May 6

The Wish List: Detroit Bikes

Now that spring is here, and the weather is warming up (or at least trying to,) the urge to get outside and start shedding some of this winter poundage is getting stronger. My running routine is finally shaping up, and that’s great, but sometimes it’s nice to hop on the bike and cruise… Which leads me to my latest gear crush, the Detroit Bike.

Detroit-Bikes-1While I love cycling, the problem I have right now is that my current bike is, well, I don’t really know how to put this, well it’s shitty. It’s a Schwinn, which by itself is OK. But it’s a Schwinn bike I impulse bought at a Target one day a few years ago because I thought it looked cool. I can say unequivocally that this is the absolute worst possible situation in which to purchase a new bicycle. “You get what you pay for” comes loudly to mind every time I look at this hunk of Chinese-made junk sitting in the shed. And that’s where it is about 99.999% of the time.. in the shed. At best, it’s no fun to ride. At worst, it’s a pain in the ass.

This bike is so poorly made, and so poorly assembled, that riding it somehow manages to suck every ounce of joy of of the experience. It’s bad. It’s really bad. I got what I paid for. Luckily, I didn’t pay much, which is the problem. “I should’ve known better” comes loudly to mind.

So while I wait to either hit the lotto or for my change jar to fill up (about 10 times over), I spend a lot of time looking at bikes on websites. There’s so many cool bikes out there, quality bikes you’ll never find at Wal-Mart or Target, or whatever big-box retail store suckers (like me) go to to buy bikes. But I’ve been looking for something specific, something different.

Hipster beard not included.
Hipster beard not included.
I don’t want a racing bike. I don’t want a mountain bike. I’m not interested in speed. I’m not interested in racing. I’m definitely not interested in riding my bike off-road through the woods. I just want a bike to RIDE. Slowly. Relaxedly. I want to start a Slow Bike Movement. Life is so fast, and I can’t help but wonder why everybody on their bikes wants to go so damn fast all the time.

Bicycling, on-road and off, has seen a bit of a renaissance lately, at least around here. Everybody is into biking all of a sudden. I’d go so far as to say that cycling has become the symbol of the mid-life crisis for my generation. Middle-aged men (and women, but mostly men) are spending thousands of dollars on carbon fiber bike frames and donning very tight, very colorful, very corporate logo-covered jerseys and BIKING. Now, I’m not making fun of these people. Biking is a much better healthier mid-life crisis activity than buying Corvette Stingrays and gold chains. It’s just an observation.

But my point is, all these people who are getting into biking are seemingly so hardcore SERIOUS about it. Entering races, obsessing over the latest gear and their mile averages… Again, not criticizing. I have no problem with anybody doing any of this. I think it’s great. Being health-conscious and physically fit is the way to live life. But for me? I don’t want a $5000 bike, even if I had the money to spend. I get my fitness jones fix from running, which I love, and which I have no plan to quit anytime soon. So I don’t need 27 gears. I don’t want to wear such very tight clothing in public. And I certainly don’t care about how fast I’m going. I just want a bike to ride. A simple, high-quality bike on which to cruise slowly and gently from here to there…a bike to haul a six-pack up the hill from the brewery….just a bike.

That’s why I bought the Schwinn Piece-o-Shit bike. I just wanted a bike to tool around the neighborhood. But that plan backfired. Doesn’t anybody make a simple, fun-to-ride bike that isn’t crap? The answer is yes. I think I found one. And it’s made right in my own backyard. (Not literally, silly. But close…In-state close.) DETROIT BIKES.

Detroit Bikes was born out of a Kickstarter campaign, as many very cool things are these days. Their plan? To build honest, easy-riding bicycles, right here in the U.S. Right here in DETROIT. That’s a business plan many would consider to be insane. A very successful crowd-sourcing campaign said otherwise. And Detroit Bikes was born. And they are for sale.

Detroit-Bikes-3Detroit Bikes’ goal is, in their own words, “to encourage cycling by making an accessible, enjoyable bicycle while continuing Detroit’s legacy of quality manufacturing and design.” And that’s just what they’ve done. From their 50,000 square foot plant on Detroit’s west side, they are cranking out 100 hand-built bikes a day, “marking the return of high-volume US frame manufacturing.”

So, I’ve got to have one. A brand-new bike, hand-built from scratch in Detroit? Yes, please. Bringing good-paying manufacturing jobs to Detroit, the cradle of American manufacturing? Hell yeah. But is the bike any good? What’s a Detroit-built bike like, anyway? Well that’s the good part.


Like the revolutionary Ford Model T, the initial Detroit Bike is available in one model only, The A-Type. And like the Model T, you can have a Detroit Bike in any color you want, as long as the color is black.

The A-Type, in a sweet-looking matte black finish only, is remarkably close to the vision of a fun-riding, simple bike I’ve had in my mind. Eerily similar. The fact that the bike is built right in the heart of the Motor City, a city that has seen its’ share of hard times, is just the icing on the cake.

Detroit-Bikes-2The A-Type is minimalist in the very best way possible. Built for riders of any skill level, it’s light, and it’s strong. It’s comfortable. It only has three gears (You only need three. Seriously, this isn’t the Tour de France. Three simple gears will do ya just fine.) in the form of a maintenance-free Shimano Nexus internal hub. The frame is built of 4130 chrome-moly steel. U.S. steel, to be more precise. The frame is built by Detroit Bikes at their plant. The bike comes with fenders to keep the rain and mud off you, a chain guard to protect your pants, and a cool custom rear rack with the Detroit Bikes logo on it that’ll carry up to 35 pounds. Add narrow all-weather tires, a comfy seat, and foot and coaster brakes, and this bike is perfect for commuting to work, or simply cruising the ‘hood.

Detroit-Bike-5The Detroit Bikes A-Type is the bike for me. For slow riding. For biking with flip-flops, not racing shoes. For sitting up comfortably, not hunched over. For no-sweat biking. For not racing. For never going off-road. For running errands. For hauling groceries. For fun. For relaxation! It’s not cheap, but for a well-built, U.S. made, high-quality bike, it’s not overly expensive either. 700 bucks. Seems like a lot, right? But when you consider the quality of the parts, the quality of the assembly, and the fact that it’s built right here in Michigan, in DETROIT for crying out loud, and that it’s providing jobs with living wages and health benefits, and it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

If I haven’t convinced you to run right out and buy one right now, check them out at their website RIGHT HERE. They’ve got all the specs and details and you can find out how to order a bike or visit a local shop to see one in person. Lots of fun accessories too. Do it now!

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Posted May 6, 2014 by in category "Green Living", "The Wish List


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