Tens of thousands of cyclists arrived in the capital last weekend for the inaugural RideLondon event.
It’s possible that some made their way to the Rapha Cycle Club on Soho’s Brewer Street, in the heart of the West End and a stone’s throw from Regent Street.
The club, housed on the ground floor of what was once the Regent’s Palace Hotel until redeveloped by the Crown Estate, is part-shop, part-café, and all cycling. Coffee, merino wool, flat-screen televisions tuned to Eurosport and indoor bike storage are all inducements to the city-bound cyclist.
A vintage Citreon ‘H’ van, one of a fleet that has become another of Rapha’s signatures, doubles as a dressing room. This is one that you won’t see at events backed by the brand, such as the Super Cross series. It was maneuvered through an opening now sealed with plate glass, and, short of removing the café’s main window (one carefully stickered with the dates of this year’s spring Classics), it won’t be going anywhere soon.
Coffee, merino wool, flat-screen televisions tuned to Eurosport and indoor bike storage are all inducements to the city-bound cyclist
But the activities of the cycle club do not end in the modestly-sized premises. Week night and weekend club runs start and finish here, led by ride guides who work at the café. Its central location (the club is a short walk from Piccadilly Circus) was the key attraction to Rapha, offering easy stone’s throw access to Regent’s Park, and relatively straight-forward routes of departure to the green areas surrounding London.
Rhys Howells, who combines his work at the cycle club with a semi-pro racing career with Twenty3c-Focus, is one of those who leads the riders who sign-up for the rides out from central London into the surrounding countryside, typically to Kent or Surrey. The club is also used as an informal meeting point for cyclists organising their own rides.
The television screens are showing highlights of the Tour of Poland when RCUK visits early on a weekday morning, and it’s fair to say the few customers in the café aren’t spellbound by the action. This isn’t always the case, however. With Chris Froome homing in on victory at the hundredth Tour de France just two weeks earlier, queues stretched through the door and onto the pavement, while those inside were content to sit on the floor.
The Rapha Cycle Club is one without membership: the ‘cc’ is intended to denote a gathering place, rather than a members-only institution with subscriptions and AGMs
A location in the West End of London, on the fringes of the nation’s media capital, means that not all of the café’s customers are cyclists, though the conversations of those who at a first glance appear to be holding serious business meetings often concern Froome rather than advertising campaigns. It’s a club without membership: the ‘cc’ is intended to denote a gathering place, rather than a members-only institution with subscriptions and AGMs.
Rapha opened its London cycle club last year, and has since opened another in New York. Osaka and Sydney are also home to their shop-cum-café-cum-meeting places. A customer at the London club recently returned from Osaka with tee-shirts for the staff.
Cycling dominated London last weekend with an event of unprecedented scale. RideLondon has the ability to inspire thousands of Londoners to become cyclists. And if they do, then some of them might find themselves joining rides from the Rapha Cycle Club.
Discuss in the forum