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07
February
2019

Cycling, Coffee and Cafés

Cycling, Coffee and Cafés 

 

Cycling, coffee and the cafés that serve it have made perfect bedfellows since the early days of the sport’s most famous events, such as Bordeaux-Paris, Paris-Brest-Paris and the Tour de France. After all, if you’re going to ride the sort of distances involved in these races, through day and night, you’re going to make a friend of caffeine. Maurice Garin, the Tour de France’s first winner in 1903, replenished his reserves by regularly stopping at the cafés en route.

Even the great Eddy Merckx enjoyed indulging in coffee and cakes on training rides, once famously saying: “It’s not the pastries that hurt, it’s the climbs.” He, of course, rode for the Faema team between 1968 and 1970, winning his first TdF in its colours in 1969. Faema was famous for its Italian espresso machines and was looking at ways to promote its product; Eddy and his team proved to be a great way of doing so.

Although sports drinks became established in the 1970s for in-competition hydration, drinking a coffee before training and racing remained extremely popular. At this time, more studies were investigating the effects of caffeine on training and performance, but most pro cyclists were already aware of its performance enhancing effect without having to see scientific proof. 

 

 

Today, the coffee machines may have changed, with the favourite among bike racers and cycling cafés being the Rocket Espresso Milano, Lotto-Soudal’s André Greipel owning one, and as used by cycling teams such as Sky and Bora-Hansgrohe. This connection between coffee, cafés and cycling could also be the reason why so many ex-professionals have become café owners, both historically and more recently with the likes of La Fabrica owned by Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) and located in central Girona, the home of over 100 professional road racers.

Coffee and cafés are not just part of the professional culture. Even here in the UK, where club runs were once powered by tea and beans on toast, coffee and cake has become the fuel of choice for Sunday morning riders across the land. And while cyclist friendly cafés have long existed in isolation, the age of social media has seen something of an informal network take hold; riders able to share their top tips and cafés able to alert cyclists to their presence.

According to Cappuccino Rides (@cappuccinorides on Twitter) cycling cafés usually fall into two types. “On one hand, you have the cycling-themed café, which is a hub for cycling enthusiasts looking for more than just coffee and cake.

 

These hubs are a cycling community with flat-screen TVs showing races, group nights and weekend rides (sometimes followed by in-house meals), organised guided rides, cycling tuition and indoor training, covering such things as stretching, core exercises and spinning sessions.

These hubs can be found the length and breadth of the UK, with some of the best examples being Cadence Performance in London, Velocity in Inverness, (n+1) in Brighton, and Café Ventoux in Leicester.

“The bigger cycling brands are also seeing the value in these community hubs. We have seen Rapha opening its stores everywhere from the UK to Australia, and now BMC, partnered with its pro team rider Greg Van Avermaet, has done the same, adding its recognised brand name to a familiar format. 

 

“On the other hand, there are the regular cafés that make a point of welcoming both cycling groups and regular trade alike, knowing they need to execute the basic requirements of all customers really well. Some of these highly-rated cycling cafés also offer accommodation: Afan Lodge in Port Talbot, Bike Beans Cycle Café at Box Hill, Bank View Café in Sheffield, Dales Bike Centre in Fremington and Route 2 in Topsham, Devon are excellent examples.” 

Then there are the growing band of bike-shopcum-cafés that offer a genuine one stop solution to your biking needs. Mud Dock in Bristol opened as a bike shop and a café way back in 1994. The shop and café have expanded hugely over the past 20-plus years. 

With its views over the harbour and a menu offering proper meals as well as coffee and cake, Mud Dock is broadly popular, not just with Lycrawearing locals. It’s a model that other bike shop/cafés have adopted, with roadies talking gear ratios and Strava segments sitting next to non-cyclists simply looking for good cake and coffee. These cafés may be aimed at cyclists, but they’re definitely not for cyclists only. 

 

Take Maison du Vélo in Reigate, Surrey, now with a second shop in nearby Cranleigh. Selling bikes may be the core business, but the coffee shops are busy on mid-week mornings as well as at the weekend. There’s just as likely to be a parent with a pushchair grabbing a latte as a cyclist fresh from a training ride. 

While Mud Dock and Maison du Vélo are bike shops as well as cafés, bike-themed coffee shops are popular, too, offering riders a mid-ride coffee and a chocolate brownie to replace all those lost calories. 

Pedalling Squares in Swalwell, Gateshead, has cycling memorabilia hanging from the walls and shows major cycling races on a big screen. It’s close to the coast-to-coast long-distance cycle route, but welcomes non-cyclists as well as roadies, mountain bikers and tourists on their way from one side of the country to the other. You can’t miss the cycling theme, but you don’t need to be bike-mad to enjoy a slice of cake there. 

The Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop in Inverness follows a different model again. This social enterprise combines home-baked cakes and coffee (fans of Italian bike componentry will appreciate the ‘campagcinno’) with a workshop that’s open to all. 

Riders can work on their bikes with help from professional mechanics using the workshop’s tools. There are courses in the evening for customers wanting to learn how to maintain their own bike. Other cycling cafés have the selling point of fantastic cycling country on their doorstep. Take the

Bank View Café in Langsett. Painted in King Of The Mountains polka dots in 2014 to celebrate the Tour de France coming past the front door, the café is on the edge of the Peak District, with some of Britain’s bucket-list climbs close by. If you need to fettle your bike, the café sells spares and loans out tools.

 

WE ASKED SOME LOCAL EXPERTS FOR RECOMMENDATIONS IN SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE CYCLING REGIONS

Ashley Higgins, founder of Andalucian Cycling Experience, recommends Café Rumores in Grazalema (rumoresgrazalema.com/). “After riding ‘The Beast’ or ‘Las Palomas’, both category one climbs, you’ll descend into Grazalema and can stop at Café Rumores for the best, well-located cakes in the Serrania de Ronda.”

 

Paul Beesley, founder of Algarve Bike Holidays, recommends Aqua Mel, “a traditional café with excellent coffee, cakes and lunches, as well as some amazing views.” Paul also likes the Germano biciArte Café in Alte, “a bike-themed café, which is also a bike repair shop, so you can get your bike fixed while you have a coffee and cake.”

 

Rob Hawkins of Colconquerors, who hold camps in Gran Canaria and Rhone-Alpes, recommends the Ayacata Bike Stop in Gran Canaria. “Conveniently situated at the junction of routes leading to the high point of the island in Pico de las Nievas, the café is a great spot to sample the local Leche-e-Leche coffee (an espresso with milk and condensed milk sitting on the bottom). A great lifter during a near-50km climb to the centre of the island!”

Rob also had a recommendation for the Rhone-Alpes in France. “The Chalet du Chaussy (chaletducolduchaussy.com) at the summit of the Col du Chaussy offers a superb espresso with truly stunning views back across the Maurienne valley and the Aiguilles d’Arves. If you’re brave and heading on to the Col de la Madeleine, the Tarte aux Myrtilles is superb.”

Rob says that they’ve been going to these for years now and both not only offer great coffee and food but are also very welcoming and friendly to cyclists.

 

Jason Cardillo of Velo Veneto says for him it's got to be Pasticceria Caragnello (pasticceriacargnello.it). His company started stopping by mid-ride years ago and it's a must-do on all its camps now. “At this family-run café, the passion for quality is clear in every cup, every pastry, and every hand-made chocolate, especially the custom-moulded shapes.”

 

Andy Cook of Andy Cook Cycling says that there are so many to choose from in Mallorca, but they use...... 

The square in Petra is an absolute mecca for bike riders and all the cafes/bars around the square all toting for business..... It's not unusual for the square to be full of cyclists from all nationalities all day long in the springtime. 

The ex-pat cyclists living on the Island usually know the best cafes and bars and one of the best in terms of value is situated in Muro as part of a bakery. There is a similar one in Cosstix which is a bakery selling small local doughnuts and other similarly tempting delicacies. 

However, in Alaro there is "Cycling Planet" (http://cyclingplanet.es/) which is owned and run by David Muntaner who rode in the London Olympics for Spain. The shop is a mix of bike shop, mechanics station and cycling cafe. It is without doubt a unique experience and the hospitality outstanding as well as portion size...... Oh and the coffee's good too......!!

 

 

Categories: All topics, Cycling

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