikes.  A non-profit bike shop that has been operating in Detroit’s Cass Corridor for over 15 years.  The shop provides a variety of programs, including training to become a bicycle mechanic.  Back Alley Bikes also gives bicycles to kids by providing bikes to schools, churches, and other community organizations.

The Hub of Detroit.  A full-service bicycle shop located in the Cass Corridor which opened in 2008.  The shop sells new and used bikes, and also performs bicycle repairs.  The shop is managed by Kyle Wiswall, a former New York attorney.  100% of the proceeds from used bike and parts sales at The Hub of Detroit are used to support Back Alley Bikes.

Metropolis Bikes.  This bike shop opened this Spring, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.  It is located on Michigan Avenue in a 3,200 square foot building across from the enormously popular Slows Bar B Q.  Metropolis’s co-founders are Shayne O’Keefe and Ted Sliwinski, both mechanics who previously worked at The Hub of Detroit. The shop performs repairs and sells Bianchi and Raleigh bicycles.

Detroit Bikes 1216.  In 2012, Zak Pashak purchased a 50,000 square foot factory and founded Detroit Bikes. The company mass-produces bicycles on Detroit’s westside and recently opened its showroom at 1216 Griswold Street.  The showroom is managed by Michigan bike industry veteran, Bill Sirl. Only two bike models are available – The Detroit Bikes A-Type and B-Type. Detroit Bikes t-shirts and accessories can also be purchased at the store. The showroom sports trendy architectural details and the bikes are displayed in a manner that make the shop feel like an Apple Store than a bike shop.  It is definitely worth a visit.

Left to right – Zak Pashak  (founder and president of Detroit Bikes), Bike Law Bryan, Chris Kiesling (founder of Motorless City Bike Co):

20150506_184028(0)

Motorless City Bicycle Co.  Located in Detroit’s Eastern Market, this fantastic new bike shop celebrated its grand opening on May 16, 2015.  The shop is owned by Chris Kiesling and Al Schlutow, who are both custom frame builders.  In fact, Kiesling provided significant guidance in the original design of the bicycles being produced at Detroit Bikes.  Accordingly, it is no surprise that the shop carries commuter bikes from Detroit Bikes. However, it also carries a variety of bikes from Fuji, Civia, and Surly.  All good options, but for what makes this shop unique is the ability for customers to have one of these craftsmen build a custom frame for his/her specific needs.

Bike Races

Two of the most popular cyclocross races in the State of Michigan occur in Detroit.

Mad Anthony CX.  An annual event held at Detroit’s Historic Fort Wayne.  Racers ride around the perimeter of the fort, enter the fort through a tunnel, and are challenged by a steep descent into the fort’s moat.  An extremely popular event with fans, due to the fact that it allows spectating from unique vantage points, as well as an opportunity to visit a fort and barracks originally constructed in the 1840’s. Last year, the start gun was replaced with the firing of one of the fort’s cannons!

Great photo by Rob Ritzenhein. Check out his work here.

Mad Anthony Cannon

Detroit Invitational Cyclocross Race.  This unsanctioned race takes place in November at Dorais Park and is the brainchild of Jeff Wood, who is known to regular cylcocross racers as the “Cyclocross Czar.”  Not confined by any of the rules and regulations that come with sanctioned events, the Detroit Invitational’s one and only mission is fun. Fun for racers and fun for spectators.  The race typically features a tequila shot shortcut and finishes on an old cement velodrome.  Additionally, young spectators are encouraged to pelt racers with snowballs (race organizers have the snow delivered from a local ice rink).

Bicycle Culture

Cadieux Café on Detroit’s eastside has long been the city’s center for Flemish culture, a starting (or finishing) point for many bicycle rides, and home of the Cadieux Bicycle Club which hosts a criterium each summer.

Cykle is a new bike-friendly bar near Detroit’s Grand Circus Park, which is also sure to become a favorite destination for cyclists.

 

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