A Guide to Biking in Detroit, MI

Writer: Kelli Kavanaugh. Photographers: Michelle and Chris Gerard


While better known for cars and music, Detroit is slowly and surely leaving its mark on the world of bicycles. Cyclists are flocking to the city’s flat, wide streets that, to folks used to denser spaces, seem almost deserted of traffic. There is a visible and concerted investment in cycling infrastructure including more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) of bike lanes, and then there’s the sublime architecture on which to feast the eyes whilst pedaling. It’s not just the number of riders that is booming, but the city’s growing bike scene is attracting bicycle manufacturers like Detroit Bikes, amenities like bike parking at local music festivals, public repair stands, a smattering of new bike shops, and more group riding opportunities.

Detroit street basketball, biking in Detroit

Basketball courts set up by Quicken Loans in Cadillac Square, Downtown Detroit

Where to Go

Biking along the beautiful Detroit Riverfront is a must – and yes, that is Canada to the south! A local favorite is Belle Isle, an island park that boasts an aquarium, plant conservatory, beach, and a Great Lakes museum. The Dequindre Cut is a rail-trail that is below-grade for two miles (3.2 km), creating an unusual view of Lafayette Park, a Mies van der Rohe-designed modernist gem. Bike-friendly places to eat, drink, and caffeinate are numerous, including Mudgie’s Deli in historic Corktown, Detroit Vegan Soul in West Village, and Café con Leche in Southwest Detroit.

Jolly Pumpkin. Restaurant in Detroit.

Jolly Pumpkin offers housemade draft brews and gourmet casual fare in Midtown.

Where to Stay

Hostel Detroit is located near several urban farms and provides a fleet of bikes for guest usage. Centrally located Greektown Casino Hotel has low-cost rentals, and Midtown’s charming Inn on Ferry Street offers several beautiful Shinolas. Other well-located lodging options include Honor & Folly, the Westin Book Cadillac, Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, Corktown Hotel, and Hotel St. Regis. There are also numerous truly unique Airbnb options, including staying on a farm or in the home of a lumber baron that was the setting for a Jim Jarmusch film.

How to Get a Bike

Detroit bike share is still in the works, so your best bet is to head to the riverfront and hit up Wheelhouse Detroit Bike Shop for a cruiser, hybrid, or even a tandem. Neighborhood and history bike tours are also available. There are also some bikes to rent in the heart of downtown at Campus Martius. If you decide to take the bus or drive across the border to Windsor, ON, City Cyclery can get you set up for a ride along the Detroit River.

BELLS_Detroit_9001-Photo-Michelle-Chris-Gerard-WEB

The Heidelberg Project used everyday discarded objects to cover two blocks of houses and vacant lots.

 

What to Do

It’s not hard to find a group bike ride on any given day of the week. Slow Roll, every Monday, attracts a beautiful array of bikes and people. People for Palmer Park hosts a ride every Thursday night that showcases some of Detroit’s most stunning historic districts. The Tour de Troit, every September, is Michigan’s largest bike ride and raises funds for bike lanes and wayfinding. October’s Bike the Bridge is currently the only chance to cross the border on a bicycle. Don’t miss Eastern Market, the oldest public market in the US; the incredibly diverse enclave of Hamtramck; the Heidelberg Project, a thought-provoking public art installation; and the sublime Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts.


Kelli owns Wheelhouse Detroit Bike Shop, which opened in 2008, and is Ride Director for Tour de Troit. In addition to bikes, she loves books, music, and the Detroit Tigers.