real life cycling

The minefield of the mid-ride café (part 1)

cyclist cafe

I am a cyclist, I insist on good coffee, and I know my way around a slice of millionaire shortbread.

By cross referencing my Strava stats with my bank statements I can tell you that last winter I spent 17% of my waking hours either in, or on my way to, a café.

When it comes to cafes, I know what I’m talking about.

Beware the Cumbrian Cappuccino

Here in Lancashire we are well versed in coffee culture.

Barely a moment goes by without somebody bending my ear for a view on single origins, heirloom varieties, or the correct temperature for the milk in a Cortado.

We are, quite frankly, off our caffeinated tits on exquisitely crafted espresso based beverages.

Venture north, across the border into Cumbria though, and the story is often very different.

Yes, you may stumble across the occasional cup that meats minimum acceptable standards for consumption, but it’s essentially Russian roulette.

But in Cumbria.

And the gun-barrel is loaded with all manner of freeze dried granules purporting to be a suitable basis for a Cappuccino.

The last time I stopped for a coffee in Cumbria I watched, mouth agape, as the instant coffee granules were spooned into my cup. Boiling water was added, frothed milk was spooned on (which was too hot, for the record), and a dusting of chocolate finished the job.

This drink was then placed before me – a tired, and caffeine hungry cyclist – accompanied by the immortal word: “Cappuccino?”

“No,” I wanted to say, “that is literally the opposite of a Cappuccino, and I fear that a big alarm has just gone off in Italy to denote the end of civilisation!”

But I didn’t.

I just sat there, agog. In shock. Silently resolving that any future rides onto Cumbrian soil would be guerrilla raids, allowing quick retreat back across the border for coffee as required.


If it’s really cold, or really wet, don’t stop

This, I’m sure most of you will agree, is a lesson that you only need to learn once. Sure, it’s counter-intuitive to avoid the café at the very moment when you most need the warmth it offers, but you succumb to that warmth at your peril.

Imagine the temperature out on the road is near freezing. Half an hour ago it started raining, and your cycling kit is now struggle to cope.

You don’t like to complain, because you’re a cyclist, and it’s not the done thing, but next time you take your turn tucked into your mates slipstream you’re probably going to have a little cry.

You are, in short, suffering.

And this is precisely the moment you need to stay mentally strong; fall prey to the siren call of coffee and flapjack now, and you’re doomed.

After half an hour of respite in the café you will climb back aboard your bike, having pulled on your still-wet kit, and head out into those same conditions with your engine now running cold.

You’ll realise that your previous levels of suffering were, on the scale of suffering, equivalent to ‘quite a nice time, really.’

You will now not get warm again.

If you are one hour from home, you have a chance. If you are two hours from home, you will probably die.

But even should you make it you will spend the following hour in the shower, crying (again…), as your near hypothermic body thaws painfully under the warm water.

You will then think twice before stopping next time.


Think about what you’re wearing

On the bike is one thing.

If you choose to exhibit the sartorial elegance of a scarecrow wearing a bin-bag then that’s your choice. Your fellow cyclists may mock you briefly, but once the ride is underway your choice of clothing matters little.

In fact, if anything, the worse you dress, the better you make the rest of us look.

So carry on.

But in the café, where you’ll find yourself mixing with non-cyclists from the general population dressed in suitably loose fitting clothing, you risk sticking out like a peacock in a donkey sanctuary.

Or a donkey in a peacock sanctuary?

As if it wasn’t enough that these people are having their civilised lunch ruined by a gaggle of sweaty cyclists, your cheap, ill fitting, underperforming cycling kit is not helping.

The nice, middle-aged couple on the table next to you do not want to be assaulted by the sight of your sweaty groin as you squeeze past on the way to the toilets.

The outline of your love handles attempting an escape from their Lycra prison is not the backdrop they were hoping for.

Frankly, the sight of you hungrily demolishing a cream bun with one hand whilst hoiking Lycra out of your bum-crack with the other is going to put them off their lunch.

The least you could do is wear some nice, civilised kit, to take the edge off things; a nice bit of Rapha, perhaps, or some well-fitting Castelli.

Your mates, on the bike, care not one jot about your sartorial standards.

The general public deserve better.

(Café Image: Andreas Kambanis via Flickr cc|Bike Image:|Sepia Cyclist Image: via

16 comments on “The minefield of the mid-ride café (part 1)

  1. As a member of the general public (or should I deem myself a mere civilian), I do not judge peacocks in donkey sanctuaries…are you calling the rest of us donkeys? Just checkin’. Also, coffee snobbery? Hah I have to go through at least two cappuccinos before I find the perfect brew here! *shh (don’t let the Yanks know)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a person whose sole purpose of riding a bicycle is to consume copious amounts of coffee and cake I always pull on my finest Castelli attire for every ride where I may encounter members of the general public. Got to look your finest when you’re sipping a hand crafted single origin. Plus I like to be well turned out for my mid-ride cafe Instagram pic!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. drsmith1985

    That part about kit makes me think you’ve been to an American Wal Mart, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A close second to the instant coffee, is the coffee that is made by a machine. The member of staff presses one button, and the machine does the rest. When I see this type of machine behind the counter, I always chose the pot of tea option.

    Liked by 1 person

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