This guest post comes from Mike McLeish, owner of the bicycle blog Pinch-Flat and currently on a bike tour in SE Asia.
What makes a great cycling café?
With so many people getting into the cycling lifestyle, the demand for establishments such as the cycling café has increased. More and more bike cafés springing up, blessing cyclists with lots of choice about which places to visit.
There are certain things to consider for any cyclist, and for anyone thinking of setting up one of these places. So let’s take a look at the different things that make up a great cycling café.
Catering for bikes
If you’re a cyclist, the first thing you want to know about visiting anywhere is, do they cater for bikes? In the case of a café, this could mean simply providing enough space to park a bike outside or indoors. But it can also mean having pumps and basic puncture kits available, along with staff who know a thing or two about bikes.
Some cafés employ mechanics so that if a cycling customer arrives with a major problem, the staff can help them out. They’ll usually have a wide array of hard to find accessories like cycling waterproof backpacks and unusual handlebars!
Also, if a cyclist comes in wet and muddy from a rainy bike day, they’ll want to be looked after. Keeping the place warm and having plenty of water around can go a long way, especially if you went for an extended trip. Many cafés, cycling and non-cycling, have a jug of water where people can just help themselves. Others have a little changing area and somewhere where you can hang up dirty or wet kit. It’s often the small touches that make these places stand out.
A good spread
Its menu judges a café, and cycling cafés are no exception.
The basics can often be enough. Hot food, the opportunity to have a decent meal after a long cycle and a full range of drinks and cakes. Some cycling cafés actively try to have options on the menu that specifically cater to cycling needs, such as food high in protein, stuff rich in carbohydrates and various juices.
Whatever the desires of the customer, it’s important to have plenty of choice and the best cafés will offer that. The best places will provide alcohol to help relax the body and mind after a hard day on the trails
More than just a café
If a café sets itself up as a cycling café, it will want to provide its cycling customers with a hub where they can go and discuss or celebrate their hobby. For that reason, many cycling cafés offer various activities outside of their function as a place for buying food and drink.
Things like cycling-themed events such as screening coverage of the Tour de France, or bringing in music acts and hosting quizzes and film nights are a great way to offer more to patrons.
A cycling café is an excellent way to build up a community, which brings me on to my final point.
A sense of community
The best cycling cafés cater for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. By being inclusive, they attract a wider range of customers and in many cases have proved very positive for the community as a whole. Regular customers, cycling and non-cycling alike, can come together to become friends and find new interests.
Just having a good spread and friendly staff is the best way to start. Offering a wide range of food and drinks, catering to children and the elderly, vegetarians and vegans and those with allergies and being receptive to all the customers’ needs is standard practice for the good cafés.
Having free wi-fi so that people can come in and work while drinking their coffee is a good way to attract non-cycling customers (plus where would a cyclist be without easy access to Strava?). The key thing is to be as inclusive as possible so that everyone feels welcome, regardless of whether they come in with a bike or just themselves.
As I’m from England I’ve added a few excellent cycling cafés should you ever choose to visit.
Look Mum, No Hands, 49 Old Street, EC1V 9HX
Roll for the Soul, Unit 2, St Lawrence House, Quay Street, Bristol, BS1 2JL
Bike Beans Cycle Cafe, 5B Rectory Lane, Ashtead,Surrey KT21 2BA
Pedalling Squares, The Old Brassworks, Quality Row Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 3AQ
Spoke and Co, 105 Trent Boulevard, West Bridgeford, Notthingham, NG2 5BA
Velo City Love, 1 Crown Avenue, Inverness, IV2 3NF
The Cycle Hub, Quayside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE6 1BU
Route 2 Topsham, 1 Monmouth Hill Topsham, Devon, EX3 0JQ
Cycle PS, 41 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, SE5 8TR
The Velo House, 5 St Johns Rd, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 9TN
Mike McLeish is the owner of the bicycle blog Pinch-Flat. He’s currently taking full advantage of the warm weather in SE Asia. You can find him cycling through traffic in Kuala Lumpur, attempting to drink coffee from a plastic bag, or eating Nasi Lemak at a local corner shop. Follow him on Twitter at @Pinch_Flat.