Bikes and coffee go together like... well, two really esoteric, hyper-nuanced things that probably shouldn't actually go together but somehow totally do. Maybe it's about craftsmanship. Maybe it's about taking time to enjoy the simple things. Maybe it's about wanting your espresso to be as smooth as your freshly shaved cyclist's legs. Whatever it is, coffee and bikes just get each other.
Trailhead Bike Cafe is exactly what it seems: a bike shop, and a cafe, right off the Dreamy Draw trails. What is maybe the most striking thing about the shop is that, while it caters to two very specific interests, there absolutely nothing pretentious about this place. Staff are incredibly friendly, and the space is quiet and unassuming and only smells a little bit like tires. If you need to buy a bike, go there. If you need caffeine and you are trapped in the specialty coffee void that is everywhere north of Camelback Road in Phoenix, you should also probably go there.
You won't be able to find a cup of brewed coffee at this cafe; if this is your go-to, try an americano. The shop only prepares espresso style coffee, roasted by Echo Espresso. Echo is kind of an old-school roaster, and Trailhead's preparation follows suit.
The general trend in American espresso is towards a low-volume beverage that is predominantly sweet, with a nice little tickle of balanced acidity and bitterness. The finish or linger is critical; a shot should end on a sweet note. I'll put my neck out on the coffee line here and say that baristas seeking to adhere to this standard neglect the ever-essential finish in favor of under-extracted, unbalanced shots far too often. It's easy to do. Realistically, we're talking about a difference in espresso pull times of maybe a second or two, or a difference in beverage weight of maybe a couple grams. The tendency seems to be to err on the side of under-extraction, and sacrifice balance and finish, rather than allow the shot to reach an appropriate extraction point.
The espresso at Trailhead was a much higher volume shot than I've had in several years; I didn't break out the gram scale or anything, but I'd venture to say that it had double the volume of most specialty shots I've had in the past few years. That being said, it wasn't unpleasant. The shot was balanced and sweet, despite being a touch over-extracted (read as, watery). There were some nice cocoa powder, pecan, and burnt sugar notes in there. It wasn't an interesting or revelatory shot of espresso, but I didn't hate it. It was exactly what you might expect from a cafe that ultimately specializes in something completely unrelated to coffee.
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Six years of peddling pedals and espressos have helped Trailhead carve out a space in the community, which is pretty awesome. The shop hosts multiple weekly rides throughout the season, each designed to cater to a different cycling skill level. And in November, Trailhead owners Kiel Marley and Dr. Jeanine Cordova, will chair the volunteer committee for the Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event.
For more information about how to join in on group rides, drink great coffee, and raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research, visit Trailhead's website.