Erin Guillen hopped on her first moped when she was 15, after a classic Up North childhood spent riding dirt bikes and quads around Manistee, Michigan. When she moved to Detroit four years ago, she wanted to bring the experience with her — and so this spring, she opened Motown Mopeds on Winder in Eastern Market.
Guillen, a Detour reader, told us she had been kicking around an idea to offer Detroiters and visitors a chance to explore the city by moped for a few years, but a bachelorette party trip to Florida inspired her to get the rental shop off the ground.
“In Florida, you can rent just about anything,” Guillen quipped.
As she battled burnout from her technology job at a Montessori school last winter, Guillen spent evenings working on a business plan. In the spring, she opened for limited weekend hours as she wrapped up the semester, and the shop now offers hourly and day-long rentals Tuesday through Sunday, weather permitting. (You don’t want to ride in the rain.)
Guillen has seen residents rent from the shop several times and she’s had business from tourists visiting Detroit for the first time. Recently, a family of six rented mopeds from her.
“They were overjoyed that this was an activity they got to do together,” she said, adding that she relishes the chance to introduce people to a new way of traveling and seeing the city.
“As a kid I just loved the acceleration of riding on my best friend’s dirt bike,” she said.
Guillen has a fleet of seven gas-powered 49cc Wolf mopeds (also used by college campuses) that she rents out. Each holds one rider and comes with a helmet. Renters must be at least 19, have a valid driver’s license and follow traffic laws.
Mopeds must be ridden on the road, not on sidewalks or in bike lanes. They can’t be used on streets with speed limits higher than 35 miles per hour — more than enough power for a pleasant cruise down East Vernor to Belle Isle. Motown Mopeds’ fleet includes under-seat storage and phone mounts so riders can follow GPS directions.
Guillen’s lease in Eastern Market is up Oct. 15, when Motown Mopeds will close for the season. Guillen plans to keep building the business during the winter and reopen in spring 2023. The location is to be determined.
For potential riders who are intrigued but nervous about hopping on a new form of transportation, Guillen said it’s easy to get the hang of handling a moped.
“By the time they get to one of the stop signs at either end of my street, they’ll usually feel comfortable,” she said. “It’s sort of like swimming — you just have to jump in the pool and try it out. You ride about 50 feet and then you’re like, ‘OK, this is super easy.’ It’s not hard to master.”
Motown Mopeds, 1524 Winder St., open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. — weather permitting. The shop accepts some same-day rentals. For full-day bookings, contact the shop in advance at 313-246-2169. Rentals start at $30 for the first hour. Renters must be at least 19 and have a valid driver’s license.