Distance: 3.08 miles
Bicycle: 1987 BSA three-speed ‘light’ roadster a.k.a. “Crichton”
Venue: Caffè Nero, Stafford
Purchase: Large mocha, ham and mozzarella panino*, copy of The Times** – £7.25
Marks out of 5 for the cafe: 3.5
Bike friendliness: Extremely hard to fault. There’s a cycle path into the town centre, and the section under Queensway is now open so there aren’t any pedestrian crossings to worry about. The bike lock-up is literally right outside Nero’s.
Other stops: Bought some new gloves
It was inevitable that one of my coffeeneuring rides would be my usual Saturday morning run into town to meet my fiancée in Caffè Nero’s. We do this virtually every week, And have done for about five years. We order the same drinks, usually sit at the same table, and have the same routine. On Boxing Day I carried an engagement ring in my saddle bag, and popped the question in this very cafe, at our usual table, so we’re quite attached to the place.
Up until a year ago we used to drive in from our separate ends of town, but of course I now get there by bicycle, which is saving me a steady £1.50 a week in parking. As you can see, the bike racks are literally right outside, and sometimes in the summer you can sit in the window and watch as a constant stream of cyclists arrive and depart.
This branch of Caffè Nero is at the Gaol Square end of the town centre, with the gaol about half a mile away. I believe Rolf Harris is a resident… This end of town is starting to struggle a bit, they’ve just built a new shopping centre at the far end of the town centre, and after loosing Woolworths in the financial crash it’s now lost its other big draw – Marks and Spencer’s – to the new development.
Our usual routine consists of getting a large mocha, large tea, copy of the paper and a panino, and then Catherine reads her book while I read the paper and eat my food. By the time I get to Matthew Parris’s column I’ve finished my mocha and sandwich and pop out for a cigarette. Then we order more tea and mocha and have a bit of a chat. This week Parris wrote about the lack of a plan for Brexit, and like many of his columns it was both depressing and right. It’s just as well Danny Finklestein’s column sits on the same page, as without his light relief I’d sometimes struggle to maintain the will to live long enough to reach the letters page…
After two weeks away it was so nice to be riding my old bike again. It does need a bit of a fiddle with the rear hub as I’ve slightly overtightened the cone nut, but my torque wrench and most of my other tools are in Leamington so I just left it alone. I’ve now owned Crichton for just over a year and we’ve done a little over 1,000 miles, and I’m so much fitter than I used to be.
Outside Nero’s I spotted this rather interesting bike:
Later on yesterday I got Major Tom out and rode along Marston Lane. I needed 16 extra miles to meet my weekly quota (due to being stuck in Leamington with limited daylight hours and an uncomfortable bike) but rather than take the usual left turn to Aston I turned right towards Sandon. The Sandon Road itself, which you turn onto at the end of a lovely country lane, is a bit dicey with two narrow bridges and lots of traffic, but not too far along is the Dog & Doublet, a rather swanky pub, opposite Sandon Cricket Club. I stopped off for a half-pint of some nice beer called something like Boon Toggle, or a similarly silly name. Does this count as coffeeneuring? More of a beerevet?
I really love riding that lane on Major Tom. I know I keep saying it. He’s not built for silly little trips into town, he’s a thoroughbred old-school racing bike, and now that I’m fully on top of the gears I can really get a shift on. All that’s lacking is my own fitness! Sadly there’s a slight crack in the rear rim (nothing too serious yet, but that’s how fatigue starts) so I’ll have to have the wheels rebuilt sooner or later. Expensive job that, and it may not be easy to find a new like-for-like replacement for those rims.
On the way back I stopped off at the Specialized concept store to look at helmets (again). They never seem to have my size in, but I’m told there will be some red Echelons in a medium size arriving this week, so I’ll try again next Saturday. My existing helmet’s at least 10 years old and rather heavy, so I think I’m about due a new one.
*panini is the plural in Italian, and I only bought one. I usually get around this linguistic inexactitude by ordering “one of those such-and-such panini” **THE Times, not ‘The London Times’. The Times (of London).