Velolife

Cake and cycling are a classic combination. Like lamb and mint sauce, Morecambe and Wise, Roquefort and Sauternes, or or golden syrup and over fresh bread (trust me on the last one). It’s about more that just fuelling. A good cake stop is an opportunity for the ride to regroup, to chat, to fettle with troublesome machines, to decide whether to go on that longer loop or wait for showers to pass.

Popular cafés and pubs have been attracting cyclists for years and most clubs have regular haunts that are destinations in their own right as well as forming nice routes. As part of the Rapha cycling club I have home cafés in London – Soho and Spitalfields – where I can get free, very good coffee. But they tend to be starting or finishing points for rides not a pitstop.

Otherwise there a number of regular haunts, some of which I’ve listed below with suggested routes. My current, absolute favourite though is Velolife in Warren Row on the edge of the Chilterns. It’s on a lovely quiet road that I’ve used for years as a way into and out of London to the west. Before it became a café it was a pub called the Snooty Fox which always looked snug and inviting but never had customers. So it was good news that when the pub closed (as is happening a lot in the UK) it was taken over and became a coffee stop.

In terms of getting to Velolife I have two recommendations:

  1. You can make a pleasant 120km round trip from Richmond Park, following the Thames out and looping around Windsor Park on the way out. You then hit Drift Road which is a long, slightly uphill drag and usually into a slight headwind. Tradition dictates the hammer is dropped when you hit and it’s a race to be the first to the junction with the A330. Regroup the other side of the roundabout. Coming back it meanders back through Windsor before following the Thames back into London.
  2. More ambitious is my standard ride from Birmingham to London where Velolife is a great final stop at 180km into the 250km or so ride. If you leave Birmingham at 9am you should be able to make it before they close at 4pm.

And what to eat? The Chocolate Awesome Cake is, er, awesome. I’ve tried recreating it from this recipe (that’s my version up top) and it was pretty damned good but it lacked the awesomeness of the Velolife version. I’ll keep trying or maybe just find another excuse to ride out to Warren Row.


Other recommended cake stops

  • The Cog in Tring is always a welcome stop and a good route out of London towards Birmingham or to make a loop through the Chilterns
  • A ride from London to Brighton is a rite of passage for London cyclists. I’m not a huge fan of fish and ships so I like to stop at Cafe Coho in the Lanes which does excellent coffee, cake and light meals
  • The Silver Ball on the A10 near Royston is a bit rubbish but is a classic audax stop and a throw back to the 1950s. The apple pie and ice cream is recommended on hot day.
  • Leith Hill Tower sits atop the highest point in southeast England and is only accessible offroad but on track that are quite passable on a normal road bike to the mild surprise of mountain bikers who are used to having the coffee, cake and sausage rolls to themselves.

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