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Detroit Bike City

1520 Merrick
Detroit, Michigan 48208

Jason Hall

By Tunde Wey
April 1, 2013

Jason Hall is cool; tall with dreadlocks falling past his shoulders. He is usually decked in crisp denims resting on immaculate sneakers and accessorized with hip rectangular framed glasses and a sweet bike. None of it is poseur; all of it is authentic and ultimately mission-driven.
Hall is a 'micromogul' in the making. To paraphrase Jay-Z, a favorite rapper of Hall's, Hall is not a businessman; he’s a business, man. His business is bikes.

In just under three years, Hall and partner Mike Mackool have transformed their irreverent bicycle club into a multifaceted bike culture company. Their company is an indie conglomerate in the offing, involved in everything from event production, bicycle manufacturing and repair to apparel and accessory design.

For the second year running they have organized their flagship event Detroit Bike City, an annual expo held at COBO Center that gathers bicycle riders, makers, enthusiasts and tinkerers to explore all things cycling.

They are unlikely entrepreneurs who launched their company Detroit Bike City because they have always loved bicycles, and it is this passion that underpins everything.

Detroit Bike City began as Bikes & Murder, a cheeky "bicycle gang" that met weekly for historic bike rides through the city. Their name, Bikes & Murder, has been mistaken as some sort of insensitive reference to Detroit’s notoriously high homicide rate. Hall wholly rejects this, saying, "It’s never been Bikes & Murder, Detroit. We purposely never put Detroit in the name; it was about playing video games and riding bikes. Bikes & Murder has never been about violence."
Hall's assertions are immediately obvious in his manners. He is consummately relaxed and friendly. He wear's a casual, almost nonchalant attitude that stands in marked contrast with his excitement for riding bikes – Hall seems most animated when zipping down wide and narrow streets, dodging potholes and people with controlled spurts of speed followed by careless coasting on his bicycle.
Hall’s small gang of bicycle enthusiasts grew from a few riders to over sixty people within a short summer, and then an idea struck him and Mackool. Why not an event to celebrate beautiful bikes?
"We had an idea to do a custom bike show in October 2010. We decided to do it at the Magic Stick. We wanted to showcase our friends who built bikes. We knew six of our friends who were great builders but didn’t know how to get publicity. We put that together and it went well. We put about 300 people in the Magic Stick in just about three weeks of promotion. Then we thought we could do something bigger."
Bigger is definitely what Hall and Mackool went for: they decided to start a business, with an awe-inspiring capital investment of $0, and then they had the audacity to approach COBO Center to host a bike expo. COBO said yes.
Hall says naiveté was their greatest asset: "The thing that made us pseudo-successful was at the beginning we didn’t know how to put on a bike expo so anything that came up we just found a way to figure it out. A lot of people think business is easy but there are days when there’s no money and you have to borrow money without knowing where it’s going to come from. You just have to do what you have to do.”
With tremendous event support from COBO Center and business development from Detroit Creative Corridor Center, Hall and Mackool were able to pull off a stunner. Their first event saw 1,700 attendees with 40 local vendors, including The Hub and WheelHouse Detroit participating.

Their more recent expo, despite inclement weather, was even more successful. 2,000 people attended in the event, which featured a bike swap, bike build display, bike auction, and BMX exhibition, among other events. The vendor roll had swelled to 90 and included national partners.
While Hall and Mackool have transformed Detroit Bike City into a bonafide company, they have not strayed far from their two primary inspirations: bicycles and Detroit. This summer, they are opening up a club house across the street from their local club bar, Woodbridge Pub, and are already working on a third expo.
Bike culture is irrefutably cool in Detroit, with the first hint of warmer months calling upon a veritable infestation of road bikes and, not infrequently, other bikes of the unwieldy variety. "We want to bring people down here to change people’s perception about the city. The show is to bring people down here, and that’s the first step. Then we want people on their bikes in the city. That’s our goal and we feel like it’s necessary."

Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

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