THE HAGUE (Netherlands), July 23 — Nothing hits the spot after a morning of heavy pedalling quite like a freshly-pulled shot of espresso. Apparently enough folks out there agree that cycling and coffee are a match made in heaven if the rising numbers of cycling cafés around the world is any indication.
They are more than just places to grab a quick pick-me-up after a long ride though.
Cycling cafés often double as workshops for bicycle repairs, stores selling cycling gear and accessories, and gathering spaces for cyclists to catch up and shoot the wind with a cuppa in hand.
Custom-made bicycles and coffee-loving baristasA city on the North Sea coast of the Netherlands, The Hague (or Den Haag in Dutch) is usually known for two things — being the seat of the Dutch parliament and the home to the UN’s International Court of Justice. Perhaps it should also be famous for — you guessed it — the pairing of cycling and coffee.
The best spot for indulging both passions in The Hague is undisputably Lola Bikes & Coffee, founded by cycling and coffee enthusiasts Arthur Wieffering and Reinier Hamel.Located in the heart of the city’s artist enclave, the shop is suffused with light despite the eclectic interior dotted everywhere with — what else? — bicycles. Folks are friendly here, whether we’re chatting them up about gears and wheels or beans and foamed milk.
With its array of well-crafted bicycles made by small companies, Lola Bikes & Coffee is a haven for cycling enthusiasts who ride here for everything bike-related. One of the biggest draws is the option of ordering a custom-made bicycle, the ultimate luxury for hardcore riders.Oh, but there is also coffee brewed by well-trained baristas. The beans are by Bocca Coffee, a Dutch specialty coffee roaster founded by the Simons brothers, Menno and Tewis.
Lola Bikes & Coffee is all about keeping it local, sourcing-wise, but the shop goes further abroad in supporting worthy causes.
One such organisation supported by Lola Bikes & Coffee is Kampala Cycling, a community cycling club in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Uganda that helps impoverished Ugandan children to obtain bicycles and equipment.Perhaps it’s not a pairing but a trio of goodness: cycling, coffee and lots of heart.
Wheel-powered warehouse turned cyclist hub
Down south, our neighbour Singapore is also home to another quirky cycling café albeit one without a hipster address. Instead Wheeler’s Yard is located in the old neighbourhood of Whampoa where some strips are dotted with nondescript factories and warehouses.Indeed, walking into a small alley off the ever-busy Balestier Road, we feel as though we have stumbled into an industrial park. We aren’t far off from the truth.
Wheeler’s Yard was a large industrial factory built beside a park connector; its most recent prior incarnation was a family-run car repair workshop.Today the grey factory façade is lit up by a solitary cerulean blue door: the gateway to Wheeler’s Yard proper. Inside, the humongous space is split into two: one half is the café serving coffee and brunch items; the other is a “bicycle atelier” where a wide range of bicycles and accessories are sold.
The latter also doubles as an open-design bicycle workshop with in-house mechanics to help cyclists in need of repairs.The place is so huge that we don’t have to worry about jostling for a table or another diner inadvertently photo-bombing us. (And believe us when we say plenty of pictures will be taken; Wheeler’s Yard is nothing if not a magnet for Instagrammers.)
It’s possible to both enjoy our cuppa in peace as well as people watch — there’s plenty to see from residents jogging by outside or strapping cyclists dropping by on their colourful rides.Who knew coffee and chain guards could go well together?
Pedalling in the sky with pancakes as soft as clouds
Further up north in Bangkok is Sora City, a cycling café that prides itself on being a bicycle company first and foremost.To get there, we head to the Japanese quarter of Phrom Pong. For a minute, we forget that we are in the tree-lined Soi Sukhumvit 26.
We are transported from humid Bangkok to springtime Tokyo: the shop is all natural light and blonde woods and... bicycles?
Bicycles being part of the décor is a given as Sora City specialises in their own brand of functional and beautiful city bikes.Their vintage-style two-wheelers are all minimalist in design, inspired by the Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetic. All clean lines, just like the café itself. Stylish bicycle frames, saddles, helmets and accessories abound.
The Swedish adage “Vackrare vardagsvara” — meaning “Something beautiful for every day” — captures the ephemeral spirit of this lovely café perfectly. (“Sora” or 空 means “sky” in Japanese, hence their cloud-shaped logo.)
So consider this a bicycle shop that serves coffee rather than a coffee shop that sells bicycles. Either way, Sora City does both well.
The friendly owner and barista, Amm, suggests that we try their signature homemade buttermilk pancakes, and we’re glad we did.From the basic to a savoury version featuring bacon and scrambled eggs, we are spoilt for choice. Again, we trust her advice and go with the Thai Tea option. Layers of soft, fluffy pancakes interspersed with crumble and a reduced Thai tea sauce — this could be what clouds taste like.
For drinks, we want coffee, of course. Their Sora City Blend balances Sumatra Mandheling G1 with a local Phrao Chiang Mai.
Our caffè latte arrives with an adorable bicycle latte art — what else? — that looks to good to sip, though we do, of course. Relax in this slice of heaven until it’s time to pedal away...
Lola Bikes & Coffee
Noordeinde 91, The Hague, Netherlands
Open daily 8am-6pm
28 Lorong Ampas,
Open Sun-Thu 10:30am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10:30am-11pm
61/52 Soi Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok, Thailand
Open Mon-Fri (except Wed closed) 9am-6pm; Sat-Sun 9am-8pm