Bikes and coffee go together just as well as bikes and beer, and for a lot of us, the pre-ride buzz is as ritualized as the post-ride one. Balancing our bodies on wheels with a little extra hum in the drum is a favored way to warm up around the globe. Some folks even bring an espresso flask along to perk up extended adventures.
Colorado based rider, Shawn Neer, has expanded his passion for coffee into a new roasting business called Traction Coffee, co-founded with his riding buddy Mike Murfitt. The pair are currently running a roastery, selling a wide variety of beans through their online store, though they have plans to open a proper cafe in Longmont, Colorado once the pandemic subsides.
Neer started racing bikes at eight years of age, beginning on BMX tracks in Northern California. He then moved to downhill where he earned a long list of impressive results. He continues to climb the rankings today, earning 22nd position in the EWS overall for 2018 and improving to 15th in 2019. How he manages to put down dialed runs while running a business is a mystery we wanted to learn a little more about. Check out his roasting and racing narrative below.
When did you start racing bikes?
I started racing BMX in 1999 when I was eight years old in Northern California. I had trouble getting into team sports like baseball and soccer, and luckily my dad gave me a nudge towards BMX after stumbling upon a local track. I started as a media ambassador for Yeti in late 2014 while living in my van chasing the DH circuit and made the move to enduro in 2016 and got on the Yeti-Fox National race team in 2017.
What’s it like to train and ride with such a legendary team?
It keeps you honest, haha. Richie is an absolute unit and is always trying to improve so it’s been invaluable picking his brain over the years. I think we are one of the more tight-knit families on the race circuit so seeing how hard everyone works makes you dig deep week in week out.
You all had a winning team program at the Trophy of Nations in 2019. What are some of the elements you feel contributed to the win?
Being that all three of us had been teammates in the past really helped the fluidity of the race format. We already knew the lines each other was going to take […] since we had so many runs prior together over the years.
What’s unique about the SB150?
The most unique thing about my SB150 is that it is insanely consistent throughout the race year. Shaun (Polar Bear) Hughes keeps our bikes running so dialed, it’s exactly the same every time we jump on it with that fresh bike feel. No noise, no fuss, just 100% focus on the track.
What tire pressure do you run for dry races?
For most races, I’m right around the 23psi in the front and 26psi in the rear with CushCore installed in my DT Swiss EX1501 wheelset.
What element of the race course do you feel most confident about? Are there sections where you’re faster than Rude?
Growing up in Colorado where it’s quite dry/rough/and rocky is where I feel at home. Chile was a fun one for me being deep dust paired with wide-open stage after stage, that arm pump though. Since most people at the EWS are chasing Richie for stage wins, it’s a special one for me if I can beat him in a stage out there! It doesn’t happen often but I would say my best shot at it is a rough/raw track, like in Zermatt for example.
What inspired you to open a coffee roastery? Had you worked with coffee before?
My love for coffee started in cold winter months working in the oil fields of northeastern Colorado, paying off credit card debt from the summer of racing. I would literally live by my 64oz thermos of coffee while bending electrical conduit all day in the snow.
I feel like a lot of us racers have an addictive personality of trying to perfect their corner technique or have this picture-perfect style in the air. The same thing crossed over to the love of coffee for me. I started working towards this perfect espresso shot or perfect pour-over. It truly became an addiction and before I knew it, I had a Slayer espresso machine in my house and started reading about roast profiles for certain coffee processes and bean densities. I loved it and knew it was something I really wanted to pursue, as I knew with racing.
I had not worked in the coffee industry prior but had a close biking friend, Mike Murfitt, who had been and knew he was the perfect person to team up with. Mike worked in the coffee industry prior to Traction for about four years which allowed us to jump-start the brand in the beginning, so to speak, as we were able to immediately connect to green coffee suppliers and local wholesale partners.
Are you and your partner doing all of the roasting yourselves?
We are. In fact, everything at Traction is done between the two of us, from branding, website, roasting to sales and everything in between — it’s all in house. We love the unique position we’re in to facilitate all those things in house because it really allows us to translate what Traction is to the outside world in a clear way.
What’s unique about your roasting process and/or bean selection?
When it comes to bean selection we are always in search of the highest quality coffee we can find. We make sure to only work with producers and importers that hold themselves to the highest standards of quality and sustainability. As for roasting, we spend a ton of time tasting and evaluating our coffees on various brew methods to make sure we’re delivering the highest quality roasts.
Do you have plans to open a cafe? Where can readers buy Traction coffee?
We’re actually working on opening a brick & mortar roasting/cafe location in Longmont, Colorado right now, however, due to the recent pandemic we don’t have a hard ETA on that project. [We’re] beyond stoked to have an environment to interact with folks, hang out, and share stories. Currently, you can grab Traction beans or gear on www.TRACTION.coffee, in Lyons at Redstone Cyclery, or in Fort Collins at Brave New Wheel. If you’d like to see Traction coffee in your local bike shop drop me a line at [email protected] and we’ll see what we can do!
Who will run/operate Traction while you’re racing?
While I’m racing Mike holds down the fort.
I saw that you all sell flasks. Do you have any aspirations of extending into the craft spirit or brew markets?
Although we don’t have any direct aspirations of getting into sprits or beer, we LOVE coffee + beer collaborations as well as working with local distilleries to do barrel-aged bean projects. We have a couple of beer collaborations going at the moment we are really stoked on, finding the right roast profile to match the wanted tasting notes in the beer is such a unique project tailored to each brewery. At the end of the day, all these things are beverages that have fun and unique communities surrounding them, full of rad folks we like to call friends.
Where does the Traction logo come from?
When we sat down to design the Traction brand we really wanted it to be something that meant something to us and would define us for years to come. So we started off with the obvious, which was a “T” and thought to ourselves, there’s three tiers to this project which are myself, Mike, and the family that surrounds the brand, hence the three levels on the icon. Beyond that we wanted it to somewhat resemble a tire tread, and through this process, we ended up with the icon you see today.
You all have shared some cool photos of your roaster. What’s special about the machine?
The roasting machine we use is called a San Franciscan built right here in the USA. This machine is a drum style roaster and utilizes highly responsive temperature probes to measure bean and environmental temperatures so we can make sure we’re roasting the best, most consistent coffee every time. Beyond that, it’s cast-iron constructed so it transfers heat in a beautiful way which helps develop a coffee we think has a superior taste when compared to being roasted by other roasting machines on the market.
Can you tell us which blends are best for French press, espresso, pour-over, etc?
This is a great question, and something we get asked often. We roast all of our coffee to taste great regardless of the method you choose to brew it. So what it comes down to is, what do you like to enjoy in your coffee? If you really enjoy more roasty and chocolatey coffees, we suggest our GATEWAY, GUATEMALA or STABLE roasts. If you’re looking for something more fruity and bright, something like our ETHIOPIA or COLOMBIA are perfect. Last but not least, if you find yourself in that middle range our SPRING BLEND is the perfect middle ground. If you still have a few questions you can reach out to me anytime at [email protected] for some answers.
We would like to thank Shawn for taking the time to share his story with our readers.