As anyone who has ever ridden a bike with me will know, I am a man who appreciates a good mid-ride café stop (see ‘Spring cycling and Wolfhouse coffee’).
Here in Lancaster, in the north of England, it just so happens that we are blessed with any number of top-notch establishments dishing out coffee, cake, flap-jack…and some who go that step further and stock energy gels, cans of GT85 and spare inner tubes in amongst the fruit cake and the caramel shortbread; either way, it’s all good fuel for the ride.
Recently, there has even been some experimentation with (whisper it) the mid-ride ice-cream parlour (that’s another story), which does nothing for a carefully cultivated image as a grizzled cyclist but, frankly, we’re talking top notch ice-cream, and the sugary hit does wonders for the legs.
Anyway, being something of a self-appointed expert in this area, I’ve noticed that most café stops have two things in common:
Firstly, no matter how much you needed the calories and the refreshment when you stopped, when you climb back on the bike after half an hour in some cosy corner you will fall victim to the dreaded ‘café legs’, and find yourself weak as a kitten and stiff as a board.
Secondly, there appears to be some ancient law in place which stipulates that any café likely to be frequented by the humble cyclist should be located at the bottom of a hill; the steeper and more torturous the better.
And so, having indulged yourself, you are hit with the double whammy of café legs and an immediate need for strenuous effort, causing you to briefly regret stopping in the first place. If you’d given it a miss and just kept pedalling, you’d be half way home by now.
This peculiar geographical law does have its benefits though. Should you ever find yourself on unfamiliar roads, where you know there is a café somewhere nearby but you don’t know exactly where, simply find the nearest hill, ride down it, and voila…that’s where the café will be.
In fact, any of you budding entrepreneurs out there who are thinking of setting up the ultimate cyclist’s café, there’s the perfect name for your establishment: ‘the café at the bottom of the hill’. I imagine your customers will appreciate your honesty if nothing else.
Of course there are exceptions to this café-at-the-bottom-of-the-hill theory, but they just prove the rule, and if you discover one of these exceptions by riding down a hill to find there is no café, I can only apologise…
…you are now at the bottom of a hill, and you are still hungry and thirsty; but at least you haven’t got café legs.