The Industrialist: Zak Pashak

President and owner, Detroit Bikes

The Industrialist: Zak Pashak
Photo by Jacob Lewkow

Detroit Bikes' factory is located in a stretch of town that is neither hip nor trendy. It's an industrial area, with no fancy signs and no fanfare — you can tell people actually make things here.

And they do indeed. As Zak Pashak guides us through his factory, we pass workers at every step of process — tightening spokes, fastening wheels, and welding frames.

Pashak's path to industrialist was not a direct one. He was born in Calgary and split his time between there and Vancouver, where he variously worked as a drummer in a band, a radio DJ, a club owner, and founder of a music festival.

He first visited Detroit in 2010. "I had traveled a fair bit and often when I was traveling there would always be a neighborhood you were not supposed to go to, and I'd always end up in those neighborhoods and enjoying myself," Pashak says. "Detroit was kind of that on a bigger scale."

Pashak enjoyed his stay so much he returned for a month. And he kept coming back. At first, he thought about starting a music venue here, but realized the town had plenty of those already — besides, he wanted to create something with less of a ceiling, so to speak. He was also interested in municipal politics, specifically, transportation policy; he ran for Calgary city council in 2010, and lost.

That's when he started thinking about bikes. "I got a sense that there was an opportunity for a bike to be sold to a customer like I was," he says. "So not someone who wants to know about why this bike is technically superior to another bike, but just someone who wants a bike."

Pashak founded Detroit Bikes with a $2 million investment in 2012. The company offers two models: the matte black A-Type and the glossy white B-Type. Both retail for about $700 each — higher than what most Americans are used to paying for a bike, Pashak admits, but not quite a luxury price point, either. "What we're trying to prove with Detroit Bikes is that there's a middle ground, that we can make a really good bike that's not going to fall apart, that isn't a piece of crap like a Wal-Mart bike, but also isn't the other end of the spectrum," he says. "We're trying to establish a middle class of bikes."

Detroit Bikes will soon open a retail store on the ground floor of Capitol Park's Albert building, modeled after Detroit's old Huber & Metzger bike shop.

Pashak notes that Detroit Bikes treads a similar path as Shinola, another company that sells not only bikes but also a story about bringing manufacturing back to Detroit.

"People will spend more for a story to a certain degree, and there's value to a certain degree," he says. "We're really trying to make a well-priced, really good, quality bike with a good story. We need to balance those things."

About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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