It's time for the second Coffee & Ride feature that we're bringing you each month alongside our friends at komoot, in which we will be pulling together a selection of our top cycling-friendly cafes, and some great routes to go with them. This time it's Victor's turn, who will be telling us all about his favourite cycling-friendly coffee stop, Spoke Cycles CC, and sharing a great route to go with it. Over to Victor!
Cafe: Spoke Cycles CC
Location: Codicote, Hertfordshire
Ride Location: Hertfordshire
Ride details: 46km 'intermediate road ride', good fitness required, 350m elevation
Get chatting with anyone who cycles in North London and Hertfordshire, and they’ve likely heard of Spoke Cycles CC.
Spoke Cycles is a joint venture between Alex and Jonathan, who were teammates at Welwyn Wheelers when Jonathan approached Alex to work in his shop, Hatfield Cycles. The pair shared a vision that the modern bike shop shouldn’t be trying to sell bikes, because there is no way for them to compete with online sales, so they decided to set-up (work)shop on Jonathan’s yard - which was the birth of Spoke Cycles CC.
‘Fit. Fix. Build. Coffee’ is a sort of mantra, and they are not in short supply of expertise in any of these areas. When I met with him, Alex was clear to get the message across that they sell 'intellectual property' rather than bikes; whether that’s 30 years worth of bike mechanic experience perfectly restoring an old bike or imparting unbiased advice to the customer, their in-house bike fit service, or highly trained baristas extracting the perfect shot of coffee.
If the workshop was the catalyst and core of the business, the cafe is the heartbeat of the ‘shop’, and the expansion of their set-up including the addition of the outside terracing has been made to accommodate more people eating, drinking and watching live bike racing on one of their many screens.
As you walk in the door it’s obvious that it’s a place that local cyclists like to come to just ‘hang out’ and talk about bikes, whether that’s outside on the sun terrace overlooking the goat run (yep they inherited goats from a local pub), or inside on a chesterfield in front of the wood burner surrounded by cycling memorabilia.
In the barn, on the farm, they have an iconic 1964 Citroen H van serving up delicious cakes, made-to-order toasties, superb coffee and Belgian beers. Jonathan’s daughter Poppy is the cafe manager, and in charge keeping all the visiting cyclists well fuelled. All the cakes are baked at her house, and through Poppy’s initiatives they try to keep all ingredients sourced as close as possible to the farm.
Justifiably, they are very proud of the coffee they are serving, claiming (perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek, perhaps not) that it’s the best in the county. They use local Campervan Coffee Co beans, who are also their machine supplier, so they have a very close relationship to ensure they're consistently extracting the best coffee.
The community at Spoke Cycles is evident by their well-attended cafe rides. Kicking off again in April they host social gravel-and-beers mid week evening spin sessions and a Sunday morning chain gang.
As well as nurturing a vibrant cycling community, they also have a strong environmental ethos. There’s no plastic packaging or disposable implements in sight, they are a centre for recycling tyres and tubes, the coffee waste is all composted and the compost toilet is something of a legend in itself.
This route has slightly more emphasis on the coffee rather than the riding, starting out at another of my favourite coffee shops, Hertford Coffee Lab. This doesn’t quite fit the bill as a 'cycling cafe', but does however produce exceptional coffee; so it’s the perfect starting point.
Heading north out of Hertford, you very quickly get to quiet country roads flanked by horse fields and farm yards. The ride starts with a very very gradual incline (under 100m elevation in 8km) to get the legs warmed up, up to Datchworth Green, through Painter’s Green and onwards towards Knebworth, where you get fantastic views over the countryside to the north.
The route takes you through Knebworth and then up and over the A1(M) to Old Knebworth. The big main roads that hurl themselves through Hertfordshire towards London – M1, A1(M), A10 – are a blessing in disguise for cyclists, funnelling the traffic away from the country roads. Old Knebworth Lane makes up part of the National Cycle Network Route 12; and as I ride around the border of Knebworth House, I’m reminded of my 10-year-old self dreaming of being one of the 250,000 watching Oasis define the Britpop era.
Route 12 takes a left and my route takes a right towards Hitchin, where you get to enjoy some nice quiet woodland lanes (be careful of storm debris during these blustery months!) before joining the Hitchin Road. The descent into Whitwell is a lot of fun, it's best to lay off the brakes and pin it.
If you need more coffee (and/or cake) this is where you’ll find Emily’s Tea Shop. A quaint little place with very friendly staff that is very popular with cyclists. You can get there down a gravel track, through the horse fields and then through a farmyard where there is a selection of small businesses including a bike workshop.
From Whitworth you get rolling roads into Codicote, and just through Codicote you take a left back on to Route 12, and Spoke Cycles is only a short way down the road.
Once you’ve fuelled up on coffee and toasties, you are back on some gorgeous quiet country roads, over the A1(M) and you get a lovely fast open descent which takes you under the railway line at the bottom.
Through Woolmer Green you hit a beautiful winding stretch of country road up to Burnham Green, before a nice quick descent towards Tewin.
Take a left just before getting to the Green at Tewin and ride up to close the loop of this ride and rejoin Main Road, before descending Tattle Hill back into Hertford.
This route gives you a great taste of the quiet Hertfordshire country lanes. There's enough cafe stops to satisfy a proper coffee addict, and plenty of options for good pubs too!
Ready to plan your next coffee & ride? Head over to komoot to get started.