Cycling’s Booming Coffee CultureRedefining the holy trinity as a rider, bike, and coffee – cycling is slowly finding a new drug to spur on its followers – gone are the days of ruthless, systematic doping and in are the days of caffeine-powered, cycling extravaganzas. To say that cycling’s relationship with coffee is a new one, however, would be a real injustice – the affinity between the pair running a whole lot deeper than just the past few decades…
Coffee makes the wheels go round
Caffeine, in its various forms, has been powering the professionals from the times of fixed-gear single-speeds, right up to these halcyon days of wireless Di2. Sponsors have been wise to the brewed beverage trend and have sponsored various teams throughout cycling’s long history – founding the famous, Eddy Merckx-lead Faema team in 1956.
The iconic Faema jersey is a crowning piece for the avid, cycling historian – the jersey that Merckx wore while completely obliterating the 1969 Tour de France – taking his first, of five, Tour de France titles, as well as a win in the points, mountain, combativity and combination classifications. Not only did Faema manage to attract the biggest name in cycling – then and arguably now – they also had the king of the classics, Rik Van Looy, and Giro d’Italia and World Championships winner, Vittorio Adorni, among their star-studded roster.
What the team may be best known for, particularly among the Belgian fans, is its slightly altered acronym – from Fabbrica Apparecchiature Elettromeccaniche e Affini, to Faites Attention, Eddy Merckx Arrive – loosely translating to, “look out! Eddy Merckx is coming.” Their relationship with the ‘Cannibal’ didn’t last long, however, Merckx swapping the luxury coffee sponsor for Italy’s leading designer furniture company, Molteni.
Faema wasn’t the only coffee manufacturers to tap into the plentiful resource of professional road cycling, Café de Colombia powering Luis Herrera to a 1987 Vuelta a España title before Italian coffee giants, Saeco, burst onto the scene in the 1990s. Represented by the headline grabbing sprinter, Mario Cipollini, the coffee brand got everything they wanted and more – if there was any rider who could best embody the attentive and raucous effects of caffeine, it was Cipo.
The great debate: Espresso vs everything else
An argument that wages silently with fleeting, scowling glances as your ride partner heads to the coffee bar, attempting to order something that isn’t a simple, traditional espresso – the great coffee debate is a serious, and very current one.
With the growth of brands like Starbucks, Nero and Costa – a new, millennial wave of spiced frappes and iced mochas has swept the world – the art of constructing a humble espresso and americano seemingly fading out of fashion entirely.
According to the British Coffee Association, the UK consumes 95 million cups a day – from espresso to Frappuccino – overtaking tea as the nation’s favourite beverage. With all of its, “associated health benefits, such as improving alertness, physical performance levels, decreasing risk of cognitive decline and even reducing the risks of some cancers” – says Sarah Jarvis, Clinical Director of Patient.info – it comes as no surprise to see that two thirds of UK adults are partial to a daily dose of coffee.
The British Coffee association also highlighted the more extreme end of the spectrum, reporting that 6% of the 2000 people interviewed drank six or more cups a day – that’ll be us, cyclists, then.
Instant or freshly ground?
Despite 77% of Brits buying instant coffee to drink at home, there is only one true answer to that question, and that is freshly ground – no questions asked.
From Olympic legend, Sir Chris Hoy, to US roadie, Joe Dombrowski – all manner of professional cyclists take their coffee kit with them when they travel. The six-time gold medal-winner lugging round a rather large, not-especially-travel-friendly espresso machine on his cycling adventures.
The rise of the cycle café
The café stop is a trademark of any cycling group ride, any utterance of the word enough to stop your legs pedalling – the mind now solely focussed on a warm, inviting cup of the good stuff – and possibly a fat slice of carrot cake to top it all off.
Each group will have their own designated spot – one café they champion above all others, whether by its quality of brew, or simply its proximity to home – the café stop marks a chance to regather, regroup and start the long list of excuses as to why you can’t complete the rest of the organised route.
As the years go by and the UK continues to coast the wave of cycling success from Wiggins’ Tour de France and 2012 Olympic success, more and more cycle cafés are establishing – Look Mum No Hands! one of the highest-profile pioneers.
The trend has since flourished, with joints opening up and down the UK. To put the cycle café boom into visual perspective, just check out Road.CC’s map of the UK’s most cycle-friendly cafes – that’s right, they’re taking over.
What do the pros think?
With a cup of coffee forming a staple part of every pro cyclist’s morning ritual, it would only be right to get some insight from those self-proclaimed ‘coffee aficionados’ on what they reckon makes the perfect coffee.
Veteran of the pro peloton and rider of 20 consecutive Grand Tours, Adam Hansen, loves a morning sugar-rush, “I’ll normally have a double espresso with four sugars, I love sugar in my coffee”, while stalwart traditionalist, Manuel Quinziato, prefers, “an espresso, very Italian – maybe a cappuccino for breakfast, but after that it’s strictly espressos.”
For those among us that simply want to get up in the morning, Rory Sutherland has us covered in his, rather blasé coffee selection, “whatever they serve me, I’m getting too old to care.”
What’s your favourite type of coffee? Are you partial to the warm, caffeinated wake-up drink or are you the exception that bucks the trend? Lets us know on our Facebook page!