What makes a great cycling café

Adele Mitchell lifts the coffee pot lid on what makes a cycling café our favourite ride destination.

1. Location, location, location

Your favourite cycling café might be anything from hub of cycling hipness that’s a stone’s throw from your office on Shoreditch High Street or a converted barn on a Welsh hillside. It might be purpose built by the National Trust, or might be the bus shelter next door to the village store that sells coffee and great snacks. It may be designed for cyclists, or you may share it with walkers, office workers or the WI. So what do all these wonderful temples to tea have in common? They’re perfectly positioned to make your ride even more enjoyable.

Bike Beans Cycle Café, Ashtead, Surrey – open for business

2. We feel welcome

Some cafes welcome cyclists with open arms: walls artfully plastered with Tour de France posters, your double espresso (imported and exclusive Italian blend) arrives in a cycling themed cup and the baristas have not only cycled to work, but have also ridden most of the Alps as well (though probably not that morning). The unofficial customer dress code is Vulpine, Rapha or Castelli and, if you are a gentlemen, you’ll probably favour a beard.

Something tells us they like bikes…

Thumbs up too to non-cycling themed establishments whose owners welcome us in despite the mud we trail across the floor, and don’t mind if we hang a wet jacket (or even socks, on the odd occasion) on the radiator. I’ve noticed that these establishments often have an equally welcoming attitude to dogs, but try not to read too much into this.

And then there are the lovely cycling cafes that welcome everyone – from pro cyclists to passing OAPs and yummy mummy’s – who enjoys being part of the local cycling community as they scoff their cup of tea and slice of homemade cake.

3. They feed us well

While I am sure there are cyclists out there who crave nothing more than a small plate of salad leaves and a mint tea after sixty miles in the saddle, I think I can safely say that the majority of us look forward to something a little more filling: according to Twitter responses it’s cheese on toast, fantastic coffee and ‘world class cakeage’ that counts.

It’s not the cycling they’re here for, it’s the… cheese straws?

I ‘d like to add that the tea mugs cannot be big enough, sandwiches need to be made with doorstop thick slices of bread, and I’ll have chips with everything because cycling MAKES ME HUNGRY. An honorary mention here goes to (my local) Peaslake Village Stores, which sells over 300 of their cult-status cheese straws to Surrey Hills mountain bikers each week (usually eaten at the bus stop, mentioned above).

4. They have cyclist friendly facilities

No one is going to relax or go for that second coffee if they’re worried that their bike isn’t safe outside. A café with outdoor seating is the preferred option for most of us, but secure bike parking is a real draw – especially when it’s raining. Some cycling cafes have workshops for repairs and spare parts and clothing on sale while Mud Dock in Bristol even has men’s and women’s changing facilities and showers.

One thoughtful café (Look Mum No Hands) provides locks on demand if you happen to forget yours

5. They don’t just serve great coffee

The best cafes also build a community: look out for pasta and ride nights, guided rides, cycling and bike maintenance tuition, spinning nights, charity rides, team rides, film nights, cycle sport on wide screen TVs, beer, Bike Jumbles, print sales and even knitting events (at the iconic Look Mum No Hands café in East London, if you’re wondering)….all served up with a friendly smile and a great cup of coffee, of course.

Launch party for the Giro café in Esher, Surrey – cycling commuting comes out in droves to support! Copyright Geoff Waugh

What’s your favourite café to visit on a ride?

To get the ball rolling, we asked for your recommendations:

Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in comments below! 


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