London's leading cycle cafes
Caffeine, the bitter stimulant that forms part of the delicious coffee experience, is a performance enhancing stimulant that’s no longer prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which even previously had very generous allowances for caffeine intake. Hence its historic popularity with cyclists, especially those facing a race through the mountains. Nothing feels more appropriate, when riding even as a commuter or for recreation, than to stop off for coffee, especially espresso.
Faema (the Italian espresso machine makers) sponsored a cycling team in the 1960s and the legendary Eddy Merckx rode for them in his first Tour de France victory. The 1980s Café de Colombia squad was sponsored by a co-operative of coffee farmers and home espresso machine manufacturer Saema had a cycling team in the 1990s. Here in London, Chris Hoy is well known for travelling with his own espresso machine and Bar Italia was long a popular location to watch the Giro d’Italia.
Read more about the historic links between cycling and coffee on Bike Hub.
The first cycle cafe in London, and possibly the country, was Lock 7 off Broadway Market in 2008. Look Mum No Hands opened their speciality cycling coffeeshop in 2010 serving coffee and cake, and beers in the evening on Old Street. As London cycle infrastructure has finally begun to improve, a great many more Londoners cycle and the number of cycle cafes has grown exponentially. Of course, those cycling also like to frequent non-cycle cafes too, as long as there’s somewhere to lock up the bike. Here are a selection of London’s best cycle cafes:
Serving Square Mile coffee since 2010, Look Mum No Hands also provide cycle repairs and sales of cycle accessories. Not only that but they serve great breakfasts in the morning and beers and more in the evenings. ITV’s The Cycle Show was filmed regularly here featuring Jools Walker as presenter and it has been the site of some special cycling and coffee-themed events. Briefly LMNH also had a cafe on Mare Street and every summer they also have a pop-up at London’s Southbank. See below for their collaboration with Soho Bikes in Brixton.
49 Old Street, Clerkenwell EC1V 9HX
Rapha wowed us all when it opened in July 2012. Caffeine magazine featured it at length. Ben Townsend (Espresso Room, London Coffee School) helped establish it and the likes of Paul Bonna (Kaffeekommune), Will Hilliard (Mother's Milk) and other talented baristas made it a London essential with delicious JB Kaffee coffee. Perhaps nowadays it no longer puts quite the same emphasis on coffee but it remains a key London cycle cafe which transforms into a hub of excitement with every televised major cycle race.
85 Brewer Street, Soho WC1 9ZN
61-63 Brushfield St, Spitalfields Market E1 6AA
Terrone & Co have opened Tandem within Cadence in Crystal Palace. Cadence offers bike fitting and fitness assessment as well as selling Giant bikes. Italian food is available alongside filter and espresso options from Terrone & Co to fuel the cyclists.
2 Anerley Hill, London SE19 2AA (inside Cadence)
Bermondsey’s Machine is a real community hub. Locals head there for bike repairs and to buy bikes and accessories and for weekend cycling events and screenings. A cafe was added after the shop was established and has developed into a special spot with Monmouth coffee, some of London’s most impressive cakes and savoury goods and truly unique cycle-themed furniture.
97 Tower Bridge Rd, Bermondsey, London SE1 4TW
Nowhere combines coffee and cycling better than Soho Bikes. Soho Bikes is an independent bike shop with regulars taking advantage of its repairs service and range of mostly British made bikes and clothing. First rate Origin espresso-based drinks and filter are served in a friendly environment with little pretension. Ever since Carter Donnell (now of Daily Goods) operated his concession in Tokyo Fixed and Rapha served their great coffee on Brewer Street, Soho has seemed a default location for cycle cafes and Soho Bikes has established itself in the yellow jersey.
26 Berwick St, Soho, W1F 8RG
Recently opened, Giddy Up have set up a cafe serving Square Mile coffee in Giant’s cycle store on the roundabout on Aldersgate next to the Barbican. It’s beautifully furnished and decorated and well worth a visit. Giant offer custom cycle fitting downstairs that can measure your pedalling efficiency. As well as selling their own brand bikes, they will service any type of bicycle.
200 Aldersgate St, London EC1A 4HD
Brixton Cycles have been a workers’ co-operative since 1983 and rightly have a great reputation among cycle shops. Voted London's Best Bike Shop at the LCC (London Cycling Campaign) Awards, the shop sells and services bikes. This year they decided to team up with Look Mum No Hands to open a cafe in the store.
296-298 Brixton Road, Brixton, London, SW9 6AG
Another 2016 opening like Giddy Up Giant and Brixton Cycles, Bespoke serve Workshop coffee near Guildhall through a hatch in the store. Bespoke itself, like the name implies, sell custom bicycles carefully fitted to their customers –with ‘dream bikes’ with a ‘perfect fit’ at the top end of the market.
Gresham Street,Guildhall, EC2V 7PG (corner of Milk St and Russia Row)
We’ve recently become aware of Cycle Lab on Pitfield Street serving Square Mile coffee and we’ll report back once we visit. Similarly, London Velo in Deptford serving Union Coffee. We also can’t let a cycle cafe article go past without mentioning Full City on Leather Lane, favourite of many cycle couriers which was once renowned for its £1 Monmouth filter – not sure if it still serves coffee and, if it does, probably not for a quid. Still known for great cycle repairs and tune ups.