The web developer is re-developing the brand. New work @ The Detroit Terminal

Detroit Bike City Blogs

Authors earn points when their write-ups are posted.

Regular contributors can earn their own interactive page in the library. Find out how to become an author Here

Aaron L. Dylewski
by on April 19, 2019
89 views

DETROIT — It's been a year since Jason Hall left Slow Roll Detroit, the nonprofit he co-founded with Mike MacKool in 2010-11 to host weekly bike rides in and near Detroit.

The Monday evening rides had grown to include 5,000 or more bicyclists each week and been replicated by several other U.S. cities by the time Hall left.

He'd been featured in a minute-long Apple iPad commercial that highlighted his work with Slow Roll and the city of Detroit in 2014. And as part of the promotion, Apple sent him to cities across the U.S. and in other countries.

During the rides he hosted in other cities, he began to think about taking a new path.

Hall, 44, talked with Crain's Senior Reporter Sherri Welch last week about RiDetroit LLC, the new biking tour and event company he launched last summer to offer rides by reservation only, how it harkens back to the beginning of Slow Roll and how he plans to grow the business.

The transcript has been edited for length and clarity. 


Crain's: What led you to leave #SlowRoll Detroit?

Hall: When we started Slow Roll, we had no idea it would turn into what it turned into. It became this awesome … ride. When the Apple commercial came out (in 2014), I was lucky enough to travel with it. I went to Miami, Mexico, London, Sao Paulo. That gave us an opportunity to expand our view of what we thought we were as an organization. When I would go to these places, generally I'd go to speak. But they'd organize a bike ride. I'd go on this bike ride with people and have the most amazing time because the groups were small. I just started to remember what it was like at the beginning of Slow Roll when we were having conversations about what was next. When we started Slow Roll, we were just a bike ride. We didn't have any direction. We didn't have anything in mind as far as education or anything of that nature. The more we did it, we saw the opportunity to educate people on things we thought were important. We felt like when we started Slow Roll, the rides that already existed catered to partying rather than promoting positivity. We started Slow Roll to be the opposite of that, a ride that was for everybody. (But) the last five years of Slow Roll just became me screaming, "Stay to the right! Stay to the right!" for an hour and a half. I wanted something different. Not that I had done it all, but I felt like I personally had reached my end in Slow Roll as far as growth. In order for me to grow personally, I needed to go explore the other sides of things.

Crain's: What's the other side of things?

Hall: The smaller ride. When you have 5,000 people on a bike ride, it becomes very difficult to communicate with them. We had a week the police actually called us and said you had 10,000 people. When you have that many people, the message can get lost. There's no way someone five blocks away is going to hear what you're saying to get that message out. A large part of what we were doing was encouraging people to volunteer at the Children's Center and also Focus: Hope, the Greening of Detroit. We would start the ride there (or end up there) to get them more exposure. Part of the partnership was they'd come out and talk about what they do, and how it was important. We could move the needle because we were talking to people directly. But then it became 5,000-10,000 people, and you couldn't get the message out. We were so concerned with permits and porta potties that we were losing our identity. We wanted to be this community group and a catalyst for people making change. I personally felt like we were losing the ability to get that message out. At that point, I was doing so much solo traveling, I was not really thinking about what Mike felt. I knew he was content with doing Slow Roll. But me personally, it was a personal thing. I felt like after seven years of putting everyone else in front of me, it was time to think a little bit about Jason.

Crain's: When did you start #RiDetroit and how does it work?

Hall: About June of last year, I was thinking about my future and what I was going to do. I did all the routes for Slow Roll for seven years and built relationships. I felt like I'd made such an investment in biking and learning about biking and infrastructure and everything that went with how to make a bike ride work. I still love biking and people. So how do I get back to those two things I loved? So I said, "I'll start a smaller ride."

RiDetroit is a for-profit bike group that tours the city to show people that Detroit is a beautiful place to live, work and play, but just on a more intimate level where we can really have the conversation about making change. Groups are no larger than 50. I'll always reach out to a restaurant bar for some type of entertainment, and I'll reach out to a charity to give them some money, some shine. That's really my motto: Try to make a living while giving. If there's the ability to attach a charity to an event, I will. One of the rides I did was with the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. I have a sliding scale for the cost and deal with each individual separately. If it's a school, I give free tours. But otherwise, I charge about $35 per person and a bike rental would be additional. I work with American Cycle and Fitness in Royal Oak, which has one of the largest rental and demonstration bike fleets in Southeast Michigan. Because I am for-profit, a lot of times people will call me and have something in mind they want to do. I've partnered up with Lululemon, for instance, on a ride with executives they've brought in from all over the world. I have also done a ride for them where they opened up to their customers for a ride they (sponsored.)

Crain's: Are you marketing to companies?

Hall: I'm definitely marketing to companies and to schools; I'm a for-profit. I feel like tourism right now is one of the biggest industries that's happening in Detroit. I'm really trying to connect to tourism and the new employees coming in to Detroit, companies like Ford and Quicken are bringing new employees.

Crain's: It sounds like a similar model to Detroit Experience Factory which does walking tours in Detroit and markets them to businesses, as well as the public.

Hall: I'm sure there's a lot of experiences, but I'm on a bike. And they're on foot. There are clear advantages to being on a bike. You can cover more ground in the same amount of time.

Crain's: Are you the sole employee for RiDetroit?

Hall: Yes, just me. Hopefully, we'll grow. But I'm not in a hurry to expand. If there's one thing we learned about Slow Roll, it was definitely take your time in doing things and do it the right way.

Crain's: Have you done rides already and what's next?

Hall: Yes, probably about six rides. By the time we got going last year it was fall and winter. This year, we're starting to market it through the website, Facebook page and Instagram. We're working on the website and how people can buy tickets or rent a bike for a ride directly through the website. We were setting it up and one person would book a tour. We're trying to figure out how to get people to book for specific ride times.

Crain's: And do you plan to feature any specific routes with RiDetroit?

Hall: It's all based on what people want their experience to be. There are different kinds of bicyclists. Some have heard about how cool it is to ride in Detroit, that the roads are flat and there are no cars. So they just want to ride and get 2 hours and 30 miles in. Others want to stop at Atwater and get a beer and see the riverfront. We live in a world now where everyone is used to being able to cater what they want. I think that's what we're talking about for the future with hospitality and tourism. It's people getting the experience they want.

Copied from original source @ Crains Detroit —

Posted in: News & Information