Story by L. L. Charles, Photos © by YannPhotoVideo.com
When you sit down for lunch with Jason Rogers and Chad Melis at the new Cyclhops Cantina in Longmont, the talk runs to bike tire pressures, wicked twisty trails, high quality craft beer in a can, and ideas about how our passions can be guides to doing business better. It’s good conversation, punctuated by laughs and bites of tasty Oaxacan-style tacos.
Jason Rogers is the executive chef for all Oskar Blues restaurants and a partner in Cyclhops Cantina, the company’s newest restaurant venture. The bike-inspired hangout opened on New Year’s Day and has quickly become popular for its tasty street-style tacos, molé, rellenos and Vera Cruz-style seafood. Riders often start and finish their rides right here, enjoying a cold craft brew as a reward at the end as they review their trip.
Chad Melis is marketing director for Oskar Blues and also manages REEB Cycles, a full-service bike shop located inside of Cyclhops. REEB is both the shop’s name and the brand name of the hand-built hardtail bikes that are now being fabricated in a workshop at the Longmont brewery. Introduced in 2012, REEB has already been named a “Top Mountain Bike” by Outside Magazine.
But wait a minute.
A bike shop in a Mexican cantina? And a cantina where you can buy a custom handmade trail bike? What’s going on here?
“REEB bikes were getting national attention, and we needed a place to show them and sell them,” Melis says. When the space on Airport Road became available, Oskar Blues owner Dale Katechis (an avid mountain biker himself) suggested a bike shop. “But we knew a 5,000 square foot bike store didn’t make sense, and we had a kitchen and plumbing already in place, so we decided to put in a taco joint,” Rogers says with a laugh.
In reality, Cyclhops transcends mere taco-jointery with its emphasis on fresh house-made ingredients, honest presentation and chef-inspired entrees. The menu keeps it simple, with daily taco and torta specials, ceviche, six different salsas, a half dozen platas and plenty of sides. Libations include a generous lineup of craft beers on tap and 43 premium tequilas. Everything on the menu is carefully chosen, even down to the coffee. “It’s a locally roasted Mexican organic blend. We serve it in a French press and you get a great cup of coffee every time. Mountain bike riders like a good cup of Joe!” Rogers laughs.
That same handmade, custom approach to the cuisine – and the bikes – is evident throughout the restaurant. Bike parts are embedded in the bar counters. Pendant lights are crafted from sprockets and just about every surface reveals an artisan’s touch. A huge floor-to-ceiling mural is animated with skeleton bikers planting endos over their handlebars. Feel their pain, and toast their ride by ordering up another REEB ryed ale.
Over in the cycle shop, a customer brings his bike in for a tune-up and pauses to check out the All Mountain REEB. The steel is clear-coated to show off unique weld patterns and its handmade DNA. The super-fat 4.8” tires on 29-inch, 100mm-wide rims are designed to help smooth out the bumps of trail riding.
But every worthy ride includes a few bumps, and REEB’s backstory is a good example. “REEB actually got started because of a bike theft,” Chad Melis says. “Dale (Ketachis) had loaned his custom titanium trail bike to a friend for a bike race, but the bike was stolen off its rack in Denver.” So naturally, it seemed like a good time to start a custom bike company. “Dale got the very first REEB, for sure.”
Melis says that running a thriving craft brewery and making fine bikes aren’t as different as you might think. “In the brewery, the goal every day is to make the best high quality craft beer we can make,” he says. “It’s a very hands-on approach, and the bikes are the same way. Everything is very craft centric and hands-on.” Melis raced BMX bikes as a kid and spent a couple years on the pro mountain bike tour. Not surprisingly, he brings a serious rider’s intensity to product development.
“We build steel and titanium hardtails that are designed especially for our local terrain, which is rocky, steep and often technical. We’ve slackened the geometry a bit and are using a longer travel fork, which gives you more suspension up front, so we can ride the descents the way we like to – aggressively. We’re single speeders at heart, but we like to ride the downhills hard, too.”
“They made these bikes just right,” Jason Rogers says. “They climb like a dream and downhill great. And being single-speed bikes, there’s nothing to fix. You just get on and ride it!”
“We are using American-made steel exclusively,” Melis says, “and there’s only one source to get these kinds of tubes. We currently have two proprietary designs that steel companies are working on for us. The tubes that are available aren’t really super modern for what we’re doing right now… we’re taking the tube sets to the next level.”
Oskar Blues has always been on the cutting edge of things, like being the first craft brewer to put their product in cans. So you can expect some new ideas when it comes to designing bikes. Like using a direct belt drive instead of a chain, for instance. The carbon fiber belt is made by the local Gates Corporation, requires less maintenance, and doesn’t lose its efficiency when it gets dirty.
Get Your Bike Culture Here
With the cantina and bike shop combination, Oskar Blues has created a unique environment that successfully melds several different passions into one experience. “That’s really been the Oskar Blues story,” Melis says. “Dale picks people who are excited about what they do, and that ends up creating businesses that integrate into our cyclical marketing.” No pun intended, we presume.
The goal at Cyclhops and REEB, Melis says, is to get people excited about bikes, and to get them out on their bikes. “We are active in Bike to Work Day, Bicycle Longmont’s Bike Night, and we are corporate sponsors of the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance.”
As Chad Melis describes it, riding a single-speed mountain bike is all about flowing. You have to look ahead, take advantage of the terrain and plan the moves. It’s a metaphor for a great ride, no matter where your passions take you.