A week or two ago I wrote an introduction to coffeeneuring, and I’m glad to say now that the 15th November deadline has passed that I made it! I had some doubts as to whether I could fit all 7 in (I was pretty sick for a week or so and not out riding for leisure whatsoever) but I managed to reach the magical 7 stops required with 2 days to spare. So here it is, my official Coffeeneuring 2015 submission.
Some Notes: My work pattern is very irregular; I work different days practically every week and have an ‘unsociable hours’ contract, so my coffee rides were seldom at the weekend. I did manage it now and then, though.
Due to some digestion issues I’ve had to avoid milk for some time. This means I’m restricted to black americanos when it comes to coffee most of the time, sadly, so my choice of drinks are pretty uniform.
Theme Within a Theme: Local Business!
Date: Tue, 6th October 2015
Location and ride distance: ‘Coffee500’ – Widnes, Cheshire. 5 mile ride
Drink: Americano with a brownie
Review: Started the coffeeneuring ball rolling with a local stop. It’s quite close to where I live so I took a scenic ride out through country lanes and back to make it more substantial. Coffee500 is located on an industrial estate of all places, but it’s very bike-friendly with benches and plenty of room outside (they hold regular scooter meets in the week.) Coffee and cake were both very good and the staff are nice and chatty. They even gave me a biker down sticker and ICE set, which I added to my keyring.
Date: Sat, 10th October, 2015
Location and ride distance: Southport, Sefton. 10 mile ride
Drink: Accidental Cappuccino and homemade flapjack
Review: Somewhat of a homemade effort, I’d told my other half about the coffeeneuring challenge and she liked the idea so much she made me flapjacks for my next ride (and very good flapjacks, too.) Wanting to sit outside with a flapjack I went to Southport market to grab a drink. They had a coffee stall and the barista told me he ‘liked my style’ when I paid with the £5 note I keep in my phone case for emergencies, but he didn’t seem to like my style enough to listen to me say ‘americano’ and gave me a cappuccino instead. Being English I didn’t say anything about it, of course, and luckily the milk in the drink didn’t disagree with me.
The ride was along a 10 mile chunk of NCN 62 – the UK’s national cycle network. It took me along the Southport seafront, past the sand dunes, an RAF base, and finally to Formby, where I caught a train home.
Date: Wed, 14th October, 2015
Location and ride distance: ‘Il Cappucio’ Widnes, Cheshire. 5 Mile ride
Drink: Americano and carrot cake
Review: Somewhat of an improvised ride. I’d meant to visit the coffee shop in the park, only to find that it was both closed and didn’t accept debit cards anyway (hadn’t brought cash with me.) Time to think fast and pick a new place! I went to the Italian-esque coffee shop in the town centre I used to visit when I was a student – they’re happy to let me put my back in the back of the store, negating the need to sit outside or bring a bike lock.
The standards lived up to my memories of the place. Widnes is a little town wedged between two big cities, so we don’t get much in the way of local businesses, sadly, but this place is a little slice of metropolitan coffee shop that’s very appreciated.
Date: Friday, 30th October, 2015
Location and ride distance: ‘Esposito’s Ice Cream and Coffee Parlour’ Widnes, Cheshire. 6.5 mile ride
Drink: Americano, no ice cream for me, sadly
Review: After being sick for two weeks and not really being able to ride my bike properly let’s give that whole ‘have a drink in the park despite it being October’ thing another try. The weather’s on my side and the ducks are out in force.
Today’s stop is a place that I’d originally thought it was a chain store but turned out to be a local business. Situated in a restored park hut, it’s primarily an ice cream parlour but they also sell hot drinks, so it made for a nice detour. Coffee was ok, and the people working there were super friendly. This is a spot that, if it hadn’t been for coffeeneuring and hunting for local spots to ride to, I probably never would have come across!
Date: Mon, 2nd November, 2015
Location and ride distance: ‘Slice of Sicily’ Penwortham, Lancashire. 6 mile ride
Drink: Americano and croissant
Review: Doing some housesitting up near Preston this weekend, so I don’t have my bike or cycling gear with me. My friend has offered to let me use their bike while they’re away (and they’re roughly the same height as me) so I can at least get out and do a coffeeneuring stop to keep the run going. The bike’s a hybrid, and though I use a hybrid myself for my commute this one feels a lot more upright than mine. It takes some getting used to, and seeing as
a) I don’t know the area too well
b) I don’t have a bike helmet with me
I’m going to take it easy on the ride and not go too far. I pop into a ‘Sicilian’ cafe a couple of miles away for coffee and cake. There’s a lampost directly outside the cafe, so I lock my bike up there, where I can see it as I drink.
The coffee was alright, but the croissant left a lot to be desired, as you can see. Pretty sure it’s just a packaged croissant that you can buy in Aldi or somewhere like that. Ah well, at least I got my mileage in and made a visit.
Date: Thu, 4th November, 2015
Location and ride distance: ‘Rough Hand Made Bakery’ Liverpool, Merseyside. 12 mile ride
Drink: Americano with Dulce du leche ‘kiss’ pastry
Review: A little more hunting around on google maps for good cycling routes introduced me to another section of the NCN. Same route – the NCN 62 is pretty huge – but I’m going through the city of Liverpool this time instead of Southport. Much of the route through Liverpool follows the path of an old industsrial railway line raised from the ground and away from road traffic, which is great, but it’s also pretty much completely covered by trees, and the autumn weather means the whole route is covered with leaves. This kept my pace down as I had to ride cautiously to try and avoid any nasty surprises under the leafy flooring.
The route then takes you into the city and after a few twists and turns you end up at Penny Lane of all places! There isn’t a barber showing photographs of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known, sadly, but they do have a pretty incredible bakery.
It’s not a bike-friendly location, sadly, so rather than force the matter and sit by the roadside, I bagged my pastries and rode a little further to the park down the road, where I was able to pick up a coffee and sit by the boating lake as the ducks waddle around. My pastry was super duper good, the coffee was ok.
Date: Fri, 13th November, 2015
Location and ride distance: ‘Stricly Cupcakes’ Penwortham, Lancashire. 4 Mile
Drink: Americano with Oreo cupcake
Review: More house sitting in Lancashire after a holiday in Scotland. It’s a bit of a damp squib of an ending really, being out on someone else’s bike and doing a short, local ride, but I doubt I could fit another ride in before the deadline so it’s going to have to do! It’s a very similar route to the ‘Slice of Sicily’ ride I did a few weeks previously, as the cupcake store is on the same road. It’s a local business and is popular enough to have opened up a second store in Preston, so it must be good. Seeing as this was my final stop of the challenge my other half met me there to coffee and cake with me.
Though I’m not normally a fan of cupcakes I was really happy with what I had. Though there’s room outside for benches the weather was very poor, so I took to eating insde, locking the bike up nearby. Good coffee and a nice little shop made it a satisfying way to finish the challenge, despite the short ride length.
So that’s it, my Coffeeneuring adventure! A side-quest of the challenge was ‘theme within a theme’ and as I came across the challenge right as it began I didn’t get much chance to plan. The theme that’s emerged though is independent businesses – I haven’t visited a single chain store on the challenge and has made me venture to new stores and support local business. I’m really happy with that, and very happy to make that my 2015 Theme Within a Theme.