Photos: Steven Pham
It’s not difficult to buy a bike with a frame made in the United States. Dozens of low-volume framebuilders offer handbuilt rides from straightforward to extravagant, in all corners of the country. There are a handful of midsized companies that build production bikes as well, in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Colorado and Oregon. And if you’re shopping in the “MUSA” market, you’re likely looking at the high end, with a price tag that represents the reality of modern American manufacturing.
Then there’s Detroit Bikes. Founded in 2011 by Zak Pashak, the brand builds bikes designed for function rather than flash. The practical, utilitarian models sell for $600, which is remarkable when you consider many American-made bikes have an extra zero on the end of that price tag.
The 4130 chromoly steel frames are cut, shaped, welded, powdercoated, assembled and packaged in the 50,000 square foot factory on Detroit’s west side. In addition to the frames, the wheels are built in-house and complete bikes are fully assembled.
With 30 employees, the brand is able to produce up to 100 bicycles a day, both of its own models and under contract for other brands, such as the bikes it built under contract* for New Belgium Brewing Company.
The line currently consists of three models, each with a name as austere as the brand’s aesthetic. The A-Type is a classic city cruiser with an upright posture, simple matte black powdercoat, Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub and custom rear rack. The B-Type is a step-through version of the A-Type, available in glossy white. The third model is the new C-Type, a drop-bar singlespeed with clearance for big tires and fenders that goes on sale in May.
If you think Detroit is more committed to the automobile than the bicycle, think again. The city now boasts nearly 200 miles of bike lanes and hosts one of the largest weekly bike rides anywhere in the world. The Slow Roll ride, founded in 2010, routinely draws as many as 5,000 participants. Thanks to an influx of new cycling visionaries, Detroit is well on its way to transforming from the Motor City to Pedal City.
Detroit Bikes has now taken on a contract to build the New York City bike share bikes, known as Citi Bike.
*We also learned the backstory to how the New Belgium bikes came to be. Ryan Mckee of New Belgium and Todd Heath of Moonmen Bikes collaborated on the design for the brewery’s annual 2,500 bike production run. “We wanted to give our beer loving consumer a practical, commuting machine,” Mckee said. “And with the opening of our new brewery we wanted to make sure we give our new Asheville, Employee Owners a bike they could use on the hills of North Carolina.” See, after a year of employment, New Belgium gives each of its Employee Owners a new bike. Other bikes are used as promotions or raffled off for charity. They never go on sale. “The bike is a genuine representation of our brewery,” he said. “We love bikes. We love beer.”Tweet Print