At the core of Slow Roll you’ll find a pack of wild bike enthusiasts known as “squad.” These are the people who make the ride happen week after week, safely leading thousands of riders on the 10-12 mile journey through the city.
Their canary yellow T-shirts have become somewhat of a trademark for the Slow Roll brand after an Apple commercial featured squad members and Slow Roll co-founder Jason Hall planning a Monday night route with the help of an iPad.
“Everybody wanted to get on squad, especially after the Apple commercial. Everyone wanted a yellow shirt,” Hall says.
But you have to earn that shirt. It’s not handed out to just anyone; they aren’t for sale. They’re for select Slow Rollers who have proven themselves.
“The core group of squad started out as my friends … the people that really bought into it, understood what we were doing, and just wanted this ride to go on and last forever,” Hall says.
Today, there are six squad captains and dozens of volunteers at each weekly ride. They’re the Slow Roll masters who protect the pack and have watched the ride grow from dozens to thousands of people each week.
With echoes of “stay riiiiight” or “car back” throughout the ride, squad does an excellent job at keeping everyone alert by enforcing the Slow Roll Code of Conduct. Communication is key, and squad is geared up with walkie-talkie applications on their phones to keep in constant contact with each other. They’re also prepped with tools to take care of any flat tires or other issues that might occur along the way.
“I’m usually in charge of communication, so I make sure every intersection has a squad member there … while all the sweepers are trying their best to keep their riders to the right side of the road and keep a lane open for traffic,” says squad captain Maria Nash.
In her fourth season of Slow Roll, Nash’s duties go beyond helping fellow bikers. She also stands in the road to direct car traffic from interrupting the flow of the ride.
“We have a pamphlet we hand out to drivers stating who we are, what we do — and the Slow Roll Code of Conduct is on the back,” Nash says.
Nash is also on a squad with her fiancé, who she met at Slow Roll. And every squad member will proudly tell you that squad is more than just a team of biker friends.
“They become family, man. I’ve never cried more than I’ve cried in the last six months hanging out with these fools,” Hall says. “It’s always somebody’s birthday, or someone’s getting married … our first squad baby [is] coming [in April].”
Starting this season, the squad won’t have to secure the streets alone. Hall has been working with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and city officials to create an even better Slow Roll experience.“The police will be on the rides this year,” Hall says.
Squad will still play a big role in corralling the Slow Roll crew, but the city is helping plan new routes and assisting in traffic control.
“They used to say doing business in Detroit was difficult and all this,” Hall says. “But I’ve worked with the greatest group of people that have been so supportive — from the mayor, to special projects, to the police tactical — everybody’s excited about the energy that Slow Roll brings to Detroit.”
The bottom line is that Slow Roll really does unite all walks of life; it’s a unique experience that is helping build a better Detroit. Squad is there to ensure this special ride lives on forever.