CINCINNATI — It’s 7 a.m. on the summer solstice, and seven Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky-area bicyclists are gathered at Mount Echo Park in Price Hill for the weekly Coffee Outside meetup.
Over pastries and caffeine, the seven men -- women are invited and encouraged to come, but on this day only men showed up -- discussed coffee, biking, how marmite and peanut butter would taste together, how Coffee Outsider Fraser Cunningham has commuted via bike to work every day for almost six years and, ultimately, life itself.
Inspired by other Coffee Outsides -- also known as Adventure Coffee and En Plein Air Coffee Club -- Joe Humpert, who used to manage Newport’s Trailhead Coffee and now works at Rhinegeist, spearheaded the Cincinnati chapter. The concept entails bike riding, a communal coffee experience and “wayfinding”: developing a sense of direction, spatial awareness and sense of place.
“Part of the connection to the place and the seasons and the environment and establishing that wayfinding mentality is its derivative of moving more slowly and being out and exposed to the elements,” Humpert said while drinking a cup of Dayton roaster Wood Burl coffee.
“Locally, it grew out of my interest in coffee and bicycles,” he added. “I became aware of some of the other groups just through social media, Instagram in particular.”
The concept is popular in the Pacific Northwest; Kansas City, Missouri; Missoula, Montana; and Vancouver, British Columbia. But as far as Humpert knows, his Coffee Outside is the first organized meetup in Cincinnati. Humpert spends a lot of time bike-touring and bikepacking around the region, so Coffee Outside developed from those hobbies.
“There are a couple of different thoughts on when you’re touring: Are you trying to get somewhere, or are you trying to enjoy the journey?” he said. “The latter school is certainly my orientation. That sense of exploration or discovery that can take place even within the city limits is one of the things that’s driven this.”
Here’s how it works. Every week, Humpert posts a photo featuring the upcoming Friday morning meetup locale (for now, it takes place 7-8:30 a.m. every Friday) on the Instagram profile @commuted.sentence. He tells participants to contact him for directions or coordinates, and it’s up to the bicyclists to get to the spot taking whatever route they please.
“Part of the interest to me is that we have folks from different parts of town that are all converging on the same spot by following different routes,” he said.
The first Coffee Outside was in May at the mouth of Mill Creek, and another convened at Riverfront Commons trail under the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge. Humpert chooses locations based on places that present “a sense of discovery or remoteness.”
Humpert brings coffee beans that he hand-grinds with a portable grinder. To boil water, he uses traditional camping gear and a PocketRocket to heat the water. Humpert also supplies Brown Bear Bakery pastries. (During previous weeks, he contributed treats from North South Baking and Chako Bakery Cafe.)
“I’m trying not to make this too luxurious,” Humpert said. “We have five kinds of coffee and fancy pastries every week. Ideally, I’d like to get to the point where I’d be making something myself. I want there to be snacks, but I’d like for it to become more of a potluck. I’m trying to have a strong start and get people excited about it, and have people bring their own stuff to eat or share.”
Humpert said when he launched Coffee Outside, he wasn’t trying to “jump on a trend.”
“It was more these are things that I already do,” he said. “But I also think that one reason I’m pushing it is because it promotes active transit, so it gets people on their bicycles.”
That’s why Humpert and the other cities developed Coffee Outside more for those who like to bike and drink coffee in nature than for those who just want to drive or walk and relax at a striking location. Plus, many of Humpert’s locations are accessible only by bike.
Depending how Coffee Outside unfolds, Humpert said, he will consider hosting meetups after work or on weekends, and he hopes to do it year-round. But for now, he wants the early morning rides to create a routine.
“Early on, in the infancy of this movement, or whatever this is going to become, I wanted to establish some consistency and get a baseline,” he said. “I think that consistency is key, in the timing and the day of week and the distances we’re looking at. That’s what will enable it to grow.
“Ultimately, I would be completely delighted if other groups grew out of it,” Humpert said, “and if the group or the hashtag became a rallying cry.”