Detroiters like to customize their rides. There are plenty of flashy SUVs on the street and cars with eardrum splitting sound systems that shake the house as they roll by. Southwest Detroit is a hotbed for vintage lowrider cars that can be raised or lowered by the flip of a switch. Hot, tricked-out, import tuner cars can be seen and heard zipping around orange cones on an enclosed racecourse on Belle Isle most Sunday mornings in the summer. But there’s another group of one-of-a-kind custom vehicles on the streets of Detroit… bicycles!
I see lots of bicycles while riding in Detroit, especially throughout the downtown area. However, the place to spot the coolest bikes in Detroit is in the neighborhoods. The cool bikes I’m talking about aren’t the expensive road bikes built for speed or the brawny mountain bikes that can take a lot of punishment. They’re personalized beauties, customized in ways I’ve never seen.
This spotless low-rider is owned by John, a 71-year-old eastside resident who’s been living in his neighborhood for over 50-years. He told me he’s had this bike for a couple of years. “All the stuff you see here, all this stuff, I put on,” he said proudly, pointing out the cow horns, tiger tail, and Cadillac badge on the back and other details.
I spotted this silver bike in front of a Barber Shop near Harper and Van Dyke. The young man in the picture owns the bike and said I could take a photo if I’d sell it for him on eBay. I told him I couldn’t do that, and he said, “Okay, pay me $5.00 and you can take a picture.”
“I have no money” I said, “but I’ll get some prints made and drop them off here, at the barber shop in a few days.”
He agreed with a look on his face that said, “I’ll never see this guy again.” A few days later I stopped by the shop with the pictures, much to the surprise of everyone there. I asked the barber to please give them to the owner and said to him, “I bet he thought I’d never be back.”
The barber looked at me, smiled and said, “Yes sir, you are right!”
I came across this clean, vintage style bicycle on Mack Avenue. It was in the process of being retrofitted with a small gas engine. The owner told me he was close to finishing it and couldn’t wait to show it to his buddies over at The East Side Riders Bicycle club. Perhaps I’ll see him whizzing down Mack this summer.
All I can say is this is the coolest bike in Detroit!
I came upon this beauty, fitted with a bucket seat, windshield, steering wheel and who knows what else on an early Sunday morning late last summer. The shy man sitting in the bucket seat was a little hesitant about me taking a picture. “It’s not done yet,” he said softly when I asked him if I could take a photo. After a little convincing on my part, he gave me permission. I’d love to see this bike again and check out what changes have been made.
Reminder – click on any photo to view them larger.