Growing up in rural Iowa, you would’ve never been able to convince me bikes would be a way to go camping. I suppose you would’ve also had to convince me that bikes were cool in general. Either way, my younger years weren’t spent in a saddle cruising down the now coveted gravel roads. Iowa isn’t really on a whole lot of folks’ radar for bikes….heck it’s what most people consider a flyover state. But, back in 2016 I decided to race JingleCross on a whim and was pleasantly surprised to find out it was in Iowa. The only bike I had to race with was my pink Cake fat bike. While putzing around waiting for my race to start, I was approached by two guys who recognized my bike and were familiar with Erik Noren’s work. Logan and Thaddeus told me they had just opened a shop in Cedar Rapids called Goldfinch Cyclery and it sounded like a dream.
Six years later, I find myself standing on the doorstep of Goldfinch Cyclery in the river district of Cedar Rapids. The Cedar River is a block away and I came to find out that this district floods often. Back in 2016, the river came over the banks for the second largest flood the area had seen and forced Goldfinch to pack up shop at their old location and move to this new space. I had never been to the old space, but if it was anything like their current space I would’ve been in love.
I walk through the doors and I’m immediately greeted by a pudgy little French Bulldog named Quincy. There are quite a few customers at the front being helped by the wonderful Lillian, so I decide to wander before I start picking Logan’s brain. There’s an entire wall right when you enter, filled ceiling to floor, with all of my favorite bag makers: Oveja Negra, Swift Industries, Outershell and Roadrunner just to name a few.
As I wander towards the back of the shop, there’s a colorful chalkboard hanging above the mechanic’s space listing services provided. Goldfinch offers frame up builds as well as custom builds in their space. They also have an impressive stock of all of the QBP brands, Kona and Soma ready to ride on the floor.
Logan makes his way over to me and we start chatting about the shop’s origins. Back in 2014, Logan, Andy, and Thad embarked on a bike tour from Iowa to Livingston, Montana. During those 1700 miles, they talked collectively about their negative experiences in other shops. I’m not unfamiliar with these sentiments as a femme. The worst thing ever is walking into a shop and being talked down to by the employees or just not acknowledged at all. It sucks, and it turns a lot of folks away from cycling and the community in general.
“We decided to open a shop and just be really nice to everyone and everything else would fall into place,” Logan shared with a smile and shrug. “None of us had ever worked in a bike shop before opening this shop.” I was definitely shocked to hear this, but perhaps this was part of the magic that made Goldfinch what it was. Everyone who was trickling in and out during my visit always left stoked about bikes and the employees knew most of the folks by their first names. There was no ego involved and folks stuck around just to chat. Maybe this is a personal preference, but if a shop doesn’t have buds just hanging out catching up in the space, you’re doing something wrong. Goldfinch had all the buddies popping in to say hi.
Community is placed on the highest pedestal at Goldfinch, and you can see proof of that all over the place in the form of posters, thank-you cards, and awards. They host Cranksgiving every year, no-drop gravel rides a few times a month, weekly summer rides called “Community Cruises,” workshops for bike camping, Swift Campouts, and did I mention they have a FLEET of Moots demo bikes to try out?! Swoon! They also sponsor local race teams and provide mechanical support for a plethora of rides/races that happen throughout the state. Chances are if you attend a cycling event near Cedar Rapids, you’re going to see the golden-yellow Goldfinch Cyclery tent.
Logan also shares with me that everyone who works at the shop grew up in Cedar Rapids, and with that comes some awesome insight into the area as well as a healthy amount of hometown pride. Everyone at the shop genuinely cares about this area and is working hard to put it on the map. They get creative with route making and utilize a lot of Wilderness Management Areas (WMAs) for camping as Iowa is not well known for public lands. Rails to Trails systems are also included in some of their routes and some of the best mountain biking in the area isn’t far from the shop thanks to the Linn Area Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA).
Lucky for me, the day I decided to visit Goldfinch also coincided with a bicycle parade happening in the neighborhood not too far from the shop. Everyone was starting to pack up to head over and set up a support station. I don’t know a lot of shops that would take the time to attend an event like this with mechanical support, so it was heartwarming to see these folks show up for an event that isn’t a race or competition. But like I said, these people care about more than just transactions and huge sponsored events. Logan rolled out the Moots demo for the ride over (did I say swoon?) and we hopped on our bikes and headed out. The bicycle parade was a section of a road that had barriers up to prevent cars from driving down the street. The pavement was decorated with chalk drawings and the street was filled with people of all ages riding in a loop together while a brass band played at the park on the sidelines. Thaddeus, Andy, and I did a few loops among the crowd and it was such a joy to see kids zooming past me at full speed on their little bicycles.
The Goldfinch tent, being held down by Max while we were cruising, was nestled next to some other local organizations and everyone of course knew each other. They’re really doing something right folks. I think about how lucky the younger kids are in the Cedar Rapids area (and beyond) to have a shop like Goldfinch to get them stoked about cycling. Bikepacking was never something I imagined I would be so passionate about as an adult, and I know a big reason for this is not being exposed to it at a young age. I’m so excited that a shop like Goldfinch exists in Iowa. And I’m definitely coming back.
A huge thank you to everyone at Goldfinch Cyclery for letting me roam around the shop for the day, lending me a sweet rental bike, and showing me a good time at the bicycle parade. If y’all find yourselves in Iowa, be sure to make your way over to Goldfinch Cyclery for a good time with some of the best folks.