Finding a shop that has coffee brewing isn’t so unusual. It’s even quite common for a shop to have a few beers in the back for employees after a hard day’s work, or for some of the favorite regulars post ride. Though there are many shops out there that will cause a person’s jaw to drop the first time they walk in, upon stepping into the Denver Bicycle Café, my jaw was dragging the ground. Two close friends, Peter Roper and Jessica Caouette, who have known each other for years, decided it might be a good idea to open a bike shop with a full blown coffee bar, and well….. a bar!
C’mon in and check it out!
Being the cliché cyclist, I have a deep appreciation for bikes, good coffee, fine craft beer, and most importantly…friends. Most readers here have probably discovered rather quickly how easy it is to make friends in the cycling community whether at the trail head or on a group ride, and Denver Bike Café just amplifies that. Whether you’re meeting friends there or you’re by yourself, you are likely to leave there having a few more. Finding all of these vices in the middle of the typical kind of place I usually hang out, (lifelong shop rat), made me feel at home immediately.
Many times I have heard people say how great it would be to open a bike shop. They go on about how passionate they’d be about it. Truth be told, it’s not that easy as bike shops are a business like any other and passion, though important, isn’t always what you should put first. Having been long time friends who happened to have experience in two different fields that go together like chocolate and peanut butter, Peter and Jess, (who was working in Ecuador at the time), put together a business plan back in 2010 and soon found themselves standing in what was not long ago just a concept. Peter, who has worked in shops and most recently opened and ran a bicycle service kiosk at the University of Colorado Boulder, has the bike side of things down. Jess, who has managed and worked in bars for years knows how that system works, and both were able to hit the ground running when they opened the doors in 2011. So sometimes, that passion turns out to be an organically fitting business plan.
Denver Bike Café is open every day between 6am and midnight with the “Coffee House” opening its doors at 6am for the early birds and closing promptly at 5pm for the “Tap House” to emerge. The bike shop is open from 9am till 6pm. Mornings and afternoons you will find the large, centrally located U shaped bar and surrounding seating packed with laptops creating a social work environment with nothing but the best coffee and espresso at your reach. You can also grab some breakfast here from locally sourced eateries, including breakfast tamales, burritos, and assorted pastries. However at 5pm laptops are banned and the wi-fi gets shut down sending the folks “working” remotely scattering like ants to make room for the post-work patrons. It’s time to partake of the fine craft beer. Okay, few scatter. It’s more like going to a post work happy hour without having to leave your seat.
Once the beer starts flowing, the evenings become even more social. Having what could possibly be your next favorite beer on tap or in a can while surrounded by bikes and friends is reminiscent of sitting in the parking lot post ride having beers and good laughs. Just like meeting people at the trail head or on a group ride, the atmosphere here is of similar nature whether you ride bikes or not. A couple I talked to who weren’t into cycling so much initially, had made the Denver Bicycle Cafe a regular stop as they enjoyed the magnetic atmosphere…but eventually got drawn deeper into the cult(ure) and now two wheels are a way of life!
To really represent how good Colorado beer is, they only bring in local craft beers. Peter says, “Our beers on draft are most often sourced from Denver breweries. Our can beer selection is exclusively Colorado cans, featuring new releases and specialty varieties from Colorado breweries. We prioritize cans because of low environmental impact and strong preservation of the quality beer taste”. On top of this, every single person behind the bar is knowledgeable on what they sale and is more than glad to provide a sample from the tap. (FYI, it’s impossible to make a bad choice)
A long table on the left side is riddled with friends competing with each other in one of several games on tap including Dominoes, Connect 4, and …..Banana Grams, (which I despise considering few respect me as a creative wordsmith). Being in a neighborhood setting, even those with kids need not fret, as even the little ones can try their hand at some games while downing cocoa or chocolate milk. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself slamming the bones on the table with a stranger who turns out to be one of the owners, as despite the effort they put into running their business, they have not lost sight of how important it is to enjoy what they do.
Oh, and let’s not forget, there is a bike shop in this place! Up until recently, the bike side of Denver Bike Café was a full service and repair shop, but like the brews, they have partnered with some great crafters of bicycles including Alchemy, Turner, Ventana, Walt Works, and Surly. Customers can drop their bike off and have a coffee or beer while waiting for a simple flat repair, or while they watch the final assembly of their custom build.
Though the Denver Bicycle Café only carries boutique brands, they will gladly work on anything you have that needs fixing. If a customer comes in looking for a bike or something they don’t carry, they will gladly send you over to their friendly competition, (I witnessed this happen). “Our custom process begins with a conversation, and from there, we’ll measure up and determine a good fit. If stock frame sizes aren’t a good fit, our frame manufacturers specialize in custom size options, and can produce a custom frame promptly for our customers. We picked our vendors in part because of this, and in part because of their unrelenting emphasis on quality and in-house production processes.”
Knowing how important customer service is as well as supporting the local cycling community, they open their doors to local cycling involved groups to help promote their cause, and put on many clinics and events. “We’ve had bike events such as ‘Mechanics 101’ which covers flat fixes and basic adjustments, touring and bike fit slideshows, and drop-in fix-a-flat clinics. We’ve hosted watch parties for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge which has passed by our shop the last two years, and thrown benefit parties for Bike Denver and the Park Hill Bike Depot. We also host a monthly board game night which draws 30-50 participants, and a Geeks who Drink trivia night on Saturdays that packs the house”.
So if you ever find yourself in Denver, go out of your way to stop by this place. We all deserve it.