Huber and Metzger Bike Shop in the Streets of Old Detroit

Bicycles have a long history in Detroit! Although Detroit is known as the ‘Motor City’, bicycles helped pave the way for automotive innovation. In the Detroit Historical Museum’s signature Streets of Old Detroit exhibit, there’s a replica of a real-life bike shop that once served Detroiters for all their cycling needs.  

Bikes Take Over  

In the 1870s, only a few people in Detroit rode bicycles — favoring other forms of transportation like horses and carriages and walking. But as the next decade began Detroit embraced the bicycle that had already become popular in Europe.

In 1879, Detroit formed its first cycling club — the Detroit Bicycle Club, with 20 members. The bikes they used were not the bicycles we recognize today though, they would have been front, high-wheeled bikes like a Velocipede. The Velocipede is even the logo for the Streets of Old Detroit exhibit!

The larger wheel was difficult to control, often causing riders to fall.This led to the development of the safety-bike, like the bike we might recognize today, in 1886. True to its name, this bike reduced the chance of injury by bringing riders closer to the ground on two smaller, equally sized wheels with a chain drive in between.

And by 1890, the Detroit Bicycle Club wasn’t the only social club dedicated to riding bikes. Many early automotive pioneers were even cycling enthusiasts during this time. In addition to the clubs, there were bicycle repair shops, rental stores and more than 80 individuals and companies manufacturing or selling bicycles around the city.

 

Huber and Metzger Bike Shop

The Huber and Metzger Bike Shop was opened by William Metzger in 1891, during the bicycle boom in the city. Metzger was an avid cyclist, even serving as the first president of the Detroit Wheelman cycling club!  

After working briefly at Hudson’s Department Store, he decided to make his passion for cycling his career.  

He opened the store on Grand River Avenue between Woodward and Griswold — ultimately, it became one of the largest bike shops in the U.S.  

But Metzger expanded his business beyond bicycles in 1895 — opening a retail automobile showroom and becoming the first independent auto dealer in the city. But that was not the end of Metzger’s influence on the automotive industry.  

In 1899, he started the first auto show in Detroit – a lasting legacy! And Metzger continued to influence transportation in the city, advocating for road improvements and moving into the airplane industry.  

 

 

 

 

Photo: c. 1920, from the Detroit Historical Society collection. Sepia-toned head and shoulders portrait photograph of a William Metzger. He is wearing a dark suit and vest, white shirt, and a dark tie with a stickpin. 

In the Streets of Old Detroit

Metzger’s Bike Shop is replicated in the Detroit Historical Museum's Streets of Old Detroit exhibit, where you can learn more about the influence of cycling in the city. Plan your visit at detroithistorical.org.  

 

 

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