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An X-Games Champ is Running Baltimore's First Bicycle Café

The HandleBar Cafe interior
The HandleBar Cafe interior | © HandleBar Cafe / Derivative from original
Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Marla Streb and husband Mark Fitzgerald are bringing together cyclists, foodies, and more at their combination bike repair shop and restaurant, The HandleBar Cafe.

Located in a renovated warehouse in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point, the HandleBar Cafe opened in 2017 with a full-service bike repair shop, bar, and all-day menu. It may seem an odd combination, but the “bicycle café” concept has already gained speed in other cities across the world.

Bicycle cafés give local cyclists a place to refuel, relax, and chat with other cyclists, where they can easily park their bike outside or bring it in with them. In some cases, like with HandleBar Cafe, they can also get a repair or buy new gear. But on another level, bicycle cafés also promote local cycling culture and an overall active lifestyle.

The HandleBar Cafe is a cool, casual place for all ages © HandleBar Cafe

The city’s cyclists are, of course, one of the primary audiences. The HandleBar Cafe features plenty of indoor and outdoor bike parking, with large-screen televisions showing cycling competitions and plenty of models and cycling-inspired art decorating the walls and space.

“We’ve got bikes displayed gallery-style all around the restaurant,” says Streb, in an article for Bicycle Retailer. “It’s really fun to finally be open and have people roll in on their bikes – having the tribe here is really great.”

Main room of the HandleBar Cafe © HandleBar Cafe

Baltimore-native Streb, who won the 1999 X-Games along with World Cup and Single Speed World Championship titles, was inspired by visiting similar bicycle cafés and bars on her travels. When she and Fitzgerald first returned to Baltimore from Northern California, the lack of gathering spots for Baltimore’s cycling community prompted them to make one of their own.

Partnering with Michael Ryan Wright and Seth Barkman, owners of local furniture store MiY Home, Streb and Fitzgerald tackled much of the build out and decor themselves. Salvaged wood from Baltimore ports is littered throughout the space, as well as nods to Streb’s bike-racing career, from medals to stained glass bought in Durango, Colorado (a popular mountain biking area where Streb has won competitions). Even the models for sale at the bike shop have a personal significance.

The bike shop at the Handlebar Cafe isa perfect pitstop for the city's cyclists © HandleBar Cafe

“A big part of the story is that we wanted to carry brands that were loyal to me when I was racing and later when I was getting pregnant and having kids,” she says in Bicycle Retailer. “I’m trying to represent these companies, like Timbuk2, Shimano and RedBull, and it’s been fun to give back to them.”

But HandleBar attracts more than just cyclists. This “magical combo of food, drink, bikes & fun,” as the website claims, draws in all kinds of people. After all, as Streb expresses in an article for Bike Mag, people of all backgrounds can relate to the experience of riding a bike.

The HandleBar Cafe serves up a fun menu inspired by Southwest flavors © HandleBar Cafe

The Fells Point eatery, with executive chef Chris Marquis at the helm, quickly gained praise for its menu, which includes handmade wood-fire pizzas, burritos, meatballs, and other satisfying dishes inspired by Southwest flavors. It also satisfies coffee lovers with its specialty drinks and espresso from Maryland’s Vigilante Coffee Company.

The bar, made of paint-splattered concrete, serves local craft beer from bike grip bar taps, as well as wine and house cocktails. Live music events on select weeknights and weekends draw in the city’s music lovers.

As a bike shop, restaurant, bar, and live music destination, The HandleBar Cafe is truly a hub. For the decorated Streb, as she tells Bike Mag, “this feels quite a bit more fulfilling than winning some random bike race.”

Live music at HandleBar Cafe © HandleBar Cafe