Detroit's harsh winter months aren't the easiest time for bicyclists. Freezing temperatures, gusty gales and icy roads tend to discourage all but the heartiest cycling enthusiasts from undertaking many two-wheeled adventures in the city.
This January, however, two local organization are hosting events that may help warm the hearts of Motor City bike fans.
The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) Gallery is sponsoring bike-themed art show "Bicycle Bicycle" later this month that should bring thoughts of better weather. The gallery space, which is dedicated to highlighting the work of local creative designers and artists, is accepting submissions through Jan. 11.
Katherine Maurer, curator of the gallery, said the increasing popularity of bikes in the city inspired the show.
"Bike lanes are cropping up, new companies are designing and manufacturing bicycles, while at the same time organizations that have been involved with bicycles for years continue to do their work," Maurer told The Huffington Post in an email. She added that Detroit's upcoming annual auto show also played a role because of the dialogue it generates around transportation and vehicles.
"In January so much of the city is all about cars, cars, cars and while given our history I certainly think that is valid," she said, "it is important to remember that cars are not the only mode of transport that power the city and the people in it."
DC3 is looking for submissions of promotional graphic work like posters for a bicycle club or company, 2-D design plans and fine art featuring vehicles as well as any other "awesome work" relating to bikes. Images and relevant information can be sent to email@example.com. The show opens Wednesday, Jan. 23rd with a reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. It will be catered by Detroit Vegan Soul. For more information, visit DC3's website.
On Jan. 6, Detroit's Back Alley Bikes will also be holding a Winter Bike-a-thon in a passionate effort to draw attention to the plight of the city's forgotten bicycles.
"Hiding in the basement or garage, they won't be thought about much until Spring warms the Earth up some," a release for the event reads. "The more fortunate bicycles will get strapped to a trainer to be ridden indoors. It is a sort of hibernation for most bikes as they must live off the miles they rode during the Summer."
While the event will get some bikes on the road, it's really a fundraiser for youth programs sponsored by Back Alley Bikes, which is affiliated with the Hub of Detroit bicycle shop. Bike-a-thon sponsors will make pledges on behalf of BAB staff and collective members who will log as many winter miles as they can during a 24-hour period. Money earned will go toward several programs, including Youth Earn-a-Bike, Youth Rides! and Mechanics-in-Training. For more information and profiles of the riders, visit The Hub of Detroit's website.
To learn more about Detroit bike shops and spaces, check out the slideshow below.
Bike Tech owner Brian Pikielek has operated his shop on Detroit's east side since the winter of 1984. Over the years, he's hired about 200 young people from the neighborhood and witnessed a lot of changes. "When I opened up in the '80s, there were 23 bike shops within 10 miles of me," he told The Huffington Post. That number has now dwindled to a handful. It's a trend that hasn't been limited to bicycle shops. Pikielek is the president of the Cornerstone East English Village Morningside Business Association and he's seen the group's membership drop from 65 businesses to six over the past 30 years. Still, his company has carved out a niche and held fast in spite of the population loss that has decimated the area. The full-service Bike Tech shop offers customers a sizable selection of about 400 new and used bikes. It specializes in vintage bikes, including those that Pikielek says are popular with the under-30 crowd, like old Schwinn 3-speeds from the '70s and '80s. Bike Tech also carries vintage bike tools. Pikielek credits his staff's skills with these tools and their superior know-how with keeping Bike Tech in business. "Doing bike repair on some of the older bikes is an art," he said, "and the knowledge isn't really available to work on them. Cruisers. Internal mechanisms -- we fix anything." Bike Tech is located at 18401 E. Warren Avenue in Detroit. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am 7 pm and Sunday from 12 pm - 5 pm. For more information see www.biketech.us.
Wheelhouse Detroit sits on a beautiful pavillion on Detroit's RiverWalk. The bicycle retail shop and rental outlet shares space with a carousel and seasonal cafe, and it's a stone's throw away from the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. The Wheelhouse stocks the Kona, Sun, Origin 8, Surly and Salsa bicycle brands and carries about 200 bicycles for sale. It also rents out bicycles including cruisers, hybrids, tandems and road bikes for adults and BMXs for children -- and offers accessories like tagalongs and trailers for family outings. Customers can also bring in their own bikes for repair and cleanup or join in one of the Wheelhouse's many Detroit-themed bicycle tours. These tours run from mid-April to October and feature geographic and historical themes, as well as contemporary trends like urban gardening. Kelli Kavanaugh, who opened the shop with co-owner Karen Gage in 2008, told The Huffington Post the tours attract all kinds of people. "We get a lot of lifelong Detroiters who are interested in particular aspects of the city and lots of metro Detroiters who want to see things they may have heard about," she said. "And many out-of-towners looking for something while they're in town." Kavanaugh said the Wheelhouse has seen travelers from every continent except Antarctica, with the majority of international visitors coming from Germany, Britain and the Netherlands. Wheelhouse Detroit is located at 1340 E. Atwater Street at the Rivard Plaza on the Detroit RiverWalk. Hours vary based on the season. For more information see: www.wheelhousedetroit.com.
The Livernois Bike Shop, founded in 1937, is the grandfather of Detroit bicycle shops, according to employee Damon Brunson, 34. He said the shop has operated from its present location across from the University of Detroit-Mercy for the last 53 years. The shop does good business with the university, handling its bike orders and helping out with an annual midnight ride that often draws more than 100 students. As for its stock, the 1,500-square-foot space offers quite a range of choices for cycling enthusiasts, video game players and others who happen to stop in for a look. "We carry 20 inch BMX Classics, Schwinns, high end use bikes, video games, unicycles, high-end BMX, toys comics, tricycles, used tires, new tubes -- any and everything you could think of," said Brunson. Those in need of a tune-up or a derailleur adjustment should feel free to stop on in, as the staff repairs most makes and models of bicycles. The Livernois Bike Shop is located at 16657 Livernois Avenue. For more information call 313-864-8734.
The gear heads at The Hub of Detroit's Cass Avenue retail space certainly sell bikes, but it would be a mistake to assume that's all they do. "We're more than a bike shop. We're also a community space," said Jason Fiedler, who handles communications for The Hub. "We focus on giving information and education to people in order to empower them." The Hub's shop is the retail wing of Back Alley Bikes, a program that started in 2000 with the goal of providing transportation for those involved in the Detroit Summer youth program. They now offer a variety of programming for local youth, including an Earn-A-Bike program and a Young Mechanics training program. Those who complete the mechanics training hare eligible for paid summer employment. The organization also holds adult mechanics classes, recycles old bicycles and bike parts and offers perks like floor space and free parts to "allies" who volunteer on a regular basis. Aside from the programming, the space also gives cycling enthusiasts from across the city a chance to meet one another. "We see bikes as a way to access community in Detroit that's super spread out and separated by freeways," Fiedler told The Huffington Post. "People who volunteer here are from everywhere and bicycles are that one object that brings them together." Unlike most bike shops, The Hub's retail space is a non-profit venture. It began in 2008 as a funding innovation that allowed organizers to spend less time writing grants and more time working with people and bicycles. The organizing structure of the Hub also differs from many business and non-profit models. It's run by a nine-person collective comprising paid staff and volunteers who use a consensus process make decisions about the retail space and Back Alley Bikes programming. In terms of retail selection, however, The Hub has exactly what one would expect from a bike shop: a well-stocked selection of merchandise and a knowledgeable crew of repair staff. Currently The Hub stocks about 50 different bikes in a variety of styles, including cruisers, mountain and road bikes. It also sells new and used parts and accessories and the shop can order new bikes and other bike-related items for customers. The Hub of Detroit is located at 3611 Cass Avenue. For more information, see thehubofdetroit.org.
The G&R Bike Shop is no newcomer to the Detroit bicycle trade. The shop has been in business since 1972 and staff have sold and repaired bikes from its location on Grand River and Lahser since 1976. G&R carries about 200 different bikes, many of them Huffys and Schwinns. The shop also stocks a full line of bike parts and accessories. The establishment gets its names from G&R's original proprietors, Greg and Renee Loiselle. As to G&R's longevity, Paul Duquesnel, the current owner, has few secrets to share: Besides hard work and a loyal local customer base, as long as the weather is good, business is good at G&R. G&R Bike Shop is located at 21706 Grand River Ave in Detroit. For more information call the G&R bikes at (313) 531-1146.
Fender Bender is a bike space for women and queer people to learn the basics of bike mechanics and find common ground for addressing environmental and social justice issues. It's located in the Cass Community Commons and organized by Detroiter Sarah Sidelko with the support of six other active members. "We're creating a culture of support and resources for women and transgender people to contribute to the biking community in Detroit," Sidelko told The Huffington Post, adding that these groups are active in the city's cycling community, but underrepresented. "We hope to have positive impact in the cycling culture by creating more inclusiveness." The space offers an open shop for women and genderqueer people on the first and third Tuesdays and second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. On the first and third Wednesdays of each month, Fender Bender works on bike-related art projects, like plant holders made from bike parts. Fender Bender also collaborates on mechanics classes with the Detroit Wheelhouse at their location on Detroit's RiverWalk on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month and also organizes classes for women and genderqueer people on Saturdays. Sidelko began facilitating the project out of The Hub of Detroit in January 2010 and moved it to the Commons, a community workspace located in the First Unitarian Universalist Church Complex, in the spring of last year. She funds the project herself with some help from fundraisers, small grants and donated parts from Wheelhouse Detroit. Although Fender Bender sometimes raises funds by repairing bikes, Sidelko says money is not the ultimate goal. "I might occasionally sell bikes and do tuneups occasionally, but I'm more focused on empowerment and encouraging people to gain skills," she said. Fender Bender is located at the Cass Community Commons at 4605 Cass Avenue in Detroit. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flickr Photo by piercedavid.