DETROIT – A Motor City bicycle maker has left its training wheels in the dust.
Founded nine years ago, Detroit Bikes LLC now produces up to 10,000 bikes a year, said CEO Zak Pashak. And it’s poised this month to begin assembling 500 copies of Schwinn’s classic Collegiate cruiser in a new partnership for an American brand that traces its lineage to 1895 Chicago.
“It’s a really tight schedule,” Pashak said of plans to build the revived Schwinn model. “This is the first time Schwinns have been manufactured in the U.S. in a long time. Manufacturing has been decreasing in the U.S., and this is a big step to change that. We’re going to need to step up our game for this one. But we’re ready to take on the challenge.”
The Schwinn Collegiate to be produced in Detroit is intended to reflect the leisurely aesthetic evoked by the 1965 version, said Ryan Birkicht, senior communications manager at Schwinn Bikes. They will be painted in classic Campus Green. A nod to the present is its eight-speed grip-shifter, an upgrade from the five-speed lever-shifter on the original.
The Collegiate is expected to be priced at $998 per copy and available as early as next month through Walmart.com. “Walmart is our No. 1 retailer,” Birkicht said.
The price is higher than other Schwinn models, one way the Canadian-owned Schwinn brand can assess demand for future, higher-priced American-made Schwinn products.
The COVID-19 pandemic delivered setbacks to many of the region’s manufacturers — automakers and suppliers, bike makers and luxury goods producers such as Shinola Detroit, which is slowly recasting Detroit’s manufacturing image as an autos-only town. But they are all cranking back to life in the town that taught America how to build things.
“Manufacturing shut down in late March and production has just started slowly and safely picking back up, with the team continuing to ramp up production for third and fourth quarter needs,” Shinola CEO Shannon Washburn said in an e-mail. Amid the pandemic, the luxury-goods maker moved much of its stock back to distribution centers from retail locations to meet demand from online customers.
Now, manufacturing is showing signs of a rebound. The Institute for Supply Management reported that manufacturing expanded in June after contracting the previous two months thanks to renewed hiring, increased orders and expanding production.
Like Shinola, Detroit Bikes has seen growth in online sales because of the retail shutdown. According to Pashak, the bicycle maker has seen online sales shoot to 10 times higher than normal for this time of year, as in-person sales were not accessible during the initial months of lockdown.
After reopening the storefront on Griswold in Detroit, bike sales skyrocketed, quadrupling last year’s sales and selling out some of the company’s more popular models — the A-Type Commuter and the Sparrow Commuter. New inventory for these models is not expected to be available until September.
Bicycle manufacturing in America has declined significantly in the past several decades. But Detroit Bikes is eager to bring at least a part of the industry back to domestic soil, where demand for all manner of bikes and other outdoor equipment is booming amid pandemic restrictions.
Thomas Page, a consultant for national law enforcement and longtime customer of Detroit Bikes, has purchased 15 models from the company. Page also worked with Pashak to design bikes for the University of Detroit Mercy campus for students and faculty to use.
“The University of Detroit Mercy is my alma mater, and I wanted to give them something,” Page said. “I sat down with Zak to discuss a partnership, and he said ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So we did.”
Detroit Bikes produced four bikes for campus use and the on-campus bikes were so popular that Page asked Pashak to make four more.
“It’s great to have a local company that wants to help the community,” Page said. “Detroit is the city that makes things. And seeing Detroit Bikes make bikes and be such a big part of our community, it’s like back to the future.”