(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.
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…
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.