Off the chain

ONE ON ONE – a bike shop, coffee shop and art gallery provides bikers with more than just a sweet ride

Haily Gostas

An aerodynamic road bike to travel ’round town with, free from traffic or those criminal gas and parking expenses; a rugged mountain hardtail for a backwoods trail or two; a charming cruiser for leisurely weekend loops around Lake Calhoun – no matter what you have or where you ride it, Gene Oberpriller firmly believes every person should possess eight (yes, eight) of these two-wheeled beauties.

“One for every day of the week, and an extra just in case a friend should need it,” said the owner of One On One, downtown Minneapolis’ multifunctional bike shop. “They’ll still take up less room than a car!”

Despite its longevity, the basic form of a bicycle hasn’t changed much. The idea of one, however, has morphed into a many-headed Hydra. More than just good, clean, pedal-driven fun, bicycles can be a lifestyle, an obsession, even an art form.

To Oberpriller, the final physical product holds only 20 percent of the possibility – the rest, he claims, “is in your head and your heart.” Sure, he gleefully test-drives all of One On One’s new-fangled brand name offerings (Italian high-performance Bianchi single speeds, the sexy, simple fixed gears of local label Surly), but his prized possession is a restored 1962 Schwinn Speedster. It may have made its debut the year he was born, but with a few weeks’ worth of elbow grease, it now rides like a dream.

In 2002, Oberpriller legally opened One On One in the North Washington Avenue space that once housed a host of artists and musicians. At the time, he was a legal courier living in the building simply because it was a few blocks from his office, and because the basement had properly served as his mini “junkyard” since 1989. It wasn’t open to the public quite yet, just a clubhouse of sorts for him and his fellow brothers in bike-dom.

“I always knew it could be a way to kick-start something,” said Oberpriller, who also moonlighted as an urban messenger and had a decade-long career in off-road mountain racing. “There was certainly enough inventory to function as an actual bike shop.”

Oddly enough, his timing was perfect – Minneapolis cycling culture, though somewhat of a slow starter in comparison to locations like Colorado and California, was just beginning to take its own fantastically original route. When a series of professional races such as the Norwest Cup paraded through the city between 1993 and 1998, Oberpriller and other cyclists took their motley chances at impressing the big leagues with their unpretentious, affable approach to the ride: offering free repairs for wrecked bikes, conducting hunts for those lost or stolen, and throwing wild after-parties for hundreds of racers (all while dodging the Fuzz, no less).

Still, Oberpriller had more to prove. He wanted an appropriately unique base for the cycling community, one that could reflect a variety of additional Metropolitan elements but still support the distribution of bicycle goodness. The bottom line? It couldn’t be like the 500-some other shops he had visited in his lifetime, all alike in their singular approach.

Though he didn’t start drinking coffee until he turned 30, Oberpriller says he began to take note of the stimulant’s popularity among racers during his stint as one.

“The first and last thing any of them do prior to a race is consume coffee,” he explained. “They make a pot right when they get up in the morning and, aside from a quick trip to the bathroom, they drink their last cup right before they hop on their bikes.”

Observing both the constant rows of bikes parked outside of various Minneapolis coffeehouses and the local artistic talent being showcased on the inside helped finally push Oberpriller in the right direction – One On One would not only be a bike/coffee shop fusion, but it would be an art gallery as well.

Aesthetic wisdom of the decision aside, it was a smart move financially, too. Keeping the rather large space strictly as a bike shop would have been risky thanks to astronomical start-up costs and inventory issues. The more mainstream notion of sharing square footage with an espresso machine and a row of abstract oil paintings becomes far more attractive when bills can be paid and all parts of One On One have space to thrive. In one room, a cluster of grease-spotted repair boys can crowd around a strewn supply of bicycle parts like they were the spilled contents of a piñata; in another, a barista is brewing coffee and bouncing cheerily to a homemade mixtape; and filing through the front door come the others, eager to grab a flyer for Saturday’s opening reception of ARTCRANK, a showing of bicycle poster art.

But even with Oberpriller’s epic trilogy, bikes remain the priority and No. 1 love. One On One sponsors such events as the international Bicycle Film Festival and Stupor Bowl, Minneapolis’ long-running “alley cat” (a.k.a. one hell of a party race helmed by messengers). It also provides space, prizes and information for lots more.

Bike buff and University history senior Sean Klontz praises Oberpriller’s individual contributions especially.

“He’s not just a guy who owns a bike shop,” said Klontz, who stands by the creed that one can do anything in Minneapolis as long as they’re with wheels. “He’s a biker who owns a bike shop, and someone who helps support a really tight-knit culture.”

Oberpriller is allowing the upcoming Halloween-themed Aprilween race medley (which Klontz has his hand in organizing) to kick off at the shop, and will be donating items alongside bike manufacturer Surly and local environmentally-friendly beanery Peace Coffee.

“We like supporting the culture because people need to recognize that bicycles can have high artistic appeal and unlimited freedom,” he said of the hardworking people behind One On One. “Ultimately, we hope to leave behind a really big footprint.”

A footprint?

“No Ö wait. A track mark!”

As in, like, drugs?

“OK, OK. We hope to leave behind a big SKID MARK,” Oberpriller said with a laugh. “How’s that?”

Well, you get the idea.