Rosamunde Sausage Grill, with its faded sandwich board signage and curated menu of craft beers and brats, is a place known mostly among the locals of San Francisco. It’s also pretty packed for 430pm on Friday.
Dustin Klein has quietly dissolved into one of the chairs outside, already a few sips into his beer and sketching what looks to be some new biking jersey designs. To his far right is a steel bike rack, which props up his own trusty ride—a Daccordi road bike.
Though technically not a local (Dustin grew up in Fargo, North Dakota), he has been a resident of San Francisco twice over and knows his way in and out of the city better than most. “My partner and I are actually knee-deep in the middle of moving again, this time to Berkeley where she’ll be studying,” he shares. “It’s been pretty stressful!”
A surprising statement, considering Dustin is somewhat of a veteran when it comes to moving. He’s lived in eight different cities to date, “not counting all the inner city moves”: including Missoula (where he studied photography), Sacramento (where he got his first taste of messenger work), San Francisco (where he founded clothing brand Cadence), and Seattle (where he established the now world-famous event Fast Friday).
“I’m always wanting to move on and learn new things,” Dustin readily acknowledges, yet for some reason, finds himself drawn back to the Bay Area. The first time was before Cadence in 2000. Dustin had scored his then-dream job as a bike messenger, and spent most days dashing up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco. “I loved it. It was always something different every day, and a great way to see the city,” he remembers. “I was getting tattooed by Mike Giant a lot and he exposed me to track bikes. I got one in 2001.”
The idea to create clothing came a few years later. A time when there were a lot of options for skating and surfing, but hardly any for cycling. “Not all cyclists want to look like a cyclist,” he states. “So I made 50 shirts that I brought with me to the Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) in Seattle. They sold out and I just decided to keep going.
“Cadence brought together everything I was interested in: biking, design, photography, and just constant creating. I thought, ‘Cool, this is something I can live off of!’” It was probably “one of the most focused times in my life”, recalls Dustin, who designed, made, and produced almost all products by hand. “Cadence was me.”
But an itch for something new—and the admitted need to break away from the growing fixed-gear “fad”—led Dustin to a three-year stretch in Seattle. The city, with a few isolated riders, yet far from a solidified scene, was where he focused on Cadence full-time and ended up establishing Fast Friday, a monthly event to “help build the cycling community in Seattle. To show them that bike gatherings are not just for people who compete, and that being a cyclist doesn’t have to mean looking like a total geek.”
If Cadence didn’t already expose Dustin as one of the forerunners of urban riding, then the Fast Friday documentary (of the same name) did. Director David Rowe’s first major film is a 45-minute reveal into the Seattle cycling scene: rounds of Olympic-style riding games held in Dustin’s basement, alcohol-fueled Alley Cat races, and riders hailing all the way from Vancouver to compete in or simply watch the events.
A world-watched documentary, an even stronger brand, and a few years later, Dustin is back in San Francisco. Success has been steady, and his nearly decade-old brand is still as cool and credible as when it began.
Cadence also recently picked up its first business partner, Bryan Dunlap, whom Dustin describes as “perfect for the brand. He’s one of the founders of DVS and Matix, and handles the business side of things. BD’s actually based in L.A., where we’ll be opening a store. But it’s great because we work so well together, and kind of psych each other out whenever we meet.”
So with a comparatively lighter load after ten years, what has Dustin been up to now? “I spend about an hour doing art,” which a quick glance at his personal website reveals handcrafted, immediately likeable pieces of found and repurposed material. “I don’t really think about what I want it to come out like. It’s more of free-making or doing whatever feels right.”
This “doing whatever feels right” includes taking both a furniture and swimming class at the community college. “I get a bit embarrassed telling people, but I read this book Mortgage-Free! and have this idea to buy land and just build my own place and furniture. Kind of like making your art your life.”
For the guy who built a global bike brand and movement almost single-handedly, all the while marching to the syncopated beat of his own drum, this doesn’t sound like an unreasonable plan.
By the time Dustin is ready to pedal off, windblown ginger hair securely covered up in a black Cadence cycling cap and requisite San Francisco hoodie zipped up to his chin, he drops yet another local gem: “You have to try Little Star Pizza on Valencia and 15th. It’s the shit.”
WORDS BY KATRINA TAN. BLACK AND WHITE FILM PHOTOS BY GINO DALAO.