Fewer things go together better than the smell of fresh coffee beans and the sound of a wheel spinning around. The click-clack of pedals, clips and brake levers being tested. You know the feeling, the scent from your favourite coffee cup reaches your nostrils as you breathe in and smell the rich, bold notes of your americano. Maybe it’s that cappuccino you share with fellow riders in the local café after a big outing, or maybe it’s the strong, sharp espresso you knock back as you adjust your saddle and check your tyres, ready for a hard session of time trials – whichever way you look at it, coffee plays a crucial part in the cycling lifestyle.
But why coffee? What’s the story? If it’s just for energy then why not an energy drink? If it’s to keep warm in winter then why not tea? Well, there is no concrete answer, but we can try to look at the reasons why we might be attracted to it.
The history & the Italian connection.
Like all timelessly cool things, the unification between coffee and cycling started with the Italians. Faema, a Milanese coffee company, came out of the post-war boom and took Italy by storm. Showcasing their high-tech coffee machines and ground-breaking technology, many of Faema’s innovations are still used today in some shape or form.
Then came Faema’s incorporation into the cycling world, when sponsoring their own team throughout the 60’s and 70’s, notorious hard-rider Eddy Merckx – nicknamed ‘the cannibal’ because of his aggressive riding style – became Team Faema’s poster-boy, thus making coffee look very cool in the cycling world.
The cafés – the London movement.
In London, Manchester and other major UK cities, cycling cafés are popping up now more than ever. Spurred on by a couple of big-name start-ups who set the tone for those to follow: great coffee, independent food, quirky soft drinks, home-made cake, maintenance ‘pit-stops’ and plenty of space for a laid-back atmosphere.
Here’s The Guardian’s run-down of the top-ten cycling cafes in the UK.
The stars – showing us how it’s done.
As with our jerseys, bikes and everything else, if the pros are doing it or wearing it, we’ve got to do it. So when we see our idols casually taking a sip in the cool-down area of the velodrome, or after a stage of the Tour de France, it only fortifies the connection and makes everyone involved instantly look cooler.
But drinking coffee when cycling isn’t just about being Italian, looking cool or even sitting in a trendy café, it’s much more than that, the beauty of coffee is more than skin-deep…
The ritual – the art of making and drinking good coffee.
Pre-ride, preparing a good, well-made coffee is a ritualistic process: you may grind your own beans, or open up your filter coffee and let the earthy fumes rise up for a moment before you continue. The little dart of hot water you shoot in your cup to wash it out with before you make the initial pour is all key to the moment leading up to the ride ahead. Searching for the right spoon, almost spanner-like in its resemblance to your repair kit, then stirring the coffee in whilst meditating on riding tactics. Foaming milk, heating up water, mixing in sugar; these are all stages in an altogether complex process that puts you in a ride-ready state of mind. Each step is distracting your nerves and calming your mind before the storm of hill-climbs and nasty sprints, it’s an art, a ritual and lifestyle. It’s cycling.
Even post-ride you’ll have a certain ritual to your craft, serving friends round a table, reflecting on tough sections of the course and refuelling and reawakening your body and mind.
The energy – let’s face it, it works.
All-in-all, let’s not forget the all-encompassing role of coffee in cycling: it gives us energy. It fires us up for the day ahead and gives us that extra bit of fight for when the weather is harsh and the legs are tired.
If all this hasn’t convinced you why cycling and coffee go hand in hand, then we’re not sure what can, go ahead and grab a cup now!