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Bike it Baby

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Dutch Girl DonutsI love my commute to work. Yeah, I said it. Most people would compare their commute to getting a root canal or listening to the sweet sound of a baby screaming. But not me. Some days I drive the 10 miles from Ferndale to Quicken Loans' headquarters on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit; other days I take the bus. But my favorite way to get to work is by bike.

People don't think of Detroit as a bike-friendly city, but in fact a few of Detroit's most well-known innovators, the Dodge brothers (Horace and John) and Henry Ford, revolutionized their industry by first dabbling with bicycles. The Dodge duo invented the first ball-bearing bike and later went on to assist Ford in creating automobile engines. Ford's first automobile, the Quadricycle, was made using four bicycle tires. See what he did there? It's like a bicycle, but because it has FOUR wheels, he called it a Quadricycle. Oh Henry, you jester you.

That little fun fact is fine and dandy, but you may be wondering why I choose to ride my bike in Detroit. The answer is simple. Biking is the best way to experience the outright beauty of the city and the renaissance that is happening on its streets. Buildings are being renovated, people are bustling around, businesses are open and active, and the city is thriving. On bike, you can see someone's smiling face, smell the amazing breakfast at the Hudson Café and hear the music being played at Campus Martius Park. You just don't feel that same energy if you blast by in a car. I readily encourage everyone who comes to Detroit in fairer weather to give pedaling a go. You'll see a new side of Detroit that you might not have expected.

Dig My Ride

Whether I'm riding to or from work, Dutch Girl Donuts on Woodward Avenue, the best donut shop in the nation, is a required stop. Yes, Portland, you can keep your wacky, cereal-topped Voodoo Doughnuts. I'll take a straight-up, no frills, piping hot and delicious Dutch Girl over an Oreo-covered monstrosity any day. Open for more than 60 years, Dutch Girl Donuts is ready to meet your donut needs 24 hours a day. With a couple glazed gems in my backpack, I'm ready to pedal just about anywhere.If you get the chance, you must ride through Detroit's Midtown area. Midtown is one of those energetic and diverse neighborhoods that has literally erupted with activity. Historic buildings are getting facelifts for residential and commercial purposes left and right. Hip restaurants and bars are aplenty. And you can always spot students and resident creative types from nearby Wayne State and the College for Creative Studies hanging around. I like to pop by Z's Villa. Housed in a three-story, 100-year-old building, Z's serves up pizza and burgers in a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere. Z's back patio is a must in the summer. There's a full volleyball court and horseshoes for you to enjoy while you sip a beer and eat a burger with a polish sausage stacked on top. Yes, that's right, an entire polish sausage on top of a burger. It's the American melting pot in burger form. And for those who think my donut snobbery contradicts my anything-goes hamburger philosophy, all I can say is that I'm a complex person. I like what I like.
 
Be sure to follow your nose and ride by El Guapo, the city's first traveling food truck. Wait, who am I kidding? You can't just ride past El Guapo — make sure you stop and get a taco or three. El Guapo usually splits its time between Midtown and downtown, but check out Twitter (@elguapogrill) for the latest on its exact location.

Eastern MarketIf you take your wheels one mile northeast of downtown, you'll find another sensory-filled destination in Eastern Market. This national historic site and farmers market is chock-full of vendors every Saturday and on Tuesdays July 10-October 30 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Everything from peppers, potatoes and tomatoes to fresh-cut flowers and shrubbery are ripe for the picking. Pack up your load in a bike basket and you're good to go, but don't leave the market without discovering the best pizza the city has to offer at Supino Pizzeria. Trust me when I say you won't forgive yourself if you miss this treasure stop, conveniently located on the market's main artery, Russell Street.

If you're biking downtown, make sure you cruise past the recently renovated Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority and travel the paved and always busy and beautiful Detroit RiverWalk, where you can see another country, Canada, just across the Detroit River. Take a jaunt over to the scenic island park of Belle Isle or ride up the Dequindre Cut, the railroad line turned paved pedestrian and bicycle path. It's part of the 40+ miles of designated bike lanes and paths that currently exist in Detroit. (Visit bikedetroit.com for routes and maps.)

What's exciting about this whole travel-by-two-wheels idea is that when you start to hit spots by bike, you'll soon realize that the final destination is only part of the fun. That's what still happens to me every time I ride. I've met friendly people, discovered interesting and transforming spaces and seen a vision of Detroit's future by working, playing and biking in the city. But don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself. Get on your bike and ride.

FindMeABike

Find Me a Bike

Plenty of retail and rental bike shops and organized bike rides can be found in Detroit. Here are a few of them:

Wheelhouse Detroit
Conveniently located on the Detroit RiverWalk at Rivard Plaza, Wheelhouse rents and sells bikes. Guided city bike tours with cool themes  ranging from Detroit architecture, Eastern Market and automotive heritage are also offered.
1340 Atwater St.
Detroit, 48207 DD
313-656-2453
www.wheelhousedetroit.com

Motor City Bike & Brew Tours
If you like bikes and beer, this tour, put together by the Motor City Tour Company, is for you. Learn about Detroit's beer history, get some exercise along the way and, of course, drink a few brews.
Motor City Tour Company
(248) 850-2563
www.motorcitybrewtours.com

Tour de Troit. (Sept. 15, 2012)
Thousands of cyclists take part in this annual ride that explores some of Detroit's historic sites. After you pedal your heart out, you can cash in your food and beer tickets. Pre-registration is required.
www.tour-de-troit.org

Critical Mass Detroit
Critical Mass is a huge bike ride that takes place the last Friday of every month in cities all over the world, and Detroit is part of the scene. The Motor City version of this ride really feels like a celebration. People are in good spirits, and neighborhoods are happy to see riders. Cyclists meet at the corner of Trumbull and Warren in the Woodbridge neighborhood at 6:30 p.m. Ride departs at 7 p.m

More That You Must

Our D-centric bike journey only scratches the surface when it comes to Detroit's eclectic hot spots and new, colorful, and yummy dining options. Here are a couple other exciting musts — some old, some new, some renewed — that deserve a mention and your consideration. All are worth the travel, the time and, in some cases, a taste.

Bleu Detroit
Completely renovated and located in the heart of downtown, Bleu is one of Detroit's premier nightclubs. Dance to the best electronic music from Detroit and the world in this two-level club, or relax and watch the party in one of the VIP areas. If you're looking for an even more laid-back vibe, sneak downstairs to UnderBleu — a low-key lounge where you can share a drink and a nice chat with someone special.
1540 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48226 DD
313-974-7799
www.bleudetroit.com

Leland City Club
Located a stone's throw from Greektown, the theater district and other quintessential Detroit attractions, the historic Leland Hotel beautifully merges Detroit's past with its future. Step into the lobby and be whisked away to the 1920s. And if you're looking for a place to dance the night away, the after-hours bar and industrial nightclub, City Club, is conveniently located in the hotel. The music matches the dark and mysterious atmosphere.
Leland Hotel
400 Bagley St.
Detroit, 48226 DD
www.lelandcityclub.net

London Chop House
Experience the revitalization of Detroit while dining on some of the city's most exquisite offerings. One of Detroit's most legendary restaurants reopened this year, and it combines Old World charm with today's styles to give a fine dining experience without a stuffy, pretentious feel.
155 W. Congress
Detroit, 48226 DD
313-962-0277
www.londonchophouse.net

Mercury Burger & Bar
Nestled in bustling Corktown, Mercury Burger & Bar is the new kid on the block, opening this spring. The obvious mainstay menu item is the burger. You can pick from beef, turkey, salmon, Portabella and other varieties. The rings and hand-cut fries are tasty, too. And you can decide if you want to wash it all down with a gourmet milkshake or a handcrafted brew. On sun-drenched days, enjoy the attached open-air patio/biergarten. Another wild side note about this joint: It also serves a full breakfast menu.

Mercury Burger

2163 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, 48216 DD
313-964-5000

Texas de Brazil
Located downtown in the Compuware Building (which is also Quicken Loans' headquarters), Texas de Brazil will meet your meat needs … and then some. Prepare to feast on countless varieties of seasoned meats, carved right at the table. And don't have any preconceived notions about the salad bar. It's more like a second feasting area, overflowing with appetizers, gourmet vegetables, soups and salads.
1000 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48226 DD
313-964-4333
www.texasdebrazil.com

 

A Lasting Look

Gateway to Freedom Photo by Vito PalmisanoWhen biking around downtown, expect to cross paths with a number of historic monuments, stoic statues and intriguing sculptures. If you have the time, hit the brakes, hop off your ride and take a closer look.
 
The Gateway to Freedom monument shown here, which was also featured on the cover of the Summer & Fall 2012 issue of Visit Detroit magazine, is located in downtown's bustling Hart Plaza. Created by sculptor Ed Dwight, this one-of-a-kind piece has an international companion across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, called the Tower of Freedom. Both monuments pay tribute to the courageous freedom seekers who travelled the final stops of the Underground Railroad in Detroit to safely arrive on Canadian soil. As part of an overall commitment to educate others about civil rights and the Underground Railroad, the nonprofit Detroit River Project, along with other organizations, recently hosted a 10-year commemoration for the monuments.

 

Getting There


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Belle Isle Park
2 Inselruhe
Detroit, 48207 DD
313-628-2081

Campus Martius Park
800 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48226 DD
313-962-0101
www.campusmartiuspark.org

Dequindre Cut
Between Mack Ave.
and Woodbridge St.
313-566-8200
www.detroitriverfront.org

Detroit International Riverwalk
Joe Louis Arena to
Mount Elliott Park
Detroit, 48226 DD
313-566-8200
www.detroitriverfront.org

Detroit/Wayne County
Port Authority
130 E. Atwater St.
Detroit, 48226 DD
313-259-5091
www.portdetroit.com

Dutch Girl Donuts
19000 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48203 DD
313-368-3020
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dutch-Girl-Donuts/180655755313096

Eastern Market
Corner of Russell St. and Gratiot
Detroit, 48207 DD
313-833-9300
www.detroiteasternmarket.com

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