Homegrown bicycle maker Detroit Bikes LLC hopes to be able to soon turn its first profit in the wake of a new contract to supply bikes for the nation’s largest bike share operator, the upcoming release of a new model and other developments.

Founder and President Zak Pashak said he’s also hopeful his five-year-old company will be chosen to supply bikes for the upcoming Detroit bike-share program, which could launch later this year.

Detroit Bikes announced Wednesday it has partnered with Motivate, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based operator of bike share programs in 11 cities, to supply 3,000 bikes in its initial order, with the possibility for more later on. The deal will see Detroit Bikes assemble the bikes from frames and components shipped from China but engineer and manufacture the wheels at its westside factory.

“This tips us over the edge,” Pashak said. “This will be a profitable year hopefully. This is the contract that’s going to get us there.”

A Detroit Bikes employee at work in the company's westside factory.
A Detroit Bikes employee at work in the company’s westside factory.

The bikes made for Motivate won’t be like Detroit Bikes’ other offerings and won’t carry the manufacturer’s branding, Pashak said. They were designed in the U.S. by world-renowned bike designer Ben Serotta and several lead mechanics from bike share systems that Motivate operates, based on analysis of several years of bike maintenance and performance records.

That’s meant “tons and tons of challenges” in figuring out how best to assemble them, Pashak said. “It’s been a big process. They’re a complicated process and we’ve had to do a lot to make it right.”

The company hired 10 new workers to help fulfill the order.

Motivate said moving assembly and engineering to Detroit would help it better control quality and bike safety and fulfill orders more quickly. Motivate operates the Citi Bike system in New York City, Bay Area Bike Share, Chicago’s Divvy and Capital Bike Share in Washington D.C. It says it operates almost 70 percent of the entire bike share fleet in the U.S.

Motivate said moving assembly and engineering to Detroit would help it better control quality and bike safety and fulfill orders more quickly.

“We’ve seen phenomenal growth over the past year as more and more successful cities realize that bike share can transform travel,” Motivate president and CEO Jay Walder said in a statement. “I can’t think of a better place to have our bike assembly operations than Detroit, a place that is reinventing its manufacturing industrial base and experiencing an urban rebirth.”

CitiBike users in NYC.
CitiBike users in NYC.

Pashak said the first of its bikes are already rolling on the streets of Brooklyn as part of the Citi Bike program.

Meanwhile, Detroit Bikes partnered with Santa Monica, Calif.-based CycleHop LLC to bid on the contract for the nascent Detroit bike share program. That program, announced last fall, has enlisted Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan as its lead sponsor and will begin with 350 bikes at 35 stations — too small for Motivate, which did not bid, Pashak said.

I sent an email Wednesday to Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of the bike share program with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, asking about a timeline for selecting a vendor, but haven’t heard back.

Pashak told me recently that officials were working to select a vendor, raise more funds and secure a memorandum of agreement with the city.

“We really wanna be part of that Detroit bid,” Pashak said. “I’m really excited about that proposal and I think it makes a ton of sense to have us involved.”

Detroit Bikes is also working on design and prototyping for a second order by New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colorado, and it’s hired new sales representatives around the country, including national sales director Scott Montgomery, the son of the founder of the Cannondale bike company.

“You’re going to see a lot of growth for Detroit Bikes in retail stores in the next 12 months,” Pashak said.

Detroit Bikes worker 2The company also is working on releasing its C Type model, its third. The C Type will be a lightweight single-speed bike designed for urban riding with a slightly knobbier tires and drop-down handlebars. It will retail for $599 — $100 less than its two predecessors — and be available in two sizes and either a slate grey or candy-apple red.

All told, Pashak is optimistic that his company could produce 10,000 bikes by year’s end.

“We’ve got a long path to get there but we’re growing pretty damn fast. So we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

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