We met at our favourite bike shop, Keep Pedalling in Manchester (other inferior bike shops are available) where we spent some time nattering about bikes and drooling over a brand new Tangerine Dream Surly Crosscheck being picked up. Whilst I was there, they recommended a new coffee place that has recently opened up on the other side of the city; we set out riding in no particular direction as the first few spots of rain landed on the lenses of my glasses.
We rode north on NCN route 66 along the Rochdale canal until we reached Middleton then looped through Heaton Park into Prestwich and down towards Pendelbury before heading back into the city along the banks of the River Irwell – if you know the area, this can be a pleasant route but it was pouring rain for the entire ride and, by the time we reached Greengate Square in Salford, every single item of clothing we had on was soaked through.
What I drank: Standing there, dripping on the floor with my glasses steaming up, I asked what they might recommend for a freezing cold, soaking wet cyclist, especially as I couldn’t read the menu. “Cappuccino” was the response and, despite me not really liking any cappuccino I’ve had in the past, I went with it anyway.
The friendly staff invited us to take a seat in the nice warm interior which, whilst incredibly tempting, would’ve resulted in us getting mud all over everything so we declined, deciding to sit outside as the rain had finally eased off.
A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: Along with my cappuccino I ordered a bakewell slice which was lovingly presented to me on a custom made wooden plank – fancy, eh?
Despite my previous forays into the world of cappuccino drinking, I’m pleased to say what I had was really quite pleasant; it’ll never be my favourite coffee but it was nice all the same. The bakewell slice was ooey-gooey and easily lived up to its billing as being “spectacular”.
Bike friendliness of the locale: Finally, FINALLY! A place with bike racks! As per bleeding usual, there wasn’t a single public bike rack anywhere in sight but the good folks at Grindsmith had solved this problem by simply bolting one to the side of the place! There’s even a vintage chopper there to reinforce the hipster vibe (happily, there’s no requirement to wear tight trousers and a checked shirt or have a carefully trimmed beard).
Mileage: As usual, we didn’t keep track but it was probably somewhere between 30 and 40. In. The. Pouring. Rain.
Must visit: As I say, there’s a definite hipster vibe here, what with the old cable reels and wooden crates to sit on, the trendy people coming and going, extravagantly swiping their iPhones (other, non-knobbish mobile phones ARE available) and, with 2 coffees and 2 small pieces of cake costing over a tenner, it’s hardly cheap but the surroundings are lovely, the staff are friendly and welcoming and the quality of the product commands the price tag. Oh, and we didn’t feel out of place at all, despite my dishevelled appearance of which I am so proud.
We enjoyed our coffees as we sat watching the strangely relaxing fountains dance.
Later on, we childishly zig-zagged our way through the fountains on our bikes, much to our own soggy amusement.
A few days ago, I read somewhere that a cyclocross race was going on in a big park not far from where I live so I made plans to head down there with a flask of something hot and watch a bit of the action.
By pure coincidence, my friends from the bike shop were also planning to go down and heckle support some of their customers who were taking part. When they mentioned they’d be bringing hot chocolate and beer, I was completely sold.
For no particular reason, I hitched my BOB Yak up to the Ogre and loaded it up with little folding stools, a box of cake and a flask of tea.
“Did you really need to bring the trailer?” Rich asked me. “Of course not!”, I responded. But hey, I’ve never let common sense get in the way of having fun before and I’m certainly not going to start now!
What with it being Sunday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to squeeze in Coffeeneuring trip 2:
Where I went: My first ‘coffee shop without walls’ of the challenge – Heaton Park, Manchester.
Date I went there: Sunday 5th October 2014.
What I drank: Well, therein lies a tale. First, I had an instant hot chocolate made by Rich on his jet boil stove with a blueberry & lemon cake made by Karen – it was a surprisingly good combo and I’m glad I resisted the repeated offers of a shot of Whisky in my hot chocolate. Some of the others were not so strong and ended up with more whiskey than hot chocolate… Soon enough, however, I caved and had a bottle of Duvel. IT. WAS. DELCIOUS. A little later, I caved a little more and had a bottle of Sol. IT. WAS. ALSO. DELICIOUS. All around me, people were supping assorted beers and taking swigs from the ever-present flask of whiskey. Still, I resisted. In between beers, I had some of the tea I’d brought with me. It was tea. It was not especially delicious. I continued to resist the whiskey, largely because I can’t abide the taste of the stuff but mostly because I wanted to make it home in one piece.
A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: My left knee started hurting during yesterday’s ride and is really quite painful today. I stopped at the supermarket on the way to buy marshmallows but they didn’t have any. The road to the park was randomly closed for resurfacing so I had to take a huge diversion. My trailer has developed an odd noise. There was a lot to be grumpy about but, do you know what? I think I’m starting to understand this whole Coffeeneuring business… When you force yourself to ride slowly and then you just spend some time hanging out with good friends, sharing the contents of your assorted panniers / trailers / frame bags in nice surroundings, soaking up what remains of the day’s warmth as you heckle those crazy enough to actually partake in the racing, there’s all of a sudden nothing at all to feel grumpy about.
Bike friendliness of the locale: Well, it’s a public park with plenty of nice wide paths and some really nice scenery so it scores very well on bike friendliness initally. But, if you want to leave your bike somewhere and go for a walk in the woods or pop into the coffee shop or even just take a leak, there is absolutely NOWHERE to lock your bike up. That’s fine if you have someone to watch it or you’re a risk taker but I think it again shows how little thought goes into the needs of your average bike rider when public places in England are being put together. Is this a problem in other countries, I wonder?
Mileage: Probably 10 – 15, especially with the unplanned diversion.
Must visit?: Meh.
So, there you have it. 2 of my 7 coffeeneuring rides completed on the first weekend of the challenge – tune in next week for more of the same!
Oh, and because I know you love ’em and we didn’t see anyone riding one in the race, here’s a few pictures of our collection of Surly bikes.