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In bike-culture cafes, java meets pedal power--and art

The smell of rubber is a dead giveaway. It's the first thing to greet visitors at Angry Catfish Bicycles and Coffee. The second thing you'll notice is the scent of roasted beans--and then you hear the click-click of a ratchet wrench and the whir of spokes. This shop is an amalgam of bikes, bike gear, and strong coffee.

Bike cafes are a growing trend across the globe. London, for example, recently opened Look Mum! No Hands, a bike caf� and workshop dedicated to decadent pastries, beer, and two-wheelers. Portland, with whom Minneapolis often competes for the title of the best biking city in the country, is almost as well known for its bike-focused coffee houses as for its consecutive days of cloud cover. But Minneapolis, which Bicycling magazine recently crowned the number-one bike city in the U.S., wouldn't be the current queen without its own bike cafes serving its ever-growing bike culture--the newest of which is Angry Catfish, in Minneapolis' Standish neighborhood.  

The shop opened last January and, along with selling and fixing bikes, focuses on serving third-wave coffee--an artisanal specialty blend that's just as important to owner Joshua Klauck as the specialty bikes he sells. "People working on the bike side and coffee side are into both sides of the business," he says. "But each one specializes in one thing. It crosses over in interests, which is why we're here. But each one is so special at what they do."

Pedaling Toward the High End

Of course, at the center of it all are bikes and biking gear. Racing bikes. Mountain bikes. High-design commuter bikes. Bikes with tires so fat they look like tractor-bikes. They stand like proud soldiers against the shop's loft-like backdrop of shiny steel and dusky blue. Here, they look as much like modern art pieces as two-wheel transportation machines.   

It wasn't always this way. Biking was dirty. Gritty. A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-shorts kind of thing. But Klauck sees the culture growing and evolving, and his new shop is growing up right along with it. He's as high-end-oriented in his selection of bikes as he is about his next-gen, direct-trade coffee (a pound of which costs more than twenty bucks). He stays away from the big-name brands, offering up bikes by elite local makers like Handsome Cycle, Capricorn, and Speedhound, and niche brands like Moots from Colorado and Italy's Colnago. The bike experts at Angry Catfish prefer to purchase the frames from dealers and then customize the bikes according to each customer's needs.

"We try to take a higher-end, more enthusiastic approach to everything," says Klauck, who has been in the bike industry for ten years, five of which were at the iconic Freewheel Bike shop, before venturing out on his own.  "I really want to cater to a specific, niche customer. The biker who already has three bikes, the real cycling enthusiast."

Klauck says, however, that these high-end cycling enthusiasts likely wouldn't exist in the numbers they do if it weren't for the two other bike cafes in town, One on One and Cars R Coffins. Klauck says. "[They're] why I'm here. Without them, a lot of this wouldn't be happening."

A Culture Is Born

When One on One first opened its doors in 2003, the owners, Gene and Jennifer Oberpriller, had already made a major impact on bike culture, having brought races to the Twin Cities and worked for local bicycle suppliers for years.

 "Gene and Jennifer are sort of biking royalty in this community," says Hans Eisenbeis, an everyday rider who has been bike-commuting since 1992. "Tom Everson at Cars R Coffins is definitely the court jester, and one of the founders of what we think of today as the bike culture. And Josh at Angry Catfish is sort of the next generation."
Indeed, if Angry Catfish is the more exclusive high-end bike cafe---the post-college, indie-rock, next-generation version--then One on One and Cars R Coffins are its old-school punk-rock cousins.

One and One and CRC show their age and wisdom through vintage mismatched furniture that's been collected over the years. It doesn't matter if things don't match--it's about the vibe and the comfort created in community. Where Angry Catfish has a fake fireplace creating ambiance, CRC proffers a collection of old paperbacks for sharing and One on One offers up its famous soups to warm bikers after a long winter ride.

"The first time I walked into One On One, I had the simultaneous sensations of being overjoyed that such a place existed and amazed that no one had thought to do it before," says Charles K. Youel, a cycling enthusiast who runs ARTCRANK, an organization that exhibits bike-related poster art worldwide. "The idea of combining a bike shop with a coffee shop was so forehead-smackingly simple and brilliant. I also knew that I was destined to spend a lot of time and money there."

Art for Bikes' Sake

In fact, the third element in all three shops is the bike art on display. This genre uses posters, photography, video, and more to showcase the biking community. Bike-oriented poster art recalls the aesthetic of band posters, except here the rock stars are bikes and cyclists.

Since its inception, One on One has helped birth the bike-art movement, championing artists like poster designer Steve Smith and photographer Caroline Yang, who shoots cycling events around the world. The shop has also sold a range of designer bike clothing, helping to build an audience for for Everson (who also goes my the name "Hurl"), a onetime One on One bike mechanic who made a splash internationally with his Cars R Coffins zine and clothing designs before opening the CRC cafe. "You see his CRC tee shirts and stickers from Berlin to Tokyo, Boston to San Francisco," Eisenbeis says. "There's a regular stream of out-of-town tourists who come to CRC just to touch the cloth."

Youel figures that the local surge in biking is helping to expand the bike-art movement, too, bringing new ideas and lifestyles�as well as an appreciation for art--to people both curious and fanatical about biking. "I see places like One On One and Angry Catfish creating a new kind of gallery space--one that's less formal and more focused on giving local artists an outlet to display their work," says Youel. "The word I like to use is 'accessibility.' Spaces like these make art more accessible to people."

While it may have been years in the making, the growth of the Twin Cities' bike culture, with its cafes and hangouts, doesn't show any sign of slowing down. For one thing, Minneapolis has that pesky Portland hovering in its handlebar mirrors. For another, the interest in biking is still on a high, spurred by a rise in gas prices, a bike-friendly city infrastructure--and a serious injection of caffeine.

Molly Priesmeyer's last feature for The Line was a profile of the creative collaborative Works Progress.

Photos, top to bottom:

Joshua Klauck is equally committed to fine coffee and high-end bikes.

Klauck's Angry Catfish is the sophisticated "indie-rock" version of a bike cafe.

Bike-culture godfather Gene Oberpiller in his One on One bike cafe

Tom "Hurl" Everson, bike maven, internationally known bikewear designer, and cafe proprietor, in his Cars R Coffins Coffee Bar/Cykel Garage

The Cars R Coffins headquarters,

All photos by Bill Kelley

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