Biking with Kierstin Kloeckner
Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. [Coffee] is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat.
-New York Times, 1949
It’s 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning. A few cyclists gather at a local coffee shop for a group ride. Some of us were out late the night prior, a bit too late, so there’s the social chatty group, and the somber-looking group that only cares about getting caffeinated. We’re facing a long, hilly route and just about everyone orders some kind of dark, bitter, goodness.
In our corner, with a bunch of small tables pushed together to form one large table, scattered with helmets, gloves and glasses, you’ll also find small espresso cups with one or two shots (depending again on if that rider was out the night prior), frothy cappuccinos that appear to be light as air and form amusing milk mustaches on the ones consuming them, cold-pressed iced coffees and the plain old cup of joe. Just like our style in steeds (our group rides carbon, steel, aluminum, ti and bamboo), we all have our own take on caffeine.
Our group, The Church of the Spoken Wheel, is one of possibly thousands of cycling groups/clubs who meet at coffee shops for morning rides. I remember Saturday mornings twenty-five years ago, seeing all of my dad’s club, Grand Performance of Minneapolis, roll into Sebastian Joes for their pre-ride fix. At that time, I was one of the baristas and most likely the only staff member who knew how finicky riders were regarding coffee. This crew, with matching helmets, gloves, jerseys and the most finely-tuned machines, expected no less from their coffee. If an espresso shot was pulled too short or long, they’d know it and would return it. Coffee snobs, yes, but this was my introduction to how lovely a good cup can be prior to a ride.
I remember once in awhile, my dad didn’t have time to grab a cup prior to a race, so he’d chew and swallow a small handful of espresso beans. Doping? Possibly. You see caffeine is the most widely-used drug on the planet. It’s a mild stimulant of the central nervous system and affects you in a similar way that amphetamines, cocaine and heroin stimulate your brain. It temporarily blocks adenosine, a chemical in your body that promotes sleepiness and muscle fatigue, resulting in an energy boost or heightened alertness. But it can also increase heart rate and metabolism, causing you to produce more stomach acid and urine.
Because of these attributes, you can see why cyclists are drawn to it. But you see, there are heavy questions surrounding the use of caffeine as a sports enhancer. As of January 1, 2016, caffeine has been placed on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s monitoring program under “stimulants.” Although most athletes use this controlled substance, it’s likeness to so many other stimulants makes one wonder if its usage should be banned in larger doses.
In 2009, Mathew Ganio, an exercise physiologist at the University of Arkansas, and Evan Johnson, a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut, did a caffeine research study on the physiological effects on triathletes. The results delivered what many suspected. Gaino stated “The improvements can be substantial, often as much as three percent. To put that into context, a three percent improvement would mean an 18-minute boost in a 10-hour race. Eighteen minutes were all that separated the top eight finishers in both the men’s and women’s pro races at the Ironman in Kona.”
Now, for the average club ride, we don’t really need to worry about this (unless you’re going up against your riding partner for a Strava KOM). Coffee shops are great places to gather, and their proprietors are often very supportive of having us be a part of their business. So much so, many coffee shops now sponsor both cycling clubs and racing teams AND many have pumps and loaner locks available to riders.
Because I’ve loved coffee since the age of ten (good Scandinavian roots), and I’ve always been a cyclist, I’ve spent my entire life riding to and from coffee shops. No matter where I travel, I always am in search of great cafes that support cyclists in any way. Here are some of my favorites in the Midwest!
Barriques (multiple locations in Dane County, Wis.): This is where most of my Sunday morning rides begin. Good coffee, nice staff, they offer a discount with a Bike Benefits sticker and they donate to Madison Bike Winter as well as Bike to Work Week.
Colectivo (Madison and Milwaukee, Wis.): Very cyclist friendly. Ample bike racks, loaner pumps at each location, discounts with a Bike Benefits sticker and they donate to the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation.
Dunn Brothers (Twin Cities, Minn.): This is where I met for group rides in the Twin Cities. Strong coffee and they sponsor several cycling clubs.
Angry Catfish (Minneapolis, Minn.): Great cafe inside an even better bike shop.
Fuel Cafe (Milwaukee, Wis.): Not only supports cycling events in Milwaukee such as RW24, Santa Rampage and monthly alleycats, but also supports the motorcycle community.
Cafe Wren (Luck, Wis.): Located on the Gandy Dancer trail and a huge supporter of the Cyclova bike shop events out of St. Croix Falls.
Heritage General Store (Chicago, Ill.): This place specializes in custom, steel, hand-built bicycles and Stumptown coffee.
I can’t end this without mentioning two coffee roasters that not only deliver their coffee by bike, but also donate their goods to bike events and raise funds for advocacy groups through coffee sales. Just Coffee out of Madison, and Peace Coffee out of Minneapolis are amazing businesses and prove the relationship between cyclists and coffee can be beneficial on so many levels.