The Slow Roll, held at 6:30 p.m. every Monday, began with this Detroiter's appreciation for bike rides. Read how biking reconnects others to the community.
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ason Hall didn't always love Detroit. He admits he "fell out of love" with his hometown and, seeking an escape, moved out of state for a year.
"I hated it here, you know. I lived here my whole life and I wanted to get away," he says. But when he journeyed back, one activity was the key to rekindling the relationship.
"When I got on a bike, it was like a whole different world," he explains, citing the ability to interact with people along the way and connect with the community.
Today, Hall, 40, has taken his appreciation for Detroit and biking and shared it with the masses. He and his friend Mike MacKool are the co-founders of Detroit Bike City, known for its Slow Roll bike rides and annual biking expo at COBO Center.
It all started when he first moved back to Detroit. A few of his friends had a bike shop and invited him to hang out. After Hall discovered how much he enjoyed pedaling around the city, he and MacKool founded a bike club for their friends. The group split their time between two passions-riding bikes and playing video games.
"We're just big ol' nerdy dudes," Hall jokes. The bike club is still around today.
The next endeavor for Hall and MacKool became Detroit Bike City. Things quickly took off with their first major bike expo coming together by happenstance at COBO Center, thanks to a connection MacKool made working the North American International Auto Show.
"In my mind it was like, no one's ever done anything like this. We have no choice but to make history right now, so let's do it," Hall recalls. The biking expos have continued, with the most recent one being the last weekend of March.
What Detroit Bike City has become known for nationally and internationally, though, are its Slow Roll rides. Every Monday, groups of riders from across the region-and sometimes around the world-meet up at a Detroit spot for a mass bike ride through the city.
"We knew that there were all kinds of fast rides. We knew about all the stuff that existed, but we were like, 'Let's just make a ride where everybody can come out. Let's not intimidate anybody,'" Hall says. The group created different routes for riders, and eventually their 30 participants soon grew into the hundreds and the thousands.
"Slow Roll has become Michigan's largest weekly bike ride," Hall says. Cleveland started its own Slow Roll last year, and Buffalo, N.Y. has one in the works as well, he says, adding he's even been approached about one starting up in Sweden. Bikers at all Slow Rolls-even outside of Detroit-must follow Slow Roll Detroit's rules of the road, emphasizing respecting each other, the community and being safe, Hall explains.
"We all know the regional divide of metro Detroit and Detroit-the Eight Mile divide. This ride smashes that," Hall says. Hall says you won't see animosity at a Slow Roll gathering, but rather, a diverse crowd, people meeting friends and networking. "You get people from everywhere. No one's looking at anybody like, in a class way-they're all in it together."