Cycling, coffee and cake - a match made in heaven. Unless you're a tea fan, in which case we can swap the middle ingredient for you.
- What you'll find:
- Regular rides - women's only & mixed, evening events
- Boardman Bikes - guided test rides
- Fizik Saddle, Mavic Helmets, Velobici & LeCol clothing
- What's coming:
- Watt Bike sessions
- Bike fitting
- Pilates and treatment
Cafe/Bike shops are all the rage at the moment - and it's easy to see why. With online competition at an all time high, successful bike shops are those offering what you can't get online: a comforting warm drink, a smile, a sense of community, often regular rides and of course advice and expertise. Usually accompanied by an active social media presence regulars can use to keep up with events when they're away. It sounds like a lot, and it is - but it's also a recipe for success in a changing industry that's constantly put under pressure by the price wars of the online world.
One such thriving destination is Cafe Ventoux in Leicester. It's probably the largest establishment of its kind that we've ever seen. The growing estate is situated within 20 acres of what was once farm land, with parking space for 700 (just in case you wanted to book up to host a sportive there...) and the cafe itself seats 60. Within the building is currently just a showroom and seating - but there are plans to expand into the adjacent building and offer pilates, watt bike sessions, bike fitting and more.
Launched by entrepreneurial husband and wife duo Rosie and Brian Jordan, Ventoux host evening events as well as mixed group rides on Saturdays, and Women's Only rides on Sunday. They've also hooked up with both Boardman bikes, and the team they sponsor - Podium Ambition.
Originally a cafe alone, the expansion has been gradual and with many elements still in the planning stages, it doesn't appear to be slowing down. Describing the growth, Rosie explained: "We started off with just the cafe, and used that as a barometer to gauge interest in something larger. It's been a huge success and it quickly became clear to us that we could offer more. Of course, selling bikes is a whole new project."
Weekly riders & Social Media
The pair say they get between 100 and 200 bikes racked outside a weekend from those visiting, Rosie telling me: "We expected to recruit riders from around a 50 mile radius, and that's been about what we've found".
- Key rides:
- Saturday Mixed Ride, relaxed and social, leaving at 9am
- Sunday Women's Ride, begginer/casual, laving at 10am
- Check before you leave: cafe-ventoux.cc/calendar
The riding in the area is undulating, and though the cafe itself is just metres from a junction off the A47, turning left instead of right takes you into miles and miles of country lanes - with plenty of short sharp ramps. Rosie told me: "The riding round here is beautiful - and it is lumpy - that's the best way to describe it."
Visiting the cafe to celebrate their new partnership with women's UCI Pro Cycling team, Podium Ambition, we had the chance to enjoy some of the surrounding lanes. Though the overall climbing total wasn't that high, the route was dotted with short, fairly steep ramps - yet on the flat sections we had enough time to note the endless green of adjacent fields and surprisingly good road surface (except for the pot hole which claimed a couple of tyres close to home!).
As well as hosting weekly rides, the cafe has an active social media following - and they encourage interaction via a #MyRide tag that sees pictures printed and plastered onto the walls. Love it or hate it, social media now plays an unavoidable role in most of our lives, and it's notable that successful cycling communities seem to be those embracing, and not shunning it.
Boardman Bikes and Podium Ambition
The shop have a partnership with Boardman bikes, and will be offering the 'Boardman Bikes Experience Days' that the brand promised when they brought their range of new Elite bikes to market. Rosie told me: "We're the first bike shop to offer just one brand, but it broadens our reach, we'll be the place to buy a Boardman."
The new Elite range includes aero, climbing and time trial bikes as well as two titanium models, and features a collection of high end women's models - though the geometry doesn't differ, just the finishing kit.
As well as tying up with the Boardman brand, Ventoux have become the 'base camp' for UCI Pro team, Podium Ambition who will meet there and host ride outs and events at the venue. The tie up is part of a larger project to promote women's cycling - something close to the hearts of runner and triathlete Rosie, and shop ambassador Emma.
Podium Ambition Team Captain, Dame Sarah Storey explained: "Cafe Ventoux have already gained a national reputation within cycling for its unique Cafe and retail approach in cycling which has attracted a huge female following and this is growing by the week, so it is the perfect time for us to create our Official Base Camp and have a place for interaction with our supporters both on and off the bike at such a great place"
“Both parties are keen to bring the excitement of women’s racing to more people and as we embark on our journey to try and become a Women’s World Tour Team in 2017 we will be able to share that journey with more and more people via the support of the café and the people who visit."
Food, drink, facilities
We've covered all the added extras - but not the basic requirements. Needless to say, these are well above standard.
With the anticipation of visits from riders and coming Watt bike sessions, the cafe has a shower that visiting Olympic and Tour de France cyclist Chris Boardman described as "the kind of shower that makes you want to have a shower" - high praise indeed. The toilets of course offer a similar level of luxury, and there are fitting rooms and long mirrors so you can try with confidence before you buy.
Key to the happiness of a a 'work from home' journalist such as TWC's Michelle and Jess, there's free and reliable (that last one - really not something you get everywhere!!) Wifi as well as a good supply of plug sockets situated in sensible areas.
There's a wide range of food and drink available, and the coffee was good enough to impress our caffeine-picky editor. That, and the cakes are pretty good.
Sustainability and supporting the local area are both important to the founders, Rosie told me: "We're careful to buy as much as we can locally, it's important for us to support the area."
It's not all just about the owners, either. The cafe staff also take on a much greater role than serving drinks - they're called 'ambassadors', and are clearly passionate about furthering the success of the business. That sort of passion and interest in the progression of a business is generally something you get when you've created a positive working environment - and clearly these guys have done just that.
Cafe Ventoux isn't the first bike/coffee shop we've seen - but it might well be the largest and most advanced in the country. Of course, not everyone will be local - but if you're in the area - we'd advise you to go and visit! Check out the site here.