Macomb Bike’s service center performs maintenance and repairs, and it assembles bikes from kits.

Macomb Bike’s service center performs maintenance and repairs, and it assembles bikes from kits.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


As biking popularity soars, businesses deal with smaller inventories while consumers map their own routes

By: Nick Mordowanec | Metro | Published April 15, 2021

 Cyclists race around the Upper Peninsula during a past “Tour Da Yoop” event. The 10-day affair, if completed, amounts to over 1,200 miles of riding.

Cyclists race around the Upper Peninsula during a past “Tour Da Yoop” event. The 10-day affair, if completed, amounts to over 1,200 miles of riding.

Photo by CWG Photography

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METRO DETROIT — “I want to ride my bicycle.”

Not only was that a song lyric belted by Freddie Mercury, but it has become a lifestyle for many over the years. Once the pandemic inundated all of our realities, people discovered a newfound appreciation for cycling as one of the purest and safest forms of escape.

Bob Michielutti, 58, of St. Clair Shores, has always enjoyed getting on a bike. But it wasn’t until April 2020 when he was encouraged by friends to go on longer treks.

He began riding around Grosse Pointe at least five days per week, not laying off the pedals until he completed 25 or 30 miles each journey. He would zoom down Jefferson Avenue and along the lakeshore before heading home.

On other occasions, he visited a friend in Ray Township, and the pair would hit a 30-mile loop on gravely, hilly terrain.

“It was just a way to get outside,” Michielutti said. “And then I said, ‘I really like this.’”

Michielutti ran long distance competitively in high school and college before getting a job and having a family. Once injuries impacted his running regimen, biking sort of became a religion.

Last year, he found a store in Rochester that had bikes for sale. Later, he bought another one because he was caught up in the thrill.

Nowadays, he is still riding and going far. He cycles between 100 and 200 miles weekly, with a personal rule of riding in the winter as long as there’s no ice on the ground. “You dress for it,” he joked.

The only month he recently missed was February due to the snowfall. He said that people his age that he knows have been pushed not just by the pandemic and its effects, but by a desire to be active and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

“I like that I can push myself, get a good workout … just being outside, and the fresh air,” he said.

 

Big interest, smaller inventories
Jeff Radke owns Macomb Bike, located on Schoenherr Road in Warren. The third-generation family business opened in 1977 and, this year, will celebrate its 44th birthday.

“I started sweeping floors when I was 13 and been here ever since,” Radke said.

The store’s clientele come from near and far. Some know Radke and his family from various activities within the community, or the bike giveaways for local schools and other fundraisers.

While the last year and recent changes have been unlike any other due to COVID-19, Radke said the cycling industry has been experiencing a reinvigoration of sorts.

He cited product improvements due to technological efficiencies, with bikes including more offerings than they did three or four decades ago. Hybrid bikes can “do it all,” as he put it.

Parents are encouraging their children to temporarily ditch their devices and go outside. Group rides in different cities and areas, such as the popular Slow Roll in Detroit, have taken the recreational activity to another level in recent years.

“Even before the pandemic hit, cycling was doing well,” he said. “People were embracing the active lifestyle. It’s been strong.”

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down swaths of society to combat the disease last year, Macomb Bike was one of those small business casualties.

From late March to late April, the shop was closed.

Once the store was deemed essential in late April and allowed to open for curbside sales and services, Radke and his staff of about a dozen employees engaged in a Zoom meeting.

“In that 20-minute Zoom, we had about 60 missed calls the same day (Whitmer) allowed us to open. … People were just clamoring to get outside,” Radke said. “It was and still is a great way to be outside and socially distanced and be active. They obviously weren’t going to the theaters and ball games and stuff.”

A problem that is neither regional nor national — but worldwide — is inventory, or lack thereof. Shortages hit Macomb Bike hard between May and July of last year, making it difficult to find repair parts for tires, tubes and chains. Bikes are on backorder.

While Macomb Bike increased its sales in 2020, this year is up in the air because it is based on inventory, and the industry continues to experience a surge.

Before the pandemic, the inventory was such that Radke could order bikes from Wisconsin and have them shipped within one business day.

Radke predicted normalcy for his industry won’t return until at least 2022.

“It’s the one that keeps you up at night,” he said. “We can’t operate without inventory.”

 

‘An epic adventure’
In 2018, Bloomfield Township native James Studinger began Tour Da Yoop.

The annual cycling challenge, now in its fourth year, covers over 1,200 miles of terrain in the Upper Peninsula during a 10-day period of sweltering heat in August.

“In general, I love the UP and I love to introduce people to the UP and the outdoors,” Studinger said. “I’m always looking for exciting adventures to do in the UP and see who wants to tag along.”

It started when one of Studinger’s buddies asked him for help with a northern bike route. After calculating a route in the Upper Peninsula that exceeded 1,000 miles, Studinger found an opportunity in an activity that can be dangerous.

He has known people who do bike triathlons, as well as people who have been hit by cars while riding — some who have been paralyzed and some who have died due to injuries.

As risks in populated areas remain immense, and possibly deter individuals from biking for leisure or for competition, Studinger pondered another way.

“I thought it would raise awareness for safe biking in the UP,” he said. “And I would highlight all the quiet, nonpopulated, non-highway paved roads where you can ride your bike for a hundred miles and, for the most part, see five cars.”

Tour Da Yoop enlisted the help of the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and local planning divisions to assure that pedestrians would enter and exit safely.

After putting out a callout on Facebook, 20 people joined him in 2018. He was the only rider to complete all 1,200 miles.

“We had a blast. It was like being a kid again, exploring,” he said. “It was unbelievable. … We rode through literally every single town in the UP.”

“Being a kid again” is what got Studinger into the hobby again. Not a self-described “biker” a few years ago, he was reminded of his childhood and how, for many kids, a bike “is the first acknowledgment of freedom.”

Last year, the event was smaller, with about 38 bikers spaced out. About a dozen participants completed all 10 days — including one rider who was 79 years old — and cumulatively rode over 38,000 miles.

Riders have come from as far as Hawaii and Germany to partake in this endeavor, what Studinger remarks as “a biker’s dream come true.”

“The reality is that what everyone remembers the most is all the people you meet along the way,” he said. “The bikers that have joined us have been cream-of-the-crop people. … There is a tremendous demand and boom for biking, and it’s not going to go away post-pandemic. You can hardly buy a bike anymore; they can’t keep up with the demand. The UP is only 50 miles wide, and we’re able to logistically make it work out. You go hours without hardly seeing a paved road. It’s an epic, unbelievable adventure.”

To sign up for the event, visit www.tourdayoopeh.com.

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