October 6, 2018: a gnarly-weather day + my birthday + the day I visited Wheelhouse Detroit for the first time and took a guided tour with them.
I embrace the birthday warm-and-fuzzies wholeheartedly, because what better holiday exists than one where you get to celebrate being born/still being alive? I like to do special stuff on my birthday, and a bike tour with Wheelhouse Detroit remained undone on my 2018 bucket list, so I decided to book a spot on its Eastern Market-themed outing that landed on my birthday.
I knew when I booked the Saturday tour earlier in the week that I was taking a risk with the weather. Cue to one-and-a-half hours before the start of the event and me staring gaping-mouthed from my living room couch at the torrential downpour outdoors. Rut-roh.
I was tempted to scrap the whole thing, chucking the $50 I’d paid for the tour ($35 for the tour itself, $10 for a bike rental, plus fees) to stay planted on my couch reading a novel. But that wouldn’t be a birthday adventure, would it? I called Wheelhouse Detroit to confirm the noon tour was still on (it was – I was told they only cancel when extreme weather of the thunder-and-lightning variety is involved), and did my best to surrender to whatever journey unfolded.
Arriving at Wheelhouse Detroit’s riverfront shop based in Cullen Plaza (formerly Rivard Plaza) on Atwater Street during a brief hiatus from the showers, I was glad to see that four other tour attendees had shown up. I was asked to sign a waiver, given my helmet and a poncho, and my bike seat was adjusted by a staff member.
Hopping on the bike, I was pleased with how comfortable it was. I’m no bike expert, so I couldn’t tell you what kind it was besides . . . standard bike? It was obviously quality but wasn’t some intimidating racing bike or anything. It was super comfortable and easy to ride, to my relief. To my memory, I’ve only ridden a bike once in the last three-plus years (since my Summer 2015 Nautical Ride excursion): on an extremely bumpy, zippy downhill mountain route that did not inspire confidence in my cycling abilities. I was seeking ease and comfort on this Detroit bike tour, and I found it.
The three-hour tour started with our guide, Henry, routing us to Eastern Market via the Dequindre Cut.
The Dequindre Cut – so MAGICAL! I want to cover it in its own post on 100 Places in the D – it deserves to be highlighted – but I wasn’t able to stop and take any photos of it during this ride. A return trip to adequately capture the beauty of this bike/pedestrian path running along the site of a former rail line under overpasses vibrant with artwork is definitely in order.
We approached Eastern Market after 20 minutes of riding, amidst a fresh downpour. We had two hours to explore the market independently, we were told by Henry.
I wasn’t especially enthused to learn that two hours of the three-hour tour were dedicated to exploring Eastern Market on my own, in a downpour, on my birthday. But hey, surrendering-to-the-adventure was the theme of the day, and after some initial crabby wandering in the rain outside Eastern Market like a wet dog, I adjusted my attitude and did just that. I’ll highlight what new-to-me places I visited during this time in upcoming posts.
When our group reconvened, we rode for another 40 minutes, back down the Dequindre Cut and along the Riverfront. It was a lovely ride – all sunshine and blue skies by that point (hooray!) – and I adored it.
Overall, this tour with Wheelhouse Detroit was great. Henry was a kind and pleasant guide, riding at an easy pace, signaling when we needed to turn, guarding our bikes during the Eastern Market sojourn, and providing interesting information about the Eastern Market and RiverWalk (including plans for the RiverWalk’s expansion).
Considering that the Eastern Market trek is the shortest of Wheelhouse Detroit’s tours in terms of mileage biked at five miles (most advertise mileages in the teens), I should’ve suspected that the shopping portion would occupy a considerable chunk of it. I’d love to explore some of the longer tours, including those that highlight Southwest Detroit, Belle Isle, and “Haunted Detroit” (a showcase of allegedly ghost-populated locales running this October in honor of the spooky month-end holiday).
Of course, Wheelhouse Detroit is more than a provider of tours. According to its website, the shop sells new and used bikes as well as a myriad of cycling-related products, including tires, tools, helmets, clothing, and biking-related accessories such as locks, cargo bags, and lights. Bikes can be rented independent of the tours for jaunts along the riverfront and throughout the city, as well.
1340 E. Atwater St.
Detroit, MI 48207
(with an additional location in Hamtramck)