Blog: Greasy bikers

Steve Rose
By Steve Rose

BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’. 

Bike shed Logo


Two words. Bike Shed. I never knew this till a few weeks back, but London’s newest bike caff really does divide opinion. For some it represents an alternative to the traditional greasy-spoon and somewhere they can go when not riding to enjoy biking culture in the company of like-minded people, who are (mainly) on foot, not wheels for that day.

I’d seen the website, listened to some mates who go regularly and formed a half-baked opinion along the lines of ‘maybe not for me, but hey, each to their own.’

For others though Bike Shed represents some kind of Hipster-hell. Everything that’s wrong with biking…etc…etc. Nasty comments about beards, beard oil, beard trimming and quinoa – not a sentence you hear all that often in or out of biking.

I don’t live in London, but I do call in at the Ace Caff whenever I’m close because they do a mean veggie breakfast and it does have that slightly scuzzy, greasy-verging-on-small-time-criminal air about it that reminds me of times in my past when I was less IKEA.

I’d never been to Bike Shed, but then a week or so back at the London Bike Show I got talking to a political lobbyist who I’ve known and respected for years. And we were talking about, er, lobbying. He asked me if I knew the Bike Shed guys and suggested that I got in touch because they were being active in riders’ rights in London and, where London riders and politicians lead on transport policy, the rest of the UK tends to follow. He was really positive about what Bike Shed is doing via their ‘We Ride London’ initiative and persuaded me to go and say hello.

Obviously, being a halfwit and never a fan of the media luvvy’s ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ type approach, I didn’t make an appointment, but just wandered in off the street. And, typically, on the one day I went, none of the guys that matter were there. So I sat down, had a couple of drinks, something to eat and just enjoyed being somewhere run by people who not only love bikes and bike culture, but are bold enough to build something other than a stereotypical biker caff.

Which probably explains why it was packed on Saturday lunchtime, with, I’m guessing, riders and their families who want to support it even when they aren’t on their bikes. Yes, it’s easy to scoff at the slightly artisan menu, but, truth is, the food was really tasty and I, for one, welcome the choice.

The irony is of course, that all those knockers taking the mick out of the ‘pulled avocado and quinoa beard oil’ would be up in arms if there was a sign outside saying ‘No Bikers’ and demanding to be let in. The reality here is that Ace Caff or Bike Shed isn’t about ‘either-or’ it’s about celebrating the choice and the boldness of someone putting their money where their beards are to do something different.

Next time I go I’ll call ahead so we can talk about whether BikeSocial can get involved in their lobbying. And next time I’ll go maybe we should invite some of the keyboard critics (most of who I’ll bet have never been). Having been to Bike Shed, I don’t love the Ace (or Squire’s or The Ponderosa, or Ryka’s) any less, it’s just good to have somewhere different.


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