Friday night I headed down to the Motor City for this massive group ride called Critical Mass. I’d never heard of it before and half expected it to be all hipsters with neards riding fixies wearing Toms. We decided that if it was lame, we would just make it a bike-pub-crawl and hit up some of Detroit’s watering holes instead.
There were already a ton of people there when we arrived about 630 and it looked like it would be pretty wild plus this guy had an awesome bike and was kicking out old school 90’s rap jams non-stop.
First impressions:By 7pm it was a literal “sea of people” itching to ride and we finally started south on Trumbull behind a few dudes with speakerboxes tied to their bikes pumping out the jams. By my guesstimate there were easily 500 people and others who corked the intersections say they counted as many as 650-700.
The going was pretty sketch at first, kind of like what it must feel like to ride in a Tour de France at 8mph, you had to have your wits about you until the pack separated a little bit. As we made it through parts of the city the crowd thinned a bit and you had more space to ride, so far so good and fun.
The cab drivers and traffic in general were major pissed off at 500+ bikers blocking all lanes of traffic in one direction at a time. Lots of horns. Lots of people throwing up their hands in disgust. But also lots of people honking and waving in what I could only interpret as support.
The Route: We rode South through Corktown, over to downtown and up through Grand Circus, up Gratiot to the Dequindre Cut Greenway Trail, followed that to the riverfront where we took the RiverWalk past Chene Park where rumor has it LL Cool J was performing in concert and everyone was sipping mixies and there was a lot of marijuana in the air, following the Riverwalk through to about Mt. Elliot Park where we headed north to Jefferson and headed towards Belle Isle.
A Good Ride Goes Bad… About halfway through Belle Isle and ~10 miles in to a 15+ mile ride we were cranking it towards the head of the pack, and it had been an awesome ride so far. This when the SHTF as I snakebit my back tire popping up a curb; the cruel irony being that I had given my spare tire to A-train before the ride (he had a flat). Two attempts at using a patch kit failed and by that time it was dark and we had lost the 500+ people we were riding with and were now essentially stranded on Belle Isle, the park that never closes.
Every car that drove past us reeked of reefer and I have never heard so much bass in my life but nobody bothered us, not even the cops.
Google Maps told me we were about 6 miles from the car and my bike was unrideable. No. Es. Bueno.
The escape: We hoofed it about 1.5 miles off the island and once back on Jefferson did a little tandem riding, I pedaled A-trains bike and he rode on the handlebars while B-rad towed my busted rig at his side. It was a precarious ride with about 440 pounds of man on a bike and we got a lot of funny looks but nobody messed with us.
Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of this.
We followed the Riverwalk back to the Atwater Brewery and sent A-train to retrieve the car so we could all finally go home. About five beers later (which seemed about 3 beers too many, it wasn’t that far away) he finally showed up and we had a celebratory toast before Atwater kicked us out at closing time.
The Lesson: The lesson of all this is if you’re going on a 15 mile ride through the city (or anywhere) you should probably have a spare tube just in case you blow out.
Summing it up: The Detroit Critical Mass was a lot of fun, flat tire notwithstanding. It’s a great way to see the city and surrounded by 500 others even if you’re “afraid” of Detroit it’s about as safe as you can be down there. It’s definitely something I plan on returning to as they do it each month, just next time I will remember to bring a spare tube.