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Detroit Bikes

Detroit, MI

Zak Pashak

Zak Pashak didn't expect the first product of his company to hit rockstar status, but that is what is happening with Detroit Bike's Type A bicycle.

When the Detroit-based bicycle company held its launch parties, patrons often fawned more over the bikes than the bands on stage. Pashak, the president of Detroit Bikes, was the most surprised with the way the crowds reacted to the A-Type at the Windsor release party.

"People kept coming and wanting to get their pictures taken with the bike, with them on the bike," Pashak says. "The bike turned into a bit of a rockstar and I was excited to see that."

It was a bit surprising, too. Detroit Bikes aims to make a classic American commuting bicycle, which to Pashak means a simple, streamlined design. No bells. No whistles. Three speeds. And it only comes in one color, black.

It does have slightly larger wheels to ensure a smoother ride. There are also foot and hand brakes. Those are the most complicated things about it. Otherwise Pashak and his team aimed to create a minimalist ride simple enough to be welcoming to anyone.

"This bike is supposed to be pretty simple and low key, and it turns out that is what the customers like," Pashak says. "Sometimes bikes have barriers built into them with certain technical details and specialized things on them. It seems like you're almost not good enough to ride certain bikes."

If you could sum it up simply, it would be a working-person's bike. A Detroiter's bicycle. Which makes sense since the bicycle is assembled in the Motor City by a company run by a Detroiter, albeit a newer one.

Pashak is Canadian. He moved here from Calgary, where he ran his own successful business and started the city’s most popular music festival, to Detroit in 2011. He bought a mansion in Boston-Edison and then the production plant for Detroit Bikes on the city's far west side. The sellers of his house referred him to a sign company that had an extra industrial building in the area of Plymouth and Schaefer. Pashak jumped on it.

He got the 50,000-square-foot facility for a song. Think low six figures. It was in working-condition and had a functioning paint room. Pashask estimates the paint room alone saved him $100,000 in building improvements, and that facility would be worth $1 million or more in most other major cities. The low-cost barriers of entry in Detroit made the decision for Pashak to open Detroit Bikes here easy.

He believes the rising popularity of bikes, spiking gas prices and population shift to urban areas creates the demand for his bicycle. He thinks the story of Detroit helps sell it.

"Detroit seems like a great place to make things," Pashak says. "I really like that storyline."

It all ties together nicely in Pashak's mind. The low-cost of setting up shop here, the ease of finding manufacturing talent, the history of building things that is undeniable around the world. It all adds up to winner to Pashak.

"The product that Detroit Bikes is making has a connection to something very tangible," Pashak says. "It's a bit nostalgic. It has an emotional pull for people. When people hear about this story they get excited."

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