As a regular sponsor for the prestigious Amgen Tour of California, perfecting coffee and riding bikes is Ten Speed’s focus. The café/bike shop duo acts as a local community hub by hosting local CSAs, Friday night movies and a Sunday jazz brunch. Meanwhile, sponsored group rides like September’s Post & Pint (a ride through scenic Post Canyon followed by a pint of something local from one of 10 Speed’s nine rotating taps) and nearby views of Oregon’s panoramic Colombia River Gorge draw tourists and adventure seekers alike.
The company’s newest coffee bar—in upscale Calabasas, Calif., and attached to the Moots Cycles bike boutique and bike-friendly restaurant Pedalers Fork—seeks to bring the company’s bike-friendly business model to a new kind of community, this time in the hills west of Los Angeles. Coffee and cycling culture may seem like an unlikely combination, but as owner and roaster Bryan McGeeney explains, it’s only natural.
Q: How did you decide to start a bike-friendly coffee company?
A: I knew I wanted to start an independent café and roastery, and biking is my other passion. I thought the whole 10 Speed thing would be a fun, whimsical theme. Dirty Fingers were our neighbors [at our first shop], and when we found this new location, we ended up partnering with them and utilizing the whole building and opening it up. We really wanted an open concept between bike shop and coffee shop. Really it was all about creating more of a sense of community—not just the cycling community but the community overall, as far as creating a place that locals wanted to hang out and tourists would be attracted to. We wanted them to use it as a hub to start rides, as a place to get directions to go find trail rides or whatever. Culturally, bicycles and coffee just seem to go well together.
Q: When did you first start roasting?
A: I had experimented as a home roaster for a lot of years, then when we started here I ended up buying a small Probat roaster. Through a lot of experimentation, reading and learning, I sort of developed our own signature roasting style. We started roasting about eight months after we opened.
Q: What was the inspiration for 10 Speed’s newest location in Calabasas?
A: [Robbie Schaeffer and Tim Rettele], the two guys I partnered with [for Pedalers Fork], come up here to Hood River to mountain bike a lot. I’ve known them as customers for quite some time. Originally they wanted to use our coffee for Pedalers Fork, and the more we talked about it and things evolved, they decided they wanted to open a 10 Speed coffee bar adjacent to Pedalers Fork. You’re starting to see some coffee action in L.A. as far as Intelligentsia and Stumptown moving in there, but out in the hills where Calabasas is, there’s nothing besides drive-thrus and Starbucks. And it’s a fairly high-end market, so they figured it would do pretty well.
Q: Is it strange for 10 Speed to have a remote branch?
A: It is strange, but I make it down there quite a bit and we actually sent one of our managers down there to run it because Robbie and Tim are mostly restaurant guys and not necessarily coffee guys. We actually sent our old 5-kilo Probat down there. We’re sending green [coffee] down there and doing some on-site roasting as far as our single-origins go, but we’re still doing most of the production roasting up here as far as espresso.
Q: What’s is the cycling culture like in Hood River?
A: Hood River is a big cycling hub. You’ve got world-class road riding and obviously tons of mountain biking of all styles, from free ride stuff to cross-country and everything in between. In Calabasas, where [Schaeffer and Rettele] chose to locate, it’s also a big cycling hub, and that’s sort of why they initially wanted to include 10 Speed. They’ve got access to great mountain biking a mile from their door and also fantastic road biking, so they host a lot of shop rides and things out of there.
Q: 10 Speed has been a sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California for the last two years. What’s that been like?
A: We’re locked into hosting for the next four years, and that’s been huge for us as far as growing our business down there because that’s such a target audience. We’re all cycling nerds and just to be part of it is super fun. We get all-access to the riders and teams, and it’s a really good chance to network within the industry and make a lot of connections—especially wholesale connections—down there.
Q: How do you serve coffee along the route?
A: We’ve got a mobile trailer that Robbie designed—he went all out and had Galpin Auto Sports do it; they’re the guys that do [MTV’s] “Pimp My Ride.” You hardly ever see a coffee trailer that functions like a café, you usually have to make a lot of compromises as far as equipment goes, so they went to a lot of lengths to make sure we had the power necessary to do espresso well in a mobile setup. So, we’re running a two-group La Marzocco Linea out of a trailer.
—Story and photos by Regan Crisp, Fresh Cup’s associate editor.