Old Bike

Detroit's Gatsby Ride: A celebration of cycling and tweed

DETROIT — Some people say tattoo parlors are a good indicator of a city or community's economic climate. Consider Detroit’s annual Gatsby and Tweed Rides the same indicator for Detroit’s bicycling community.

Charley Marcuse, owner of the Claymore Shop in Birmingham, which specializes in fine gentlemen’s clothing, loves tweed, bicycles, having fun and Detroit — the perfect outfit, pun definitely intended, for starting and organizing a happening like the Detroit Gatsby Ride.

“It gives you an excuse to be a little goofy and just enjoy yourself, it’s a great time,” Marcuse says. Last year, Marcuse decided to match his mustard-colored Schwinn Varsity to a pair of yellow argyle socks. Yeah — it’s that awesome.

Out of the 30 to 40 riders that participate, he says about 90 percent of them come in rolled up trousers and tweed.

Marcuse wasn’t the first conspirator of a tweed ride — they’ve actually been in cities worldwide since about 2009, starting in London. With some help from friends, including Detroit-based Designer Erin Ellis, who makes the posters, Marcuse is able to organize rides, which he says are kind of a celebration of Michigan’s seasons, seersucker, and bicycling.

The 20-mile ride traditionally rolls past some of Detroit’s landmarks like Belle Isle and the Heidelberg Project. During last fall’s Tweed Ride, Marcuse took riders to the Tashmoo Biergarten, a pop-up outdoor biergarten in Detroit’s West Village.

"The ride is just about having a great time, celebrating being outdoors and being with friends, the joys of bicycling and the thought of getting dressed up and appreciating a theoretically gentler time.”

He says he has similar ideas for the June 24 Gatsby Ride, including a stop at the Palmer Park Log Cabin open house for an ice cream social.

This year’s ride will start at 1 p.m. with pre-ride bloody marys starting at noon at the Bronx Bar. Marcuse says after the ride, libations and other edibles shall be consumed at the Woodbridge Pub.

How does a bike ride compare to a tattoo parlor?

Michiganders abound know or are starting to learn just how bicycle friendly Detroit can be.

“There’s a real strong bike culture in Detroit,” Marcuse says. “As younger people are moving back to the city, the idea of getting around is a challenge. Public transit is so-so, but biking is a really great way to see the city and get around.”

While maybe not intentionally so, Detroit’s lack of traffic and an abundance of road real estate have quite literally paved the way for the development of bike lanes and transportation alternatives in Detroit, and possibly for the rest of southeast Michigan.

7366473240_ca351785dc_nHowever, Marcuse says, “I’m not looking to make a statement — there’s no purpose to [the ride]. The ride is just about having a great time, celebrating being outdoors and being with friends, the joys of bicycling and the thought of getting dressed up and appreciating a theoretically gentler time.”

Marcuse also says the ride is generally respectful of motorists, but “sometimes we take up the road and cause a little bit of trouble. We do our best to  act peacefully.”

The right guy for the job

Marcuse, 31, also owns a condiments company called Charley’s Foods Inc. — his face is emblazoned on his signature mustard labels and all. What makes better mention, however, is that you might actually recognize him as the Singing Hot Dog Guy during Tiger’s games at Comerica Park.

His light-hearted approach makes the Gatsby and Tweed rides a fun time for everyone, even for out-of-town visitors who might catch a glimpse of these chaps cruising by, some on late 19th century bicycles.

And, if you need tweed, Marcuse says you can find jackets and hats at various vintage stores for an inexpensive toll, or you could go visit him at Claymore’s for something a bit finer — just don't get any chain grease on your slacks.

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