“I’ll have a coffee,” I tell the barista, feeling somewhat self-conscious to be caught not wearing a cycling kit and rocking a helmet. For today, I’m on foot, and while that flies most places, this is the one spot where spandex is king.
“What about an Americano instead?” he asks, and I realize that he’s made a much better choice for me. The Americano is delicious, and my friend’s cappuccino comes out a work of art. We sip and chat with the shop manager as he tries to set up the back section of the shop for tonight’s screening of the Tour de France. While we wait, Blake snares a hard-to-find cycling magazine, declaring he “has to get this!” while I slink over to the women’s clothing racks and surreptitiously feel up the wool jersey I’ve been lusting after.
If you’ve just finished a road ride and want to brag about it, drink a coffee or a beer, and maybe pick up (or drool over) some ride swag, head to the Rapha Cycle Club in Manhattan’s historic Meatpacking District. There, you’ll find a bar/café that serves not only fancy-pants coffee, but they have a few beers on tap, as well as some yummy pastries and sandwiches from the cycling-centric Cannibal restaurant that resides further uptown.
For those unfamiliar with the brand, Rapha is a high-end purveyor of cycling clothing—think $80 merino wool baselayers and $200 bike shorts, as well as a $400 commuter-friendly tweed jacket. They’re a lifestyle/fashion brand as much as they are a cycling brand, and they’ve been largely responsible for the recent acceptance of cycling as something that isn’t always a tasteless neon affair.
Even GQ did a feature on the club when its doors first opened, explaining, “Each Cycle Club isn't just a shop, it's meant to be a celebration of cycling culture, and that's definitely reflected here.” Rapha Cycle Clubs—a combination of shops, bars, cafes, galleries and show spaces—have cropped up in a few cities, with NYC being one of the more recent openings. The staff is knowledgeable about all things cycling-related, though road riding definitely trumps mountain biking in this shop. They can’t fix your bike, but they can talk to you about the last 100 years of road cycling, and the staff is largely friendly and easy to chat with.
In addition to tasty treats and a caffeine fix, the Cycling Club also has shop rides, including one that’s referred to as the Freelance Ride but occasionally called the “Slacker Ride” by those in the know, since it leaves at 10:30 AM on a weekday. They also do plenty of weekend rides, for the working man. Check out the shop blog or stop by to find out times and meeting spots.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a hipster destination. But when in Rome… Or in NYC, in this case. Either way, for unbeatably good coffee and some great bike conversation, plus an atmosphere that will be nonjudgmental when you roll in sweaty from a ride (in fact, that actually works in your favor!), this is the place to roll.