Slow Roll Detroit is Michigan’s largest weekly bike ride.
Every monday experienced bikers, beginners, from the city and suburbs are seen snaking through predetermined community routes on their racing bikes, mountain bikes, low/high riders, and unique custom bikes with baskets, honking horns, bells, reflectors, mounted stereos and accessories of all kinds.
Its energy is infectious and serves as a palpable example of the city’s entrepreneurial spirit. The Detroit Regional Chamber reached out to co-founder Jason Hall to get Slow Roll up north at the Mackinac Policy Conference. I caught up with him before the event to ask a few questions about Slow Roll and what to expect in Mackinac.
1. I read you fell out of love with Detroit, left, and came back after a year. Where did you go? What brought you back?
I went to South Beach Miami for more job experience to get to the next level. I used to work at WDIV Local 4’s sister station WPLG. I loved what Miami gave to me. As far as cities go, It’s such a transient place because nobody is really from South Beach. Even the people who lived there for 20 years were originally from somewhere else. Down there I just felt like there wasn’t any solidity to it. So as beautiful as it is in South Beach, all I did was compare it to Detroit the whole time. Once it’s in your heart, it’s a part of who you are. My love for the city of Detroit is what brought me home.
2. When you returned to Detroit, and fell in love with bike riding through the community, did you ever imagine the magnitude your bike rides would really turn into?
No. absolutely not. Ha. It’s funny. People ask me that question all the time and there definitely came a time where I knew we would get bigger than we thought we would, but that “bigger” to me was 100 people. Never in life could you have ever thought there would be 6,000 people a week coming out to Detroit on a Monday night.
3. What will the Mackinac route be, and what will the Slow Roll experience be like on the island?
The island is only 8 miles around, and we usually go 10-12. So we’ll do one good loop around and get to some spots in the middle. The really cool thing about it too, is there’s no cars on Mackinac, so this will be an exclusive experience with Slow Roll.
4. What have you found to be the most rewarding since the start of Detroit Bike City, and Slow Roll? Most challenging?
Wow. The most rewarding… That’s a hard one to put my finger on. Because everything that this thing has done through the goals we’ve achieved together as a city has felt surreal. They didn’t even know this existed or what to do with this. Our acceptance from the city and the fact that we’re now partnered with the Detroit Police and we get an escort every week. That’s surreal. And the life change you get from the experience. Every week someone comes to me and tells me how they were on dialysis, couldn’t walk or other health testimonials. That’s even more surreal. Then there’s always a story of a kid who was in trouble at school, started riding bikes with his parents and they built a bond over that… things like that, you can’t put your finger on just one!
The most challenging thing with Slow Roll is definitely keeping the routes fresh. And that’s not even hard. But when you think about the fact that we do 30 bike rides a year, and we try to spread it around and not repeat the same areas, that can be a bit of a challenge. Other than that, there really is not any other challenges. What we have created together is something that’s become an unstoppable force.
5. How did bringing the Slow Roll to Mackinac Policy Conference come about?
I got a call from the Detroit Regional Chamber, and they’re big fans. A lot of the people who work for the chamber have been on the Slow Roll already and they felt the energy, and said if Detroit has this energy, we gotta show the rest of the state what’s going on.
6. With Slow Roll incepted in other communities, even outside of Michigan, how does that feel?
Amazing. When you get a call from a city like Denver or Chicago, that already have established bike rides going down, and they’re calling to ask us how to do it, that’s surreal. People ask how does it feel to be a proud father; I feel more like a proud big brother. We’re all the same.
7. Why did you start Slow Roll?
I started slow roll to reconnect with the city on a personal level. I had fallen out of love with the city and when I hooked up with Mike, my partner, he was kind of going through the same thing. We decided since we have some time off to try and reconnect with the city. So, we started riding bikes.
-Original *online exclusive* can be found on the Detroit Regional Chamber website– June 2016
Peace and blessings,
– P. Blessman