Coffee and cycling go together like cleats and pedals - but why is coffee such an important part of cycling culture? There is some scientific evidence for improved performance in cyclists taking caffeine before a race. But apart from that, my view is that cyclists just like coffee, and guilt-free cake, of course.
Ride Velo likes expressos, cappuccinos and lattes. We like exploring too, so we needed no further excuse to go and try out one particular cycle cafe, consistently rated in the country's top ten by the likes of Cycling Weekly, Total Women's Cycling et al. The cafe, which shall remain nameless, had apparently been stirring up its hometown since it opened in a cool urban park two years ago. Offering delicious treats to eat and drink, bike repairs, maintenance and a shop, it had also spawned a burgeoning cycling community with its mid-week and weekend club rides for all abilities.
So imagine our disappointment when we rocked up only to discover that the cycle cafe had disappeared without trace to be replaced by yet another anodyne Italian coffee shop, complete with surly waitresses and bad food. Gone were the championship-winning bikes, the maintenance men and the designer bidons. The staff couldn't (or wouldn't) tell us what had happened to our nirvana in the park.
Back home, this mystery began to trouble me. I know I'm not the only cyclist to secretly fantasise about owning a destination coffee shop, complete with delighted customers and my own cycle club. What could have possibly gone wrong when the foam of success had been whipped to a peak? Trip adviser offered something by way of explanation:
"I can only echo the previous one star reviews of this awful place. If you enjoy waiting 20 mins for a bad cup of coffee served by self-satisfied, greasy-haired hipsters whilst surrounded by creepy middle aged men in lycra, this is the place for you. Otherwise, give it a miss."
Pretty much all the reviews repeated this customer's opinions. What a shame! What a wasted opportunity!
I've visited a few cycle cafes in my time, and I intend to visit lots more. To me the formula for success is this: great coffee, great service, a passion for cycling, retailing a few essential bits and pieces, simple but stylish decor and a cosy environment. Bike maintenance, cycle storage and turbo-training classes are nice but not essential. Did I mention moist carrot cake?
We are not going to be thwarted in our search for great cycle cafes up and down the country. We will not be defeated at the first hurdle! We have a few on our shortlist to try out and report back to Ride Velo readers but we are more than happy to hear and test your suggestions too. Bring on the cycle cafe coffee and cake challenge! Rapha London, Zappi's Bike Cafe, Oxford, and The Velo House, Tunbridge Wells - we're on our way so please leave us frothing with excitement, hungry for our next caffeine fix.