Top 5: here’s why London’s cycle cafés are riding to success
With the heavy influx of cycle cafés popping up everywhere you’d expect the marriage between espressos and velos to be a new one, but in fact, coffee and cycling’s history dates back to the sixties.
The active compound in coffee that gives you the ‘buzz’ is well-known to be caffeine. It’s the fuel that keeps the suits sane whilst working at their desks, and gives us hospitality workers an energy boost on red-eye mornings. It’s the brown fuel oxygenating London. But, for cyclists it means something more – it could mean the difference between winning and losing.
The effects that caffeine has on our body are well established, but from a performance perspective there’s a lot more conjecture. Cycling scientists have explored the use of caffeine in races and the effects it has on recovery and performance. It’s far cry from EPO, but caffeine and coffee still has its place in heart of professional riding. Since 2004 the World Anti-Doping Agency has removed all restrictions on caffeine use, before the change of rule there was a caffeine intake limit equivalent to about eight espressos – I challenge you to drink that much coffee. Some cyclists swear by it, including national hero and six-time gold medal winner Sir Chris Hoy.
Settling in nicely at the hotel, travelling light with the bare essentials. pic.twitter.com/7gcIvHVz
— Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) July 15, 2012
Hoy seems to be no amateur when it comes to espresso, adopting so-called ‘third-wave’ antipodean style after completing a barista course in Australia, which means; light roast, lots of care and all about flavor. He lugs his Mazzer grinder and Rocket R58 machine in the equipment van wherever he goes, and even opts for a pocket-sized hand grinder on more secluded trips.
Alongside La Marzocco and Nouva Simonelli, Faema is one of the Italian big-hitters when it comes to coffee machine engineering. To promote their innovations, still seen today in all coffee machines, Faema have sponsored decade-spanning teams. The 1956-founded Faema Team, which lasted until 1970, is essentially a check-list of cycling legends from ‘King of the Classics’ Rik Van Looy, Vittorio Adorni and most notably Eddy Merckx who dominated the 1968 Tour de France wearing the Faema jersey.
Aside from the long established relationship between coffee and pro-cycling; the enthusiasts find help in espresso kicks before a day’s cycle and welcome café breaks in between long stretches of riding. For cyclists coffee shop stops are a real-life collocation, like salt and pepper. London’s coffee scene is like no other, and with cycling increasingly becoming the mode de jour (and mode of transport) it’s no surprise that Australian-style coffee shops have pedalled their way into the daily routine of many cyclists.
Here’s the best of the bunch, our top 5 London cycle cafés;
Cycle Lab, first and foremost, is a repair shop, coffee takes a back seat where über-healthy super-juices take the lead. The coffee is still worth a mention, they only serve beans roasted by east London’s boutique Square Mile after all. It’s a cosy location, with a lot packed into a small space. They cater to a range of cyclists not just the typical fixie-racer scene. If you need something to keep you going then the crêpes and soups are the best options.
18A Pitfield St, N1 6EY
18 months old Peloton&Co serves a unique house-espresso roasted by Butterworth&Sons. It’s a 50:50 blend between a Guatemalan coffee and an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe that delivers fruit and florals with a malty backbone. On the cycling front clothing stockists include Levi’s, Giro, Chapeau, Le Coq Sportif and own-branded jerseys whilst bikes are delivered by industry heavyweights Pinarello and Boardman. They’re currently running a 40% off clothing lines sales due to a switch to French brand Café Du Cycliste. Also available is a good selection of sandwiches, pastries, a daily soup or stew and a selection of London-brewed craft beers.
4 Market St, E1 6DT
The Sky Pro Cycling team is one of the best in the world, and Rapha CC won the contract to provide the team clothing. The Soho-based flagship store is a showcase of high-quality for both coffee and cycling gear. Recently more shop space has been given over to the cycling side of things, if you need that technical jacket for winter rides this is the place to go. Rapha CC has other sites in San Francisco, New York and Manchester and is a household name on the cycling scene. The food is the usual coffee shop fare with soups, sandwiches and pastries.
85 Brewer St, W1F 9ZN
Established in 2007 and boasted to be the first of its kind, Lock7 is an East London haven for the cycling enthusiast. Recently vacated their original premises, Lock7 now sits on Broadway Market Mews – a stone’s throw from their original location. Mechanics work on getting your bike roadworthy whilst baristas brew excellent Square Mile coffee. The smoothies and vegan waffles are sublime and in themselves worth a mention.
129A Pritchards Road, E2 9AP
Perhaps the most famous on the coffee-cycling circuit is LMNH! Offering a large selection of craft beers, served alongside coffee from Square Mile and the usual café-style food. Two mechanics work on repairs next to the coffee bar whilst customers enjoy their purchases on one of the numerous outdoor benches or stripped-back tables inside. Bikes hang from the ceilings and walls; you can buy a limited range of LMNH! cycling apparel including jerseys and caps. We particularly like that you can borrow a lock and secure you bike to the stands outside.
49 Old Street, EC1V 9HX
Pictures: courtesy of Cycle Lab, Peloton&Co, Rapha.cc, Lock7 and LMNH!. Featured image by Tim Roth, Faema gallery courtesy of Hive Mind