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Detroit-made, low-priced city bike set for Portland debut

Posted by on November 1st, 2013 at 2:08 pm

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The “A-Type” from Detroit Bikes is made in Detroit and retails for $550.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A new bike company based in Detroit says they’ve cracked one of the toughest nuts in the bicycle industry: A full-fledged city bike made in the USA that retails for just $550. The “A-Type” from Detroit Bikes is made in the company’s 50,000 square foot factory and it’s about to invade Portland. With a free concert and launch party set for Saturday night, and a local dealer already set up to sell them, I figured it was time to give these bikes a closer look.

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WTF Bikes owner Tom Daly is optimistic about the new A-Type.

WTF Bikes owner Tom Daly couldn’t be more excited about the A-Type. Daly’s shop on SE Milwaukie (just south of Powell) has been chosen by Detroit Bikes as the sole Portland dealer (for now). He was busy getting a few of them built up for Saturday’s event when I stopped into see him yesterday. “I am so happy that it’s an American-made bike with the price point it has,” he said. “When I first saw the bike I though, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’ then I realized it was made in Detroit and I was like, ‘No way!'”

Daly said he didn’t curse the company’s name once while he put together his first A-Type. “And from a mechanic’s standpoint,” he said, “that’s really good.” The only minor complaint Daly mentioned about the bikes is that, while the build is solid, the frame welds aren’t exactly what you’d call “artisan.” But that’s fine with Daly, he appreciates the fact that the frames have a lifetime warranty and the company pays union welders a fair and livable wage.

Like the Ford Model T (which the company seems to take its marketing cues from), the A-Type comes in only one color (matte black), one size (fits people about 5′ 7″ 5′ 5″ to 6′ 2″), and one style. That no-extras approach helps them keep production costs down and pump out an impressive volume of bikes.

Here are a few more shots of it…

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Detroit Bikes owner and president Zak Pashak says they have the capacity to produce 40,000 bikes per year. “American bicycle manufacturing hasn’t seen this type of mass production start-up in generations,” Pashak said in a statement. The company is proud of the fact that they are, “introducing the return of high-volume US bike frame manufacturing.”

The bike itself rides nicer than I expected. It’s stiff and solid, yet still has a bit of spirit when you really step on the pedals. It comes with a Shimano three-speed, rear coaster brake and front hand-brake as well as fenders, a chainguard, a rear rack, and other nice little touches.

Will Detroit Bikes become the next Schwinn? Will U.S. customers spend $550 on a no-nonsense city bike built to get you from point-A to point-B without making a big statement? We’ll have to wait and see; but the presence of these on the market is a hopeful sign for bicycling and for manufacturing in America.

If you want to know more, show up at Bunk Bar (1028 SE Water Ave) at 9:00 pm tomorrow night. The bikes will be on display and there will also be a performance by punk band White Lung. You can also stop by WTF Bikes at 3117 SE Milwaukie Ave and Tom will happily let you take one for a spin.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Justin
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Justin

I like Detroit and inexpensive things. I’ll have to try it.

kj
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kj

Cool. Stoked. But…5’7″ to 6’2″….so hopefully they will come out with an equally priced one that will fit most women at some point not just the high end of the bell curve. Average US women is 5’4″! I might be lucky to fit the bike at 5’6″.

Mindful Cyclist
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Mindful Cyclist

This bike would not work too well as my daily commuter being that I have a pretty significant hill to climb. But, as far as something that I could use to get around the neighborhood and do a bit of shopping and visiting friends? Absolutely.

Gotta love the fact that it already has fenders and a rack!!

Colton
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Colton

I was amazed to see that WTF Bikes is open on days other than Wednesday-Thursday-Friday. Whoda thunk?

bob
Guest
bob

Anyone figure out if it’s compatible with an Xtracycle yet?

David Bosch
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David Bosch

As previously mentioned, Detroit Bikes needs to produce bicycles that will fit shorter riders. Even Henry Ford was eventually convinced, after loosing market share to GM, to give customers the choices that they demanded. I live in Michigan and wish Detroit Bikes the best but they need to produce at least two sizes and either improve the quality or reduce the price of their bikes. Preferably both.

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

Felt good to see “Made In USA” like when I bought my first bike as a kid, paying the hardware store small payments until that wonderful day came when I paid it off and could blast around on a brand new American steed with the nubbies still on the tires. Yee-ha.

Joseph E
Guest

Great price ($550) for a complete 3-speed bike, considering that the frame (and some other parts?) are made in the USA. Many Chinese-assembled bikes will cost about the same, at a bike shop.

But I don’t like the style of curved top-tube, and the flat rear rack will be hard to use with most panniers.

I also think they need to start with a smaller model, aimed at women. Perhaps they could just flip that curved top tube upside-down to make it a partial step-thru / step-over frame; it would look a little like an old Schwinn.

Linus is selling a ton of 3-speed mixtes and step-thru frames (mostly to women), and they list for $675!
http://www.linusbike.com/models/dutchi-3/

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Are those foam grips?

Foam sucks up a lot of water in the rain.

BeaForoni
Guest
BeaForoni

Five hundred bucks is cheap?! No way am I going to spend $500 for something that will get stolen by the next person with a set of bolt-cutters

John Liu
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John Liu

Spend an extra $40 for a U lock. Your bolt cutter worries are over.

That is a nice bike for the price.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Mrs Dibbly wants a step-through frame option. I want more gears and a generator hub and maybe a belt drive. (Yes, I realize that I just doubled the price.) Otherwise it looks like a nice ride. Are the foam grips closed-cell foam? No water absorption if they are.

VTRC
Guest
VTRC

Threaded fork? I ended up getting a Novara with a threaded fork for a backup bike, What’s the deal? Are they significantly less expensive than threadless?

And I think it’s fantastic. A lot of transportation, made in the USA, with FENDERS!, $550!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

That is a fantastic deal for a made in USA bike. Especially with the 3-speed (and if you need more than 3 internal gears you are looking at a way different level of bike). Even as a single speed would be a good deal at this price if it’s made in USA.

I would expect a design change to the rack by next year, though: it is going to be incompatible with a LOT of panniers, especially the better ones that actually clamp securely to (round!) top rails and don’t depend on elastic tension to stay on. It will look great with black Wald baskets though.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

This looks promising…

I look forward to their future refinements…that would provide full effective fenders and a solid rear rack.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

For those that aren’t scared of only 3 speeds. Most makers assume the 2nd gear is for cruising with 1 being for down hills, and 3 third for up hills. For slightly hilly riding in Portland (remember this was built in Detroit which is VERY flat), you simply replace (getting a larger cog for the hub) to make first gear your cruising gear and the 2nd and third gear your two climbing gears.

Costs less than $10.00 for the new cog wheel, and if you can change your tire you can replace the rear cog. Just make sure to remember the order of the spacers (take a pic before you take it apart with your phone for reference) and your golden.

Tacoma
Guest
Tacoma

I haven’t seen this noted in the article or comments but what does the curved top tube add to the bike rather than straight? Or is it just a styling preference?

BaldOne
Guest
BaldOne

What % of the bike was made in USA? Steel tubes welded here from import stock and adorned with imported parts? I’d be curious to know if this is a marketing ploy or if they made most or the whole bike here from scratch. Globalization is standard now with a melting pot of parts for any manufactured goods. It’s like vodka flavored and labeled in Portland and called local. Get on the bandwagon. It is a nice price, but one size?

Is Joe Daly huge or is that bike really small?

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

Question: “what does the curved top tube add to the bike rather than straight?” Answer: The curved top tube helps keep testicle doctors driving Mercedes. 😉

Agree with others – ditch the curved top tube. Otherwise looks like a pretty decent bike. I still prefer my Trek 3900 – I’m a wimp – I need lots of gears.

For those with plenty of money, here are two more bike options:
This electric bike looks good!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upqax74zKLo

This one is light weight:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F08eF4dKT-s

Seely
Guest
Seely

gutterbunnybikes
For those that aren’t scared of only 3 speeds. Most makers assume the 2nd gear is for cruising with 1 being for down hills, and 3 third for up hills. For slightly hilly riding in Portland (remember this was built in Detroit which is VERY flat), you simply replace (getting a larger cog for the hub) to make first gear your cruising gear and the 2nd and third gear your two climbing gears.
Costs less than $10.00 for the new cog wheel, and if you can change your tire you can replace the rear cog. Just make sure to remember the order of the spacers (take a pic before you take it apart with your phone for reference) and your golden.
Recommended 3

Third is your “hardest” gear, first your “easiest.”

Ray Keener
Guest
Ray Keener

They curved the top tube the wrong way. Could have accommodated shorter riders with a downward curve. Any bike company who views frame sizes as “extras” is doomed to fail.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

considering that i just had a single rear wheel built up for 550 that price is effing amazing.

Test Market Concept??
Guest
Test Market Concept??

This is what I see here.
So I see an almost empty 50,000 sq ft warehouse with very little equipment and a small container of parts imported from Asia. Props on the wheel building machine. Factories in Asia that produce bikes in this qty and price point take up a city block.

How many frames do they have to build to make a profit at this price point? How many frames does Giant sell at this price point to make a profit? How many people will have to buy a low end US made bike to have this company make money at $550.00?

If this frame is being accurately compared to models from Asia, it would mean a painted frame will cost them between 20-30$ to build.
To do this there would need to be containers full of frame production equipment being moved into that space. 40K frames would also require about 200 weld machines on 2 shifts.

Instead I see launches with punk bands.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see an affordable US made bikes, but be honest that its a test and not a true capability.

Mark Simpson
Guest

Good luck to you and Detroit Bikes. As a fellow Metro Detroit bicycle start-up, we’re rooting for your success.

K6-III
Guest
K6-III

Front fender too short

Ted Buehler
Guest

Union made — don’t see that too often anymore. Want to have good purchasing karma? Buy union made…

Good luck, Detroit Bikes!

Ted Buehler

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

Yes Good Luck to you. I rode around Grosse Ile Island in Detroit about 12 years ago – it was a nice loop ride around the island.

Unions and Democrats? They didn’t do Detroit any favors:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/19/opinion-detroit-got-what-it-deserved/2567559/

Jeremy Cohen
Guest
Jeremy Cohen

Dang….y’all are pretty harsh. It seems like this is a really nice bike at a great price for getting tons of people into a new bike without much to worry about. If you are commuting up hills already, you probably aren’t in the market for a $550 bike anyway. If you are trying to convert into an xtracycle, why would you try this? There are tons of used bikes that can handle a conversion. IF you are trying to get off the bus or out of the car for a few trips to the store or a quick dinner down the street this screams out PERFECT! I know my mother-in-law would love to spend this money on a new bike (as opposed to the anxiety that comes from evaluating used ones). Good on you DETROIT bikes, I am eager to see some around town!

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

Of all the things people have mentioned, the coaster brake is the aspect of this bike that I find the weirdest. You can’t adjust your pedal position easily to restart, and they stop working if something happens to the chain. And they’re not that common, so if you switch to something else you’ll probably have to re-learn your braking habits. I was going to assert that they’re less powerful but can’t find a reliable cite (Sheldon Brown doesn’t mention it in the list of cons).

It’s a neat idea, though. Although why they want to make the women’s model white is beyond me. White bikes show dirt and scuffs terribly.

Ravingbikefiend
Guest

April
On the advice of a mechanic, I did this to my old Raleigh Sports, and it went from “gorgeous bike but a bitch on hills” to “oh hey I can ride this as my primary city bike,” and I did for a long time. I paid someone else to do it and it was still less than $30.
Recommended 1

I give this advice to lots of people and have ridden a three speed all over pdx and over that little mountain you have there.

You just need to gear things right.

dan
Guest
dan

Looks like a great price for a domestically-produced townie bike. I would love to see a front basket as an option / accessory. Rear baskets or panniers custom-built for rack would be cool too. Love that rack but it would not work well with my panniers.

Spiffy
Guest

Torker makes the T300 for $110 less with the same features (3-speed, fenders, rack that looks sturdier) and comes in 3 sizes…

how is this Detroit bike any better?

Beth
Guest

As a still-semi-jaded former bike industry mechanic and shop owner, I have to say that an American-made, mass-produced bicycle that looks this good, from a company that pays its welders a living wage, in a city that sorely needs living-wage jobs, and at a price point that doesn’t make me completely hurl, has me about as excited as I’ve been about a new bicycle line in ages. When I have some time I’ll definitely swing by WTF to check one out.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I’m rather disappointed this rig isn’t getting the hometown Detroit debut it deserves.

TomCat
Guest

Minor quibbles: the front fender is way too short and I’d like to see the rack mounted with a pannier on it to see how it works/performs.

Major point I want to make: lets not have Perfection get in the way of the Great, or even the good enough. Who cares if this is a “market concept test”? Larger companies have come out of the gate with worse fiascos (the first Trek dual suspension design comes to mind). The curved top tube at the tail near the seat tube gives it a wider fit range than a straight top tube. Schwinn did this on their bikes, as did Huffy for their higher end kids bikes in the early 90s. It fit more people, but not all.

Yes, they need another model for another range of sizes for TomCat sized people, and probably another model for Tom Daly sized people. Detroit Bikes has to start out with something. Let them generate some capital so it can be reinvested to other projects. Crank Brothers started with a tire lever. Their first product had nothing to do with a crank. There was a lot of confused speculation about their name alone. Look what they did with that reinvestment.

If the bike has merit, it will roll along independently of its sourcing pedigree and command a higher price for it.

DIMcyclist
Guest
DIMcyclist

I get that too, but I just peg them for their size & tell them to get a used Trek or Univega. ; D

Ravingbikefiend
Guest

For those who have been critical about the “Made in U.S.A.” and how that reconciles itself with the non U.S. made parts: North America has never been much of a player when it comes to making drivetrain components save for coaster hubs. Until the Japanese started making internal gear hubs these were sourced from England (Sturmey Archer) and derailleur components were primarily of French manufacture for mass consumption until the Japanese dominated that. You would be hard pressed to find a builder from the past 60 years who was not reliant on Asian / European made parts to produce bicycles.

Mark Simpson
Guest

Ravingbikefiend
For those who have been critical about the “Made in U.S.A.” and how that reconciles itself with the non U.S. made parts: North America has never been much of a player when it comes to making drivetrain components save for coaster hubs. Until the Japanese started making internal gear hubs these were sourced from England (Sturmey Archer) and derailleur components were primarily of French manufacture for mass consumption until the Japanese dominated that. You would be hard pressed to find a builder from the past 60 years who was not reliant on Asian / European made parts to produce bicycles.
Recommended 0

Workman Cycles in NYC has been making bikes in the USA continuously since the late 1800’s.
Even they have had to import key components since there is nobody in the US making them.

Zak Pashak
Guest

All these comments and concerns are informative and I am genuinely thankful. Please keep ’em coming. I started working on an FAQ for the website and I included the working copy in the tour blog here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/detroit-bikes/then-ozona/433852383381608?notif_t=like

Jeff Walenta
Guest
Jeff Walenta

They are increasing their price to 699 for the 2014 model

I’m not sure I’m all that interested now to be honest

Stuart M.
Guest
Stuart M.

That front fender looks much too short to do any good in the rain.