Friday, September 9, 2016

Review: HandleBar Detroit, Detroit's 16-person bar on wheels

*Disclosure: I received a free ride on the HandleBar in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I have wanted to try a "pedal pub" ride ever since a friend and I saw one in Savannah, GA, when I went there for a weekend trip. There was a bachelorette party riding on the pedal pub, and it looked like a ton of fun. Since then, I've seen them pop up in Ann Arbor and now, Detroit, with HandleBar Detroit. When I got the opportunity to try them out for a blogger event, then, I definitely didn't hesitate to accept!


Jason was our driver (Handler? ha) and he was very knowledgeable - he's actually one of the founders of Slow Roll Detroit, which was pretty cool. He knew the best places to take us to, in Detroit, and we ended up making three stops: at Checker Bar, at Comerica Park (for a photo op), and at the Town Pump Tavern.


I was a little worried that the bike seats would be small or uncomfortable, as I'm not super small, but they were actually fine. It's not the easiest to get up on the seats but they also have "shortie" seats, which is where I originally sat - I'm almost 5'5" and that was easier for me than the regular seats. I believe the Handlebar's website says you should be 5'3" to reach the pedals on the "regular" seats, but I'd say it's more like 5'5" or 5'6" (I'm technically 5'4 and a half).

The good news is there are also some non-pedaling seats, over the wheels, and a bench, where you don't have to pedal either, so if you're on the shorter side you can sit there instead.

Checker Bar menu - check out the "plate o' bacon" option!

Our first stop was the Checker Bar, which I had never been to, and they had "pedal pub" drink specials which was nice - I got a rum and Diet Coke for $4. I also ordered one of their Little Checker sliders, and sweet potato tater tots, which were fantastic. You only get about twenty minutes at each stop, however, so we got our food to go.


Our second stop was at Comerica Park (for non-Detroiters, this is where the Detroit Tigers play). It was fun to see the park all lit up at night, and we got a quick photo op in, too.


photo credit: Crystal from My Imperfect Family

Our third and final stop was the Town Pump Tavern, which I had heard of before - it's in the Comerica Park/Fox Theatre area. Centaur, another bar, is across the street, as well, but we chose to go to the Town Pump. The bar was a little hot so I didn't stay there long, but they did have a hilarious sign out front (see below) that I liked.


The Fox Theatre is one of my favorite Detroit spots to see a show!

Things to know before you ride the HandleBar:
  • The website suggests 5'3" or taller to reach the "regular" seats, but I'd suggest 5'5-5'6" or taller. There are "shortie" seats, as I mentioned, though, as well as some seats that don't require pedaling.
  • The pedal pub is powered by "manpower" - if you don't pedal, it doesn't move! The Handler is there to steer and use brakes. They'll also put on your choice of music playlist or their own - we chose Motown music (natch!) which was a lot of fun. 
  • If you bring purses, jackets, etc., there's an overhead area in the pedal pub where they can be stored.
  • 18-year-olds can ride the pedal pub, but of course you must be 21 to drink at the bars.
  • The max party size is 16 people - the pedal pub has 16 seats - and the minimum recommended is 6. HandleBar does have 4 bikes total so if you booked all four, it could seat up to 64 people. 
  • The cost for a 2-hour tour, Friday/Saturday is $400, and Sunday-Thursday tours are $300. (ie, if you bring 16 people, the cost would be $18-25 per person)
  • All tours start and end at 190 Gratiot Ave., Detroit.
  • The HandleBar operates from mid-March through November, 7 days a week. It runs from 12:30pm to 10pm Monday-Friday, and 10am to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. 
  • Wear sneakers or comfortable shoes (vs. sandals or flip-flops) since it's definitely a workout!

You can follow the Handlebar on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well.

Christine, Crystal (My Imperfect Family), Rachel (Redesigning Happiness), and I
credit: My Imperfect Family

Bonus: I got to check out The Belt right before our tour - a very colorful alley (with bars and restaurants) in Detroit! It's located near the Z Garage and near 190 Gratiot, which is where we began our HandleBar tour.

I'd recommend the HandleBar for a group party of any sort! I could see it being great for a bachelorette or birthday party, or even a company get-together (it would be a great team-building activity). It was definitely fun to go with a group of my blogger friends.


Have you ever been on a pedal pub before? If not, is it something you'd consider doing?

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