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Stateside Podcast: Exploring the Motor City without a motor

Slow Roll tour group
Photo courtesy of Jason Hall
Slow Roll tour group

“You're not going to stop the wheels from spinning,” Hall said. “There was a guy who came on my ride last week, his bike was broken and he was waiting on parts and he couldn't not ride his bike. So we actually duct-taped it. People are going to ride their bikes no matter what.”

Pedal through the story of a Michigan man who turned his love for biking into a successful business venture, all while exploring the beautiful city of Detroit. There’s a vibrant community of bikers in Detroit, and part of that is due to Jason Hall, the founder of Ride Detroit Bike Tours, the Slow Roll weekly group ride, and the store manager at Trek Detroit.

Biking has always played an important role in Hall's life. Like many ‘80s kids, biking was his primary means of transportation and social connection. Today, Hall is a big fan of e-bikes, but his original love was BMX biking.

“I wanted to jump and ride fast and then, like, freestyle came in, so then I just wanted to hop around in one place ... and spin it all over the place,” said Hall.

Hall’s favorite places to go on a joyride include Eastern Market, the Dequindre Cut, which he referred to as “Detroit's pedestrian and bicycle superhighway,” and the Southwest Greenway.

The infrastructure improvements the city has made in recent years make these longer rides possible.

Slow Roll bikers
Photo courtesy of Jason Hall
Slow Roll bikers

“We've really made some giant strides with our, like, greenways and pathways,” said Hall. “Nowadays, you can really get on the east side on a bike path and go all the way to the west side without seeing pedestrians.”

Detroit is notorious for being a car-centric city, but there has long been a culture of alternative modes of transportation in Detroit.

“We're considered the Motor City, but … we've kind of become kind of this motorless city,” said Hall. “Detroit has always been a bike city, even back to when the first road was made here in 1890, it was made for bikes.”

Hall described cars as “glass bubbles, because when you're in them, you shut the world out.” Bikes make him feel more in touch with the environment and even himself.

“The bike really does give you that time to just stretch out and just open your mind up,” he said.

Hall aims to inspire more people to ride bikes as he thinks it changes lives from both a physical and mental standpoint.

“The saying ‘everybody can ride a bike’ is not true,” said Hall. “When I meet somebody and they say, ‘I don't know how to ride a bike' or 'I never have,’ I will take time out of my day no matter what that time is to work with that person.”

Hall educates people on the importance of getting the right bike for them. He said that people are reluctant to try electric bikes but he often makes bets with them that they'll like an e-bike. He said that it's important to figure out what got a person off the bike, then get them back on it, and get them into a pleasurable bicycling experience that they can build on.

“People would always say, ‘I don't need that bike’ and I'd say, ‘I bet you $20 you're going to get on this bike and you're going to have the time of your life.' They get on it and they come back and they say, ‘How do I buy it?’” said Hall.

Last year, after many old bike shops in the area shut down, Trek came to Midtown, Detroit. Hall was apprehensive about the corporate takeover but since its arrival, he said it's been a big win for the city of Detroit.

“It was really one of the best things to happen for us,” Hall said. “It gave us access to a larger supply chain. It gave us access to products that I felt like Detroit needed at the time”.

Hall said that bikers are taking advantage of the protected bike lanes, no matter the conditions. Despite canceling a group ride while smoke wafted over the region earlier this summer, Hall said people were still out riding.

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Tessa is a senior student studying Broadcast Journalism and Theatre at Michigan State University and she joined the Stateside team as a production intern in June 2023.
Ronia Cabansag is a producer for Stateside. She comes to Michigan Public from Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a BS in Media Studies & Journalism and English Linguistics with a minor in Computer Science.