14 June 2010

Bean counting: Rapha and SoBo cycle cafes

London is bursting with cycle cafes these days, we're happy to report. The excellent Look Mum No Hands opened up a few weeks ago, joining Lock 7 and various other wheel-friendly roasthouses.

And over the weekend we dropped in to both the recently opened Rapha Cycle Club (top and right), on Clerkenwell Road, and SoBo, on Tower Bridge Road.

Rapha CC ('a combination of gallery, shop and café') takes the yellow jersey as London's most stylish bike caff, a shrine to Tours and Giros. You come here on the four-grand Pinarello you bought for triathlon training, and park it right inside the cafe (right). (My two-hundred-quid town bike was bag-lady tatty in such company - rack! mudguards! bell tuned to E above middle C! - so I left it streetside.)

Then you get out your laptop and use the free wifi, watch live cyclesport TV coverage on the big screen, sip an excellent cappuccino or flat white, and look at pictures of mountains in the library of cyclo mags and books.

Even the tabletop houses a map of whatever Tour is on, enabling you to plot a little 300k day workout. There's also kit for sale, a broom-wagon on display, and temporary exhibitions downstairs.

It's cool, with a capital F, and one place you can certainly escape football for the next few weeks. But it's definitely a racers' place, rather than the general-cyclists' nexus of Look Mum No Hands: a cafe with cleats and shaved legs.

SoBo (right and below right) isn't specifically a cycle cafe, but until it ends in three weeks or so, it has an exhibition of attractive single-speed and fixie bikes.

It also has very good coffee and less EPO about its atmosphere: comfy dropping in even if you're a commuter or scruffy real cyclist like me.

The cappuccino even comes with a stencilled chocolate logo, which we couldn't help abusing for comic effect by dint of crafty spoonwork about the froth. Sorry.


  1. Oo, this blog is getting a bit technical for a cyclist like me. I presume a Pinarello is a fancy racing bike, not a small cigar. But I had to look up EPO. And when I read "tours and giros" I immediately thought of a chum in Cambridge who is unemployed and spends all his time cycling.

  2. Crafty spoonwork? I love those 80s German electro bands!

    Seriously, I'm not sure about the Rapha cafe concept, but Look Mum No Hands seems very popular already, and old favourite Lock 7 is, well, my old favourite and one of the best hang outs in London. The city would be a lesser place without them,