The cycle cafe phenomenon has really taken a grip over the last decade or so, drawing fixie fans, digital nomads and urban hipsters the world over. But things have taken a different spin at Maison du Velo, where the cyclists and laptoppers are joined by Reigate mums in an unexpected twist.
“The idea was to become a community for cyclists”, says owner Tom, “but we’ve become one for mummies as well. We’re on a busy route for 2 or 3 schools and we have a wheelchair ramp that, completely by chance, turned out to be perfect for pushchairs!”
It’s a welcome hijacking that’s helped to convey the open and non-elitist atmosphere, something that Tom knows can be a problem for cycle cafes, despite the sport’s working class roots. “It’s about getting it over to people that the place is for you; it’s not just for cyclists.”
To prove his point, Tom bought a proper Rocket coffee machine from Italy and developed a unique blend that’s roasted half an hour away in Lingfield, then brought to the shop every other day.
“We’re happy for someone with a laptop to come in and nurse a coffee for a couple of hours. We’ve got superfast wi-fi and love the buzz of having lots of bodies in the shop: we do an awesome range of cakes, flapjacks and riding food, but when people started working from here a lot we introduced eggs, salmon, avocado and sourdough bread from Chalk Hills Bakery.”
Cycling and caffeine have a longstanding connection. “In Italy, coffee and cycling have always gone hand in hand. You start a race with a coffee; have a coffee half way round; then finish with a coffee.”
“Everyone who falls in love with cycling wants to be around bikes. They love looking around in their lunch break, touching the bikes, smelling the rubber. It’s a bit like a record store. So with all the hanging around, the idea of having a coffee came about as somewhere to return to after buying a bike: somewhere to use as a clubhouse.” The concept has now been introduced in Forest Row, where Maison du Velo took over the In-Gear cycle shop.
As well as the cycle cafe, Tom runs a popular Thursday night bike ride for all levels. “We have a Whatsapp group, very unofficial, and people build up relationships over their preferred routes. I see them starting together and forming their own groups. It’s a team sport, and a very social sport where it’s all about riding with a person who’s the same level.”
While Maison du Velo opened in 2015, Tom’s history with cycling goes back to his childhood. “I used to race down at Shoreham as a kid, then got into football and sailing, which turned into a career as a skipper while my wife was the chef. Then there was a huge surge in cycling again, and I got back on a bike.”
Seems like he’s come full cycle.
Maison du Velo
31 Lesbourne Road
Reigate RH2 7JS