Photo credit: Summit Social House, Collingwood by Jody Wilson
While the cultures of coffee and cycling have long been intertwined both here at home and around the world, over the last few years Ontario has seen an amazing growth in bicycle themed cafes, or cafes specifically targeting cycling as their market and community of focus.
The first feature below on Cafe Domestiique is an excerpt from the 2022 Cycling in Ontario/Le vélo en Ontario Guide. Click HERE to read the full article in the magazine (see page 8). Not wanting to stop with one feature, this blog showcases six other bicycle cafes providing excellent service to their local communities and support to the cycling community at large.
Many of the cafes below are certified as bicycle friendly and are part of the Ontario By Bike Network. To find more bicycle friendly cafes, click HERE.
Fuelled by his love of coffee and bikes, Krys Hines opened the original Domestiique in 2009 in Dundas, running it until it closed in 2014, much to the chagrin of the cycling community. Finding it hard to ignore his true passion, Krys, along with his new business partner Kendra, relaunched Domestiique in May 2021 from a souped-up mobile 1966 Citroen H van, before settling in at their new location. Dropping by on any given day of the week it is quickly evident that not only has the local community embraced the cafe, but cyclists too, as all are welcomed with friendly banter and primo coffee. Also serving a selection of baked goods, small sharing plates and sandwiches, along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, the cafe is open seven days a week from early till late. Decorated with a fascinating collection of cycling memorabilia inside, there is also a large covered patio that can accommodate any number of cyclists and their bikes. Read More
Beacon Bike + Brew offers up a warm, fun vibe with daily-made pastries and sandwiches and locally roasted coffee and brewed alcoholic beverages. The cafe, owned by Jordan and Stephanie Malka, opened in June 2019, and has become a welcoming community hub for coffee drinkers, families and cyclists in Picton and the Prince Edward County area (PEC). After working in hospitality in both Toronto and PEC, the pair had seen the potential to be part of the growing cycling movement in the County and build upon the intertwined worlds of cycling, coffee, and beer. They saw that they could provide new services to the area, especially for families, and offer a unique cycling-focused retail space. What started as a licensed cafe serving healthy food and selling safety-focused bike accessories has grown into a cafe with a full-service bike repair shop with an in-house mechanic and a bike consignment program with Blacksmith Cycle from Toronto. With a kids’ play area and large open space, Jordan and Stephanie are happy they can provide a unique oasis for parents and families. They see a real mix of folks coming through, including everyday locals known on a first-name basis, larger cycling groups, off-season cyclists returning to say hi, and cyclists coming from larger centres like Kingston.
Fix Coffee + Bikes – Toronto
Fred Sztabinski, owner of Fix Coffee + Bikes came up with the idea for his bike cafe after living in Amsterdam and being exposed to the mature cycling and cafe culture in that city. He wanted to bring together his passions and two elements he sees as integral to a modern urban lifestyle. Visitors will find a bright and thoughtfully designed space with ample outdoor space to hangout while their bike is being tuned up. From indoor cafe seats, sit and admire the bikes hanging on their walls, enjoying a beverage and treat, or browse the curated collection of bikes and bike accessories. On weekends they show bike races projected on the cafe wall, and host an inclusive cycling club, starting rides again in the spring. With a background in transportation planning and bike advocacy, Fred has been involved in the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, The Community Bicycle Network, Cycle Toronto, as well as the City of Toronto’s former bicycle programs group. While focusing primarily on the commuter cycling market, they promote cycling as a fun, sustainable, and healthy means to get around the city.
The London Bicycle Cafe provides a gateway for people who don’t cycle to explore what’s possible on two wheels. It’s a destination for people across the region, and the hub of London’s bike transportation ‘highway’, the Thames Valley Parkway. While the cafe portion of the business is currently undergoing a move and renovation, when they reopen at the new location you can expect traditional cafe fare – light meals, snacks, espresso drinks, and beer and wine. 2022 will be their sixth season in operation, providing excellent service and commuter bike options to the city of London. Ben Cowie, Founder and President of the shop, was born and raised in London, before going on to study Earth and Planetary Sciences in Calgary and at Harvard University. He also worked with NASA on planetary exploration before developing an interest in cities while traveling for his studies. He saw firsthand how bikes and protected bike infrastructure transformed cities around the world. Wanting to bring this knowledge back to help his hometown, Ben came home to open the shop to give people the tools to get around their city by bike, and help contribute to solutions for the global climate emergency.
Ottawa Bike Cafe – Ottawa
It’s been a dream of co-owner Jason Komendat’s to open up a bike cafe, it just took a while to find the right space. The cafe grew out of Jason’s business Retro Rides which started out of his home in 2012 and is now located at the cafe location. Retro Rides services and restores vintage bikes from the ‘90s and earlier. The cafe focuses on quality organic ingredients, going the extra mile to provide value-added service. In partnership with Escape Tours and Rentals next door, the cafe has turned into quite the neighbourhood hub, with a large patio hosting live music, group ride stops, tourists, and business people coming into town. But similar to many cafes and businesses in general, they’ve been hit hard during the pandemic, opening in May 2020 in the middle of lockdown in an area that used to see 85,000 commuters daily. Despite that challenge, Jason still feels that it’s important for him to give back to his community. If someone comes into the bike shop needing a repair and aren’t able to pay, that’s not an issue. This community spirit goes beyond the shop, supporting the Bicycle Film Festival, the Bruce Timmermans Cycling Award (for organizations that support cycling), as well as the bike messenger community and touring cyclists with rapid service and affordable components.
Housed in a historic building in downtown Millbrook, what started as a farmers’ market food stall has grown into a town institution, offering espresso-based coffee with a seasonal menu, excellent homemade pastry, pizza nights, and multi-course dinner events. The cafe name came to co-owner Colin Hall when he was 25, around the time he met his business partner, Deanna Bell. With cycling in their blood from youth, Millbrook was the perfect fit for their brick-and-mortar cafe, close to the Ganaraska Forest, excellent road and gravel riding, and challenging and rewarding cycling. Visitors to the cafe will find the walls adorned with unique vintage bicycles – some very dear to the owners, like the Masi Gran Criterium, having belonged to Colin’s cousin who was a hero and mentor to him, and who they sadly lost to cancer a number of years ago. Others are restored bikes from Frog Cycles, a repair and restoration business that up until a few years ago called the cafe’s second floor home. They continue to support the cycling community – their new patio out front is well-loved by riding groups and welcomes cyclists from all over the province. They’ve also been involved in and supported many cycling events over the years, including community gran fondos, the Canadian Cyclocross Championships held twice in Peterborough, and have even developed two signature road rides with Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism.
Owner Bruce Zigman grew up racing bikes as a teenager and got into coffee shortly after. After moving from Montreal to Collingwood, being drawn to the outdoors culture of the town, he saw an opportunity to contribute to the community. While providing a great ‘apres-bike’ (and ‘apres-ski’ in winter) atmosphere with espresso, fresh pastries, light lunches and snacks, and a liquor license, they are also supporting the growing cycling community in the area. The shop has a fulltime master bike mechanic with a 24h repair turnover, provides alpine ski tune-ups, plus a retail aspect selling framesets and bike components. Wanting to build upon the great athletic culture and history of the town, Summit Social House is setting up the Collingwood Collective for spring 2022, a youth bike racing team focused on mountain bike and cyclocross, and are helping to facilitate sponsorships for youth athletes, providing a youth athlete development program for the area. In addition, the cafe is involved in and supports the Collingwood Offroad Cycling Club (CORC), The Growling Beaver gravel event, a fundraiser for Parkinson’s Disease, and provides a mobile coffee setup and mechanic to service bikes at the event.
This season, why not start or end your ride at a bicycle friendly cafe, or one of the bicycle cafes featured in this article. It’s amazing to see the dedication and support each of these cafes shows to their communities. Why not show them some love and stop by on your next adventure, and spread the word about all of the amazing work going on behind the scenes, making Ontario’s cycling community bigger and better each year.
For Additional Information:
Photo credits: Photos supplied from cafes featured in article. Lead photo of Summit Social House by Jody Wilson.