As interior designers we are constantly on the lookout for great businesses and brands that make ingenious use of their space. We also love to imagine what an ideal interior could look like. A kind of dream design process where we apply our knowledge and experience but let our creativity fly. For this new segment on the blog we’re going to be thinking about the ideal interior designs for unusual spaces. So, if you’re thinking of setting up a bike cafe, a book shop with a coffee shop, or a showroom with a dining area, this series will give you all you need to know about planning your space.
Today we’re thinking about bike cafes. Partly because our Director, Crispin, is a keen cyclist, but also because cycling has become a hugely popular sport across the UK. If you’re out on the roads on any weekend morning you will likely pass a cluster of lycra-clad cyclists. Not only do these folk love riding bikes, they also need places to rest and get refreshment. Cue the clever businesses who have spotted a market for bike cafes, or bike-friendly coffee shops. If you’re planning on opening a bike cafe, here’s the lowdown on what you need to consider in terms of the interior and exterior space.
What does a cyclist want from a coffee shop?
- Somewhere safe to put their bikes while they’ve stopped
- Great coffee – these customers tend to know their blends from their roasts, and want top quality coffee to pep them up for the ride
- Early opening – often cyclists will set off early to avoid traffic, heat or just to fit their rides around family life, so a bike cafe needs to be open early enough to get their business
- Friendly, sociable space – cyclists want to be able to relax and talk with friends, in pairs or larger groups, so a space needs to be flexible and communal
- Bike maintenance area – this is a great thing to offer cyclists who are passing through and need to make a quick repair or adjustment to their bike. You could offer pumps with gauges and stands
- High energy snacks – there’s no need to lay on proper meals for cyclists. What they need is a quick pit-stop to reenergise before the next leg of their journey, so healthy, high energy snacks are a must. Sandwiches might be good too
Where should you site your bike cafe?
There are three different positions in which you could site your bike cafe.
- Urban space: If you are looking for a space in an urban area, like the Velo Cafe in Brighton, you will have greater footfall and plenty of non-cyclist customers. However, space can be a problem, particularly if you want to accommodate lots of bikes. Espresso Library in Cambridge describes itself as a ‘multi-use hangout space’ and is a place where cyclists, yoga practitioners, coffee lovers and art fans have built a community around their shared passions, and excellent coffee.
- Rural space: In rural areas space tends to be less of a problem, but you need to attract a broader customer base as there may be less passing trade. If you are designing a bike cafe somewhere rural you could think about offering traditional meals and make the bike-friendly aspect part of your USP. Make sure you have great coffee and try to adapt your venue to accommodate the needs of cyclists who might call in. Once you get a reputation for being a good stop-off point, word amongst the cycling community will spread. Jason’s in Fletching, for example, has adapted to appeal to cyclists by providing basic repair equipment and a welcoming attitude to cyclists. Another example of a rural bike cafe is the Greystoke Cycle cafe, set in the beautiful Lake District, which offers a bike barn complete with pumps, towels, oil and maps for passing cyclists.
- Cycle track: For specialist bike cafes who want to focus principally on that market, finding a space along a popular cycle route is a smart move. You can use apps like Strava to search for the most-used tracks, and then work around this to find your location. Halfwaycoffee.com is a resource aimed at collating all the local coffee shops that are used by cyclists, so this might be a good place to start searching for an untapped market. A great example of a successful bike cafe on a popular route is Stan’s Bike Shack in Partridge Green.
Crispin has always loved wheels, but if you are just embarking on setting up a cycle cafe, here are some places to find inspiration. Talk to cyclists and find out what they are looking for. Decide whereabouts you want to base your bike cafe, and then look at how best to maximise footfall. Another smart business proposal would be to combine bike repairs and sales of parts and bikes with a coffee shop. Sussex business Proper Cycling & Coffee in Hassocks has done just that, offering bike fitting and a workshop alongside excellent coffee and food. Polocini offers cycling tours with recommended food and coffee stop-off points around Manchester, if you’re based in the North of England and need some inspiration.
We love to talk bikes and interior design, so if you are developing a bike cafe, or want to talk through any aspects of interior design for unusual spaces, do get in touch. For more on how we work go here and here.