If one needs proof of the burgeoning bicycle culture in Detroit, one needs only to take a look around. You can see it happening on the surface by simply looking out of the car window. Yet sometimes one needs to look a little deeper into the nooks and crannies to discover little deposits of gold. Well, I suppose I am offering the insider's perspective, but isn't that what it takes sometimes?
The most promising sign emerging in this relatively novel concept of downtown Detroit cycling is Back Alley Bikes and The Hub. Back Alley Bikes offers youth education in bicycle mechanics and repair. They conduct workshops in an effort to proliferate bicycle culture and to provide alternatives. The Hub is a non-profit retail shop at 3611 Cass north of Martin Luther King (MLK) Blvd. This shop exists as a fundraising operation in order to keep Back Alley running. Truly, if this is not a cause to espouse (at least as a biker) then you should turn in your philanthropy care and start trying to wreck the planet.
Let me for a minute slip into 'sensational reporter mode.' I want to relate a short anecdote about one of my favorite stories emerging from The Hub and Back Alley Bikes. Permit me to tell you about a city kid named "Ricky" (not his real name). I don't know much about this kid save for a few crucial details. He attends MLK High and he rides his bike everywhere, I know because I see him all the time. 'Ricky' showed up at Back Alley three years ago and became a mechanic in training. At present, he is described as "a very skilled mechanic" and is a staple at The Hub according to co-founder Ben Chodoroff. Not only is "Ricky" an adept mechanic, but also he is a very skilled rider capable of doing things experienced couriers (i.e. me) cannot. Okay, so what's the significance?
I know it's only one kid, one success story, but isn't that enough? Am I not tugging at your heartstrings? Hyperbole aside, at least it's a start. Who knows the things that 'Ricky' could or would get into if he didn't have Back Alley and The Hub. Who knows what kind of escape The Hub provides; and as I have said, I know very little of his background. Back Alley and The Hub offer, if nothing else, a bike riding family for him. Please, I'm not trying to canonize a bike shop, but at least it's a start, and an encouraging one at that.
The Hub is just starting out and needs the support of the local biking community, which seems to be already happening. Allow me to take a moment to recognize the fin folks responsible for The Hub. Ben Chodoroff (also my partner in Rock Dove Couriers), Jack VanDyke, Joey Rodriguez-Tanner, Bec Young, James Stevenson, and Chelsea Haggerson, would you all please step forward and take a bow?
Patrons of The Hub represent a cross section of the downtown bicycle-riding contingency. According to Chodoroff, regulars at The Hub represent a diverse economic background, but all are welcome. The current clientele consists mostly of city people who commute to work on their bicycles. Chodoroff is encouraged by the progress that The Hub has made since opening and adds an optimistic "word is spreading." Indeed it is.
I am not addressing The Hub here for any reason other than the fact that it is a really good idea and aids a good cause. Supporting them is simple enough as buying your replacement tubes there, taking your bike there for repairs or a tune-up, or even discovering an old cruiser for sale that you might only take out for a ride on Sunday. The Hub is staffed by competent bike people who only have interest in sparking a bicycle revolution in the Motor City. They have zero pretension and are damn good at what they do. Make The Hub your Detroit destination for all of your bicycling needs, I know I have.