“We Take Rusty Old Junk And We Put Love Into It” – Detroit’s Custom Cycles

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Photo by Jason Walker/Slow Roll Monday Nights

The old Motor City has a unique style in bicycles these days: from fat wheels and fake fuel tanks to stretched cycles with powerful sound systems – and even a family-sized BBQ. “Detroit’s custom bike scene developed alongside Slow Roll, a weekly cycle ride started in 2010 by Jason Hall and Mike MacKool. Now upwards of 2,000 people turn up each Monday to cruise a different part of the city. The week I go the crowd seems evenly split between black and white, male and female, city and suburbs. It’s the most inclusive cycle event I’ve ever witnessed”.

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Photo by Jason Walker/Slow Roll Monday Nights

“People come from the suburbs and it opens their minds”, says Todd Scott of the Detroit Greenways Coalition (not pictured). “It’s a reintroduction to Detroit. They visit these areas they’d be scared to go to otherwise. They have conversations, make eye contact … people come out of their houses and take photos … It makes the city far more human”.

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Photo by Nick Van Mead

Ashia of the D-Town Riders: “You could be riding next to a millionaire or next to a homeless person, you just don’t know”. Ashia – who has personalised her bike with stuffed toys and a professional red-to-black fade paint job – says she feels much safer riding the streets as part of a club. “It’s positive – and God knows in Detroit, we need positive things like this”.

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Photo by Nick Van Mead

Bo (pictured) is president and co-founder of Grown Men On Bikes (GMOB), one of the oldest groups at Slow Roll. Bo spent $1,300 getting a one-off low-rider custom bike build – but that’s just the start.

“Once I go back in it’s going to get big”, he says. “I’m going to get a custom seat, wheels, paint” … The finished bike could cost around $3,000 – but would still be far cheaper than pimping a car. “This is much better. It’s a community. We party”.

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Photo by Jason Walker/Slow Roll Monday Nights

“We just take old rusty junk and we rebuild it, personalise it how we like. We just put love into it”, says Charles Ferdin of Down River Rivers (not pictured).

Heavy beats boom from the sound system built into the box on the back of his trike – an old steel frame from 1967 which he has refurbished and given a powder-coated paint job.

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Photo by Jason Walker/Slow Roll Monday Nights

“These rides like Slow Roll … we’re taking urban decay and we’re making it beautiful”.

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Photo by Nick Van Mead

Two members of GLOW (Grown Ladies on Wheels) ride through Detroit’s blighted East Side.

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Photo by Jason Walker/Slow Roll Monday Nights

“Slow Roll helps break down barriers”, says Detroit Bikes founder and president Zak Pashak (not pictured).

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Photo by Terrence Thedoctord Couch/Slow Roll Monday Nights

“The cycling is about 2% of why it’s such an incredible event, though”, he adds. “The bikes just facilitate people coming together”.

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