The Story Behind The Site: Juston Anderson, Co-Founder and Board Member of the Cycling Museum of Minneapolis
The Cycling Museum of Minnesota is dedicated to celebrating the history of cycling in Minneapolis and its impact on the community. Through support programs including exhibitions, educational programming, and research initiatives, the CMM aims to educate the community on the foundational and central role of cycling and cyclists in our past, present, and future development.
Juston Anderson, co-founder of the CMM and current board member, has been a vital contribution to the museum's growth and development. With most of the museums’ collection on loan from Juston’s personal archives, his love of cycling extends to the appreciation for its impact on the community and its ability to bring people together.
Cycling is a huge part of Minneapolis culture, which we see with bike shops that double as cafes, supportive cycling communities, and bike trails that span across the city. At what point did you and your co-founders realize that Minneapolis needed a Cycling Museum, and what was the first step you took to make that idea a reality?
I think that we all thought it was such a good idea, really a no-brainer. We had the mindset that it was actually long overdue. Minnesota is rich in cycling history and heritage and our cycling culture is deeply ingrained—it’s really a way of life. The first step to starting the Museum? Well, I had a collection of bikes and I was looking for a space in Minneapolis. I remember pitching the idea in early 2013 to the owners of Recovery Bike Shop, Brent Fuqua and Seth Stattmiller, before it even opened its new location. I was with Brent, looking across the street at the building that Recovery would move into, and we said, we can make it happen there.
In the fall of 2013, once the shop was fully open, we needed to get the Museum up and running in there. In the meantime, that summer I put a display of vintage bikes together at the Minnesota State Fair, and when Brent saw the show at the State Fair, that really convinced him that a bike museum would be a destination not just for people in Minneapolis, but also people from all over.
Your love of cycling does not stop at founding a museum dedicated to the activity, but you’re also the captain of the The Wheelman, an antique bicycle club. Do these two ventures overlap?
Oh yeah, they definitely overlap. The Wheelman is a club based on restoring, riding, and educating the public about historic bicycles, and conducting ourselves just like the Wheelmen clubs did back in the 1880s. We do rides—called centuries—and wear period riding clothing. The range of machines that the Wheelmen focus on definitely pertains to CMM. Wheelman era bikes go from 1817 drasines up until the 1930s—those are the bikes I collect, and they are also of particular interest to the Museum. Those bikes are more scarce than bikes from the post-war era.
How would you describe the cycling community in MPLS, and how has it grown or changed in the past few years?
Oh man, I would have to say I am really proud of the cycling community in Minneapolis. We are so diverse and we look out for one another other. We are really good at communicating concerns, issues, wants, and needs to city officials—and they are receptive. It’s an infectious situation where everyone is happy and wins in the end. To get the vibe, you just have to hop on a two-wheeler and go on any bike lane or trail, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
In the past few years, I’ve seen it growing—more people get it. They realize the necessity and benefits of biking, and how it betters your life and the community. It’s definitely growing and infectious. People are getting into cycling at all ages—young, of course, but also older people. I know guys in their 70s buying new bikes—it doesn’t get any better than that! We have school programs, Free Bikes 4 Kids, safety programs. Everyone wants to be a part of the biking that’s going on. I don’t see any plateau in sight, really.
Through your roles at the CMM and The Wheelman, your ethos seems to embody the act of bringing people together through cycling. What is it about cycling that builds community ?
The friendships! I was on a ride here this past weekend with people from Chicago, Canada, and Kentucky. I asked them, “Why do you come all this way for this theme ride here in Minnesota?” They said, “We just love you guys.” They love the trail system here, the camaraderie. The group that I ride with and hang out with will do anything for you. It’s a fantastic group of guys and gals. We’re in it for the fun—to get out and enjoy nature and enjoy each other and tell stories, learn about each other. I crave it.
The CMM primarily communicates its mission and goals through your web presence and exciting pop-up events. As you were creating your Squarespace website, what did you know it absolutely needed to have in order for you to communicate and capture what the CMM was all about? Why did you choose Squarespace, and how does your online presence allow you to share your mission and events with your audience?
Early on in our development, our communications committee zoned in on Squarespace as the right fit for us. We’re made up of all volunteers and nobody has tons of time, so we wanted a website that would be easy for us to maintain, have great display options, and that could grow with us. We always hear from people, “I really love what you guys are doing!” and we know that the website is a huge part of generating that support and interest. It really helps our reach into the local and wider communities.
Finally, in regards to building a strong community through sharing your collection artifacts with the public and hosting amazing events, do you have any advice for other organizations with a similar style? Additionally, do you have any advice on how to cultivate a sense of community online?
I have thought about all that quite a bit. With the Cycling Museum, it’s been a ton of work but, at some point, everything kind of fell into place at the right time with the right people. Early on, we all agreed together on what we wanted to be, who we wanted to reach, and what we wanted it to look like. We created our mission and goals, and, from there, decided on a brand direction, and how we wanted the organization to look and feel through our print and digital presence. We also hired a really incredible photographer who took beautiful photos of several of our bikes, and we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of using those photos. It helped us seem polished and professional even when we were still pretty scrappy. But it’s things like that that get people excited and imagining the possibilities.
It’s amazing that even though we don’t yet have a museum that’s open to the public on a regular basis, our online presence has helped people feel connected to us all the time. So that’s been key to where we are today.