Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek
Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

How Detroit Bikes Builds Rides for the Nation's Urban Jungle

Photographs by Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek.

After buying a 50,000-square-foot factory on the West Side of Detroit, Zak Pashak began making bicycles in 2013. It was a risk, as most bike making had moved outside the U.S. beginning more than a generation ago. Yet Detroit Bikes’ contract with Motivate, the company that runs bike-sharing programs in 12 metro areas, including New York Citi Bike, has helped put Pashak’s company on pace to churn out 10,000 bikes this year. In doing so he’ll employ 50 people in a city with 10 percent unemployment, about double the national rate. Detroit Bikes also makes bicycles that are sold under its own label. The A-Type model, a utilitarian, matte-black frame, three speeds, and a rear rack with the Detroit Bikes logo, costs $700. A women’s version, the B-Type, comes in white and mint. The company plans to start selling a new design, the racing-oriented C-Type, later this summer. The A-Type and B-Type will soon get more gears and colors. Read more in Businessweek.

New York City's Citi Bike on the assembly table. Unlike the Detroit Bikes house line, these technically aren’t entirely American-made. The aluminum frames come from Asia, and Pashak’s crew assembles them.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

The house-line bikes, including the A-Type frame seen here being hung to dry by powder coat technician Daniel Lazo, are manufactured in Detroit from American-made chromoly steel, which is lighter and stronger than standard steel. Production began on this model in 2013.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Steven Sprankle powder coats A-Type frames.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Citi Bikes on the assembly-room floor.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Front-end forks for Detroit Bikes' house line await assembly.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Powder coated B-Type (left) and A-Type frames drying.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Welding technician Bailey Rose.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Parts production technician Steven Nelson. 

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Bailey Rose welds together the custom rear racks, which hold cargo.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Detroit Bikes logo on a welding helmet.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Wheels, assembled here by Shaun Lewis, are more cumbersome and expensive to transport than the bike-share frames. By making those locally, Motivate has reduced the number of shipping containers coming from Asia by two-thirds.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Welding technician Haley Rose. 

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek

Citi Bikes ready to ship.

Photographer: Ricky Rhodes for Bloomberg Businessweek