Bike cafes are a relatively new concept. There is no generally accepted term for them either as they may be referred to as cycle cafes, bicycle cafes, bike coffee shops and any number of variations on the term. What the term refers to in general is the combination of a bike shop and a coffee shop. Some places are much more one than the other however. For example there are bike shops that have installed a coffee machine and have one or two tables but are fundamentally still a bike shop. Inversely there are cafes that have a couple bikes on the walls as decoration and might even sell some bicycle accessories but have no workshop and are essentially in the food service industry and couldn’t really be classed as being a part of the cycling industry.
The perfect bicycle cafe
In our opinion a true bike cafe should be split around 50/50 in its core activities and do them both well. The cafe should be a fully functioning coffee shop serving top quality coffee as well as home-made food designed to suit a cyclists dietary needs. The bike shop should sell bicycles and accessories and have a fully operational workshop run by competent bicycle mechanics who are ready to carry out all types of repairs.
Where did the idea come from?
It is not really known who was the first to open a cycle cafe but London’s Look Mum No Hands, which opened in 2010, is widely regarded as one of the forerunners that did a lot to help popularise the concept. They are still going strong and have built up a loyal community of cyclists who enjoy their food and the cycle themed events they put on [including cycle speed-dating and karaoke while pedalling!] The combination of cycling and coffee goes back much further than this though as the two go naturally hand in hand. Competitive cycling races often started early in the morning and a strong coffee helped to kick-start many a drowsy cyclist into being race-ready.
In this photo we see Faema, the espresso machine manufacturers, serving Brazilian coffee to a queue of competitive cyclists in Italy back in the day!