Shift Bicycle Cafe rides its way onto Chico State


Julia Maldonado

Shift Bicycle Cafe Owner and Operator John Hanna-Barton hands a student his freshly made iced mocha. Hanna-Barton can make anything from pour-over coffee to an iced mocha with almond milk.

Dutch Bros may reign supreme in the minds of Chico State students, but ask almost any local at the Saturday Farmer’s Market and they will tell you which coffee stand is quickly becoming one of the best in town. Although the coffee is the primary reason people return to Shift Bicycle Cafe, its unique design is what initially attracts customers.

The half bicycle, half coffee cart design took Owner and Operator John Hanna-Barton almost two years to build. This unique combination stems from Hanna-Barton’s life-long love for both bicycles and coffee.

“I’ve always been intrigued how the two cultures join together. You get a group of bicyclists and they’re going to stop for a cup of coffee either pre-ride or post-ride,” he said. “I wanted something that combined the two passions almost seamlessly.”

Shift Bicylce Cafe Owner John Hanna-Barton loves both coffee and bikes so he decided to combine both passions. A little over two years ago he began designing and building his coffee-bicycle cafe by hand. Photo credit: Alex Grant
Now nearly three years after beginning his journey, John Hanna-Barton is serving pour over coffee, espressos, lattes, mochas, tea and more. Look for him at the Saturday Farmer’s Market or on Chico State’s campus. Photo credit: Alex Grant

The idea for Shift Bicycle Cafe was born out of the birth of his daughter, Aurelia. When his daughter was born in 2015, Hanna-Barton was a bike shop mechanic at AMain Cycling. However after Aurelia’s birth, Hanna-Barton’s wife, Brisa, suggested he become a stay-at-home dad for a couple years so that he could think of a new career path.

Hanna-Barton created also created a logo for his new company. Photo credit: Alex Grant

For the next year and a half, Hanna-Barton took the duties of a stay-at-home dad while he worked on his dream machine: Shift Bicycle Cafe. He originally intended to create a bicycle trailer that he could attach to the back of his car. But after analyzing the cost and the stability of such a large espresso machine, Hanna-Barton decided he had to redesign his idea into a bicycle-cafe combination.

While his bike-cafe design helps him stand out, Hanna-Barton said the taste of his coffee is a huge part of his success. He credits the taste of his coffee to two key components: his espresso machine, an Italian Faema from 1963, and the organic, fair-trade coffee beans he uses which come from Northbound Coffee Roasters, a coffee bean company that’s based out of Mount Shasta.

Hanna-Barton credits the taste of his coffee to his limited edition, 1963 Faema e61 espresso machine. Photo credit: Alex Grant

Hanna-Barton also stressed the importance of sustainability in all the products he uses.

“My emphasis is definitely on sustainability. I’m trying to make sure I use products that aren’t shipped halfway across the country. I’m making sure I utilize local retailers and vendors so that we can establish good relationships and keep it all part of the community,” he said. “Everything from the sugar you’re putting in the coffee, the coffee itself (and) the milk, everything that leaves this cart is organic and fair-trade.”

Although small, Shift Bicycle Cafe can carry everything from an ice chest to a limited edition 1963 Faema e61 espresso machine. Photo credit: Alex Grant

Leo Flores, a Chico local since 1977, fell in love with Shift Bicycle Cafe when it opened last November. Flores prides himself in being a weekly customer and he views Hanna-Barton as a savior in a dying coffee industry.

“I think it brings back the true meaning of a good cup of coffee. I think where once the coffee artistry was blooming, now its become a little redundant,” Flores said. “John has brought back some of the great flavors of the past.”

Leo Flores said he loves how John has combined the passions of coffee and bicycling. Photo credit: Alex Grant

Shift Bicycle Cafe can be found on campus between 1st Street and Warner Street every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The mobile cafe can also be found at the Saturday Farmer’s Market from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

However, if for any reason you don’t see Hanna-Barton’s bike cafe, the husband and father is probably at home spending time with his family.

“I love serving coffee, but if I had to choose between serving coffee and taking care of my daughter, you guys are out of coffee for a day,” Hanna-Barton said.

Mathew Miranda can be reached at [email protected] or @MathewMiranda24 on Twitter.