closing time

We’ve all been there, the dreaded last orders bell ringing and the bar staff impatiently looking at the full pint of beer in your hand, wanting to clean up and go home. And, all you want is for the night to never end.

And so it has been with the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Somehow, it’s already weekend 7 of 7, MG is ringing the bell for last orders and all I want is for the challenge to never end.

This is the first time I’ve taken part in the coffeeneuring challenge and I must admit, after the first ride, I wasn’t really getting it… It felt weird to just go for a short, slow ride and randomly stop somewhere for a cup of coffee. But, as the challenge went on and I found myself visiting some great local places (and one not so great place), I started to appreciate the simple pleasures of enjoying others’ company and the different perspective you get on your local area when you actually take the time to stop and smell the flowers.

Whilst the challenge may be over, my coffeeneuring adventures are only just beginning. Hell, I’ve even decided to keep my Surly Ogre in its current cafe racer style as my dedicated coffeeneuring steed.

  1. coffeeneuring7 mocha creation cafeWhere I went: Once again, I joined forces with fellow blogger and part-time coffeneurer, the Northern Walker. We met up at the bike shop before heading over to Creation Cafe, 1 St. Phillips Place, Salford, M3 6FA.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 15th November 2014.
  3. What I drank: I had a large mocha which was great and some kind of crunchy cereal bar which was rubbish. Matt had a large black coffee which was reportedly excellent. We both loved the mugs!
  4. coffeeneuring7 creation cafeA detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: The A-board on the street advertised Creation Cafe as “open ’til late” so, as we arrived around 15:30, we were somewhat confused to find the place completely empty (and blurry in this picture) and, as much as we were welcomed, I got the distinct impression that the guy wanted to close up and go home… which we were preventing him from doing. Matt didn’t seem bothered by this but I must say I was slightly put off by it.
  5. coffeeneuring7 creation cafe bike racks Surly TrollBike friendliness of the locale: I’m most pleased to report that there are actual public bicycle racks right outside the cafe so which we shackled our pair of Surly Trolls. You can’t see the bikes when you’re inside the place though so if you’re particularly paranoid, you might feel uncomfortable about leaving it unattended out there.
  6. Mileage: A short one today – by this point, I’d only ridden about 8 miles (Matt had been out all morning) but I went on to ride about another 20 afterwards.
  7. Must visit: This is a tricky one… the place is nice, the coffee is good (and fairly priced) but I can’t shake the negative feeling I got from the luke-warm welcome and empty cake display. I’ll probably go back again but I expect something better next time.

no pressure over cappuccino

Week #6 of the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is upon us and I’m right on schedule, having bagged a very wet ride #6 this Saturday.

I was once again joined by our friend of Northern Walker fame and, given the unmitigated disaster that was his choice of coffee shop on our last ride together, he insisted I choose the location this time.

“No pressure, then…?” I joked.

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.

coffeeneuring6 surly troll ecr grindsmith manchesterWe 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.

  1. Where I went: Grindsmith Espresso & Brewbar, Greengate Square, Victoria Bridge Street, Manchester, UK, M3 5AS.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 8th November 2014.
  3. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccinoWhat 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.
  4. 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”.
  5. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bike racksBike 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).
  6. Mileage: As usual, we didn’t keep track but it was probably somewhere between 30 and 40. In. The. Pouring. Rain.
  7. 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.

coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccino fountains

people just love to play with words

 

You may recall, back in March, I had an absolute blast taking part in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge. I even managed to complete the challenge with the help of a snow day (even though it didn’t snow) and some rather creative bending of the rules.

Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for a challenge and if it involves even more questionable word-play on “Randonneur”, all the better.

Happily, our friends over at Chasing Mailboxes are putting on the fourth annual incarnation of the now world famous Coffeeneuring Challenge! Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

The rules are delightfully simple: all I have to do is drink 7 cups of coffee in 7 different places over 7 weekends, riding a minimum of 2 miles for each trip. There are a few more details but essentially that’s it!

So, without further ado, here are the details of my first Coffeeneuring outing of 2014:

  1. Where I went: Deli-Lama Cafe-Bar, 22 Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5LE
  2. Date I went there: Saturday, 4th October 2014
  3. coffeeneuring1 - coffeeWhat I drank: A simple (but very delicious) white coffee with brown sugar (it’s SO nice to find a place with brown sugar)
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: I sat outside and was quickly joined by a rather eccentric Scot who instantly starting swearing at me in that charming way only Billy Connolly can get away with.Wait. Now I come to think of it, this guy looked and sounded almost exactly like the Big Yin… nah, can’t have been.Anyhoo, in the 20 minutes or so we spent together, we discussed all sorts of important things like “Where the f*&k is Islington?”, “What f*&king noise are they compaining about?”, how good his bacon & egg sandwich was, whether it’s illegal to cycle through red lights and why it’s harder to play golf when it’s below freezing outside.

    Normally I hate it when random strangers come and talk to me but I liked this guy instantly. I think this might be the magic of Coffeeneuring… on any other ride, I would never have stopped for a coffee and, therefore, wouldn’t have met my foul-mouthed new friend and experienced his unique (and highly cynical) outlook on life.

  5. coffeeneuring1 - bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Unfortunately, Deli-Lama suffers from an acute lack of bicycle racks, or anything else you can chain your bike to… I blame Salford Council, not the cafe. You can just make out the Ogre chained to some railings across the street… not somewhere I’d like to leave it unattended for very long, I’m sorry to say.
  6. Mileage: I dunno… I went for a bit of a ride around North Manchester on the way… Maybe 20 miles? Whatever, it was more than the requisite 2.
  7. Must visit?: Despite living only 5 or 6 miles away, I almost never go to Deli-Lama despite it very much being my kind of place – the food is excellent and the menu varied, the welcome is warm and the surroundings comforting. So, is it a ‘must visit’? I think so.

Surly Ogre River IrwellI rode home via the banks of the River Irwell which was looking rather pretty bathed in surprisingly warm sunlight on this beautiful autumn day.

Oh, if anyone’s still keeping count, I think the Ogre is now sporting its fourth or fifth set of handlebars… In the Coffeeneuring spirit, it’s now gone all cafe racer style for… you know, racing to and from cafes.

Surly Ogre cafe racer bars

down by the sea

 

Sometimes when I’m out cycling, I get a song stuck in my head. More often than not, it’s one of those hideously annoying songs I somehow know all the words to but will never freely admit to recognizing and would certainly never buy a CD of, not in a million years.

My most recent earworm was the unfortunately apt Ferry cross the Mersey.

Surly Troll Mersey Silver Jubilee bridgeWhy was this song going through my mind over and over and OVER AND OVER? Well, it just so happens I was cycling along the banks of the River Mersey and, like a bleeding tourist, stopping to take photographs like these ones of the Silver Jubilee Bridge in the Mersey Estuary.

2 Surly Troll Mersey Estuary Silver Jubilee BridgeWhat was I doing in Merseyside being a bleeding tourist? Well, I was making my way back to Manchester via the starting point of the Trans Pennine Trail at Southport.

BEHOLD: Trollfest #2:

2 Surly Troll Southport TPT Trans Pennine Trail startYes, the Northern Walker and I had somehow managed to convince our respective other halves to let us escape for the day so we hopped on a train at Manchester Piccadilly to the somewhat underwhelming start point at Southport. We decided not to dip our wheels in the sea (what with it being about 5 miles out), much to the relief of the RNLI guy who looked like he’d had to rescue far too many cyclists from the mudflats.

Instead, we set off into a relentless headwind on the exposed coastline which, coupled with the dull route, made the initial part of the ride a bit of a chore.

Trans Pennine Trail Liverpool Loop Line blockedEventually, we turned slighty inland and enjoyed miles of deserted trails and country lanes as the early morning sun started peeking through the grey clouds overhead… until we reached the start of the Liverpool Loop Line which was closed apparently due to asbestos being removed from a bridge.

994460_10152927169679863_3908862782886263258_nWe were not amused. Not least because the diversion was poorly signed but when we could navigate our way through it, we increasingly found ourselves riding through some of the worst neighbourhoods and decrepit industrial estates in Liverpool.

Just when we were at our grumpiest, we happened across a HUGE supply of the plumpest, sweetest wild blackberries which we scrumped until our bellies were full and our moods improved.

2 Surly Troll Liverpool Loop LineBack on track and after a couple of unplanned diversions (thanks to whoever turned the sign around), we eventually made our way onto the Liverpool Loop Line proper which is an old railway bed carved directly out of the sandstone. Purty.

We paused for an apple and some questionable yet strangely morish jelly sweets and discussed the pros and cons of Surly Open Bars vs Jeff Jones Loop Bars.

Last time we rode, Matt’s Troll was sporting some el cheapo riser bars and I had a set of Jones. This time, Matt had a brand new set of the Loop Bars and I’d switched to the Open Bars.

Surly Troll Open Bars Carradice bagWhich is better? Well, I still love the Jones bars but, boy are they expensive. Sure, I got a killer deal on my Surly bars but even at full price they’re considerably cheaper and I still have plenty of hand positions. Plus, a small Carradice bag sits neatly underneath, giving me ample room to stash a spare tube, some tools and whatever strange munchies I can lay my hands on.

We pushed on through Merseyside, wondering if we’d ever make it Warrington and starting to question the advertised mileage on the map as time marched on and our curfew approached.

The bullet holes in the TPT signs in Halewood helped motivate us to pick up the speed until the thatched cottages in the beautiful Hale Village almost stopped us in our tracks. The wild plums I found at the roadside were enough to stop us completely for a few delicious minutes.

Apple scrumpingWe finally made it to Warrington, now convinced the mileage on the maps was pure fantasy so we stopped for that oh-so-traditional cycling nutrition: beer & peanuts.

A little further on and I spotted yet more trail side foraging and set about grabbing myself an apple.

Matt wasn’t convinced they’d be ripe just yet.

Apple scrumping 2Matt was right.

We neared home via the Bollin Valley Way, stopping only to avoid mowing down small children, double check the route and eat a huge slice of fruit cake.

At Sale, we decided to skip off the TPT in favour of the Bridgewater Way which I knew would take us home to yet more cake. What I didn’t know was that just about everyone else had the same idea which meant the trail was uber busy, hampering our progress.

Even worse, the trail was blocked in places and rough all the way which slowed us down even more. At Salford we realised just how late it had gotten and agreed it was better to part ways than face the inevitable “where are you?” phone calls from the bosses.

I checked the mileage when I got home, almost 70 miles total for the day. The maps suggested it’d be a little over 50 miles… Ah well, at least we know why it took so long!

2 Surly Troll TPT Trans Pennine Trail Bollin Valley