Wheelhouse Detroit owner Kelli Kavanaugh has an innovative way to share her hometown Detroit with others—on two (or three) wheels. She founded her company in 2008 to offer bicycle rentals and service, as well as bikes for sale—some of which are made locally in Detroit. While many urban cities offer bicycle rentals and tours, Kavanaugh’s urban agriculture tour, among others, provides a glimpse into Detroit’s unique urban culture.
Why did you start Wheelhouse Detroit?
Kelli Kavanaugh: I’m an avid cyclist, and I was very involved with Tour de Troit, an annual tour of the city. Seeing that ride grow sparked my interest and led to founding Wheelhouse Detroit. Detroit is great to cycle, and its rich history is perfect to pedal along to.
Your bicycle tours around Detroit are unique. What are your most popular themed rides?
KK: The Music Heritage Tour takes cyclists to the Motown Museum, Kid Rock Music Lab and countless other sites that span many music genres from techo to soul. The Architecture Tour is one of our most popular. Throughout the 15-mile tour, we look at architecture in relation to urban planning.
We also offer a Public Art Tour, an Underground Railroad History Tour, an Eastern Market Tour, a Hamtramck Tour (a Detroit neighborhood) and the popular Urban Agriculture Tour.
Tell me more about your Urban Farm Tour. What are some highlights and who joins the rides?
KK: Quite a few of our locals from the Detroit metro area, but we also get many tourists—even international tourists.
The 12-mile Urban Farm Tour changes monthly depending on the season. We make stops at the Eastern Market and meet local vendors, Gleaners Community Food Bank, urban gardens and community farms like Earthworks Urban Farm. The riders taste, talk and pedal their way into a greater understanding of urban agriculture and the local food system—and have a lot of fun doing it.
How has Wheelhouse Detroit contributed to Detroit’s green initiatives and economy?
KK: Our tours often partner with community groups, and we contribute to those organizations (Keep Growing Detroit, Ponyride, Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, Tour de Troit, Urban Neighborhoods Initiative).
Wheelhouse aims to run its business as sustainably as possible by recycling and donating used parts to local bike co-ops and works to be an advocate for active infrastructure and healthy living in the city.