Coffee and cycling

coffeeThe latest episode of The Bike Lane has a feature on caffeine and its effects on performance (The Bike Lane is surely the best cycling program on the web, and features the cool-at-40 Scott McGrory, whom I saw winning the Gent six-day race in 2001).

That episode got me thinking about cyclists’ love of coffee (the Mentalist drinks tea, but the cyclist drinks coffee!). The cycling coffee stop is called just that—”the coffee stop”, not “the tea stop”; and the reason why is obvious when one thinks about the contrast with cricket (where you stop mid-afternoon for tea, not coffee): cricket is English; cycling is Euro. We style ourselves on the French, the Belgians, the Italians and the Spanish—all coffee drinkers. Becoming Europhile is part of becoming a cyclist: for every rider there comes a time (perhaps around when you start shaving your legs, but perhaps before), when you stop knowing your weight in stones and switch to kilos, and when you calibrate your cycle-computer in km not miles—that’s when you know for sure you drink coffee not tea mid-ride.

The cafe lifestyle is part of the Mallorcean lifestyle: just as there’s bound to be a church in the town or village square, so there’s bound to be cafes with tables outside and cyclists soaking in the winter or spring sun. Recently the coffee-cycling link has given birth to the bike-shop-cum-cafe, surely the ideal coffee-stop; two we like are Veloton (in Tetbury, UK) where this year’s Tour route is under the glass counter where you drink; and Cycling Planet (in Alaro, Mallorca) where you sit with your cafe con leche at tables made from the pine planks of the Palma velodrome (recently resurfaced)—the lines of the sprinters lane are still there!

I recently bought this Japanese coffee grinder (notice the Assos espresso cups in the picture!), and I wonder whether it was a subconscious cycling-association that attracted me to it, as the box is covered with Japanese characters I can’t decipher, but which remind me of the packaging of some exotic NJS-stamped bicycle-part from Japan—the land of keirin (if not the land of coffee).