Before you groan and start thinking today’s column is going to be about the latest isotonic sports drink or protein packed energy bars (they have their place, just not here) then don’t despair, breathe a sigh of relief and read on.
Café and cycling culture have had a symbiotic relationship ever since someone first threw a leg over a crossbar and headed off for a ride.
The café fulfils a number of important roles in the life of a cyclist: handy meeting point, pre-ride breakfast, essential caffeine hit during a ride and important staging post usually indicating the turn to head for home and a bit of a sit down.
At least once a week I can usually be caught riding from York to Helmsley where I’ll have a cake from Thomas’ (tricky choice between chelsea bun and chocolate flapjack) before riding back.
Furthermore, cycling as a serious sport, or a sport taken seriously, has its roots in continental Europe; France, Italy and Belgium being the historic dominant forces.
Given the importance of café culture in these countries it is hardly surprising that cycling attached itself to this already existing way of life.
The greatest cyclist that ever lived, Eddy Merckx, spent the majority of his winning years riding for the Faema team, who were sponsored by an Italian manufacturer of espresso machines. And you don’t get much cooler than Italian espresso machines.
Cycling is a sport of aesthetics and a certain style. Each time I go out for a ride it is in clean kit. I fuss over the bike to ensure it is spotless – at least until I hit the rutted country roads around York. My body positioning on the bike has to be just so.
It’s a sport for, to put it bluntly, weird obsessives who enjoy ritual.
Small wonder then that we cyclists also feel a close affinity to the ritual of a good cup of coffee, made by someone who cares about the end result. The perfectionism and aesthetic of the cyclist and the barista go hand in hand or, to put it really simply, café culture is about style, cycling is about style.
All of this is just one of the many reasons why York is a great cycle city. Not only are we blessed with a shed load of cafés; we are blessed with a shed load of really good ones.
Some of the best I’ve ever been to are right here, on our doorstep. And I’ve been in plenty of bad ones to know the difference.
I’m going to mention three, with apologies to half a dozen others I could name, but these tick every box, from that elusive cosy, atmospheric quality, to the excellence of their breakfasts, cakes and most important to the Lycra-clad, shaved legged community, their coffee.
Firstly, Coffee Culture in Goodramgate, where you are pretty much guaranteed a chipper welcome from the friendly staff. The look of the place is spot-on and the full-English breakfast is a great post ride reward for the knackered cyclist.
My wife, Rebecca, assures me the other breakfast options are also very good but I’m yet to look beyond sausage, bacon, eggs, black pudding, beans and toast.
The Flat White here is, in my humble opinion, the best cup of coffee available in York. It’s amazing that a venue so close to the Minster can feel like a bit of a local’s secret.
That brings me to the Pig and Pastry, which is probably my favourite pre or post ride spot in the city, providing I can get a seat as it tends to be justifiably crammed.
They have a great range of breakfasts from the usual bacon and egg combos through to excellent waffles, bubble and squeak and classics with a twist – the scrambled eggs with chorizo is delicious.
The coffee might not be quite as superlative as at Coffee Culture but you do get a free refill with your cup from the filter.
Across the street in Bishopthorpe Road is Cycle Heaven, so you can easily pass a morning indulging in both passions. Trust me, this happens a lot.
This column really wouldn’t be complete without dropping in Your Bike Shed – York’s first dedicated cycling café.
These have been opening up relatively regularly in London (Rapha and Look Mum No Hands being the two big names) and now York has a venue of which to be proud.
Boasting a café with indoors cycle racks, a workshop for “while you wait” repairs and a basement space complete with big screen for watching the big pro-season events, Your Bike Shed is a spot I plan to spend a fair bit of time in during 2014.
If you partake in York’s café culture, enhance your enjoyment and get a bike. You’ll be amazed at the compatibility of the two.
If you are a visiting cyclist, perhaps coming to try out the 2014 Tour de France routes, then you are in for a treat.
If you are a local cyclist who is hearing all of this for the first time, where have you been?
You have some very pleasant catching up to do.