Not every café a cyclist goes to can count as a cycling café. Here’s our rundown of what makes a serious cycling café.
Cycling cafés are a relatively recent ‘thing’ – places where you get served by baristas whose knowledge of coffee bean roasting is matched only by their ability to recall the stage winners of every Grand Tour of the last five years. Previously, cyclists would go to charming little tea rooms, where you would have to jostle elbows with little old ladies, or garden centres or greasy spoons. They were less cool but arguably more relaxing – no need to strike a pose or talk loudly about your training plans or how many miles you had covered that morning.
Of course, cycling cafés aren’t just for cyclists; it would be hard to make a living if you relied purely on the Lycra clad. The things that appeal to bike riders also make them warm and welcoming places for everyone else too. Cycling cafés are a soft way to lure new people into bike riding, where a bike shop can seem intimidating, a café offers hospitality to everyone. A great café can often overtake the bike shop to become the hub of a cycling community.
So, what makes a cycling café a ‘real’ cycling café?
Does it have somewhere to put your bike or does it just have a picture of a bike somewhere? If it’s the latter, it’s not a cycling café. To be a good cycling café there needs to be real consideration for cyclists. For example, somewhere to lock your bike, a track pump to top up your tyres, a little workshop, spare inner tubes for sale and some good cycling magazines to browse! Avocado toast and macchiatos might hit the spot for a certain type of cyclist, but the best cycling cafés are ones that offer all-day breakfasts and have chairs you’re allowed to sit on with a wet bum.
Location, location, location
Location is everything when it comes to cycling cafes – for it to really work it needs to be in the right place on your ride. Two-thirds of the way around the route is just about perfect, so you’re hungry enough to appreciate the stop but there’s still a bit of a ride to go. Cafés at the top of hills are the best, so you aren’t setting off uphill on a full stomach. If you’ve got some fast climbers in your group, you could send them on ahead with your order!
Choice of champions
Coffee and cycling have a long cultural relationship. Many of the countries that took pride in their coffee also excelled at cycling. Italian espresso machine manufacturer Fabbrica Apparecchiature Elettromeccaniche e Affini (or FAEMA), sponsored the eponymous Faema cycling team, launched in 1955, which included legendary Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx. And anything Merckx did was cool.
Let’s not forget that coffee is good for your performance. Drink coffee, ride faster says Cycling Weekly. If you’re going to drink coffee like a pro cyclist it needs to be short, strong and black before your ride but post-ride you can treat yourself to a latte or cappuccino for the protein, fat and calcium in the milk to aid recovery. This is the exact reverse of continental coffee drinking culture, where milky coffees are for breakfast and never taken after 11am. An Italian would shudder in disgust at an afternoon cappuccino!
In theory, you should be careful to only replace the calories burnt during your ride, and choose foods with the right balance of protein, carbohydrate and a little fat that will digest easily and fuel your ride home. But we all know the best thing to have is a massive slab of carrot cake – it’s part of the reason for going on a bike ride!
We’re always on the lookout for somewhere good to cycle and a decent coffee, so if you have a favourite café stop let us know on our Facebook or Twitter feeds.