Bicycle Cafe

15 years ago the writing was on the wall. The roads were going to fill up and those idiots at cafes were not a passing phase. 

“A double shot soy machiatto please” Yes, suddenly a Bex and coke was not good enough. Off to the bakery or café, they say, no raw cauliflowers from an early morning field for me!!.

It made me sick but I was between jobs. (Times had changed…. no one saw the funny side of having their car torched any more… even if it was insured!!). I thought I could get some of this by selling a little coffee, repairing a few tubes and dispensing advice.

Why not? Serve a little coffee, close at ten and train all day. Heaven!

I got myself a little place about a mile from the city. Got some furniture. (All you need is a trailer and to know which suburbs are having the big garbage pick up).

Next I needed some coffee. Fortunately a large tin of “International Roast” was still a bargain. Bought an urn. The trick is to make the coffees “Out the back” and have the radio up loud.

Then the recipes.

Long Black…. two teaspoons of “IR”, one cup of water, No milk!!

Flat white …. two teaspoons of “IR”, one cup of water, Whipped milk

Cuppachino…. two teaspoons of “IR”, half cup of water, Half cup hot milk that has been hit by the tire compressor.

Soy Flat white …. two teaspoons of “IR”, one cup of water, Whipped milk

Short Black…. two teaspoons of “IR”, quarter cup of water, No milk!!

Double the “IR” for double shots.

Nothing else on the menu. I tried toast but that came unstuck when I mixed up the Campagnolo grease pot and the creamed honey.

Anyway I thought it was going well, people seemed to appreciate my advice and I certainly saw a lot of new faces. I knew my advice was solid because no one seemed to need it twice. Then this appeared in the Paper.


May 6th, 2000

“Bicycle Café”

23 XXXXXXX st., West End

Last Friday I attended “Bicycle Café” in West End as I had heard that it would be a remarkable experience. It did not disappoint. 

I thought I would go early and on my new bicycle so I could fit in. After parking my bike I went inside to find an unshaven unsanitary looking man wearing a very old grease stained woollen cycling jersey screaming profanities and threats down the phone.

Finishing on the phone he turned his attention to me. He put both hands on the counter, that was littered with a mixture of bicycle tools and dirty spoons, and leaned in confidingly while looking me square in the chest. “Honesty is the best policy when you chat with her indoors. Right love?”

Then in a boomingly loud voice, so loud I thought he may have actually been calling out to someone outside, “Whatcha wan?”

He took my order and money without taking his eyes off my chest. “Comin’ up”.

I went outside to sit and wait for my double shot flat white. I didn’t see his coffee machine, nor did I hear it over the loud slightly off station AM radio.

After quite a while I was about to go and enquire about my order as I was the lone customer and it hadn’t arrived. As I turned the voice yelled “You want this or not? Been getting’ cold on the counter for ages.”

I retrieved my coffee but didn’t feel bold enough to object to the black thumb print on the cup.

I settled in for the morning and watched the belligerent proprietor dispensing very bad coffee and very strange and unsolicited advice for hours. Sometimes if there was a slowdown he would stand glowering and mumbling at a customers bike, coffee in one hand the other scratching himself in a most unsanitary way.

His one moment of happiness came when a female customer, having timidly ordered a coffee, asked if he could fix a flat tyre. This event transformed his previously slow deliberate movements to one of great urgency. He became cheery and polite. As I left he was stirring her coffee with the same spoon he had just used as a tyre lever.

I do not recommend “Bicycle Café”……. for anything.

Well, that was that.


The Crank is the embodiment of archetypal cranky veteran bike riders, whose worn out bike riding stories are embellished each time they are recounted. Hard as nails The Crank is a devious scoundrel who rides roughshod over anyone who has the misfortune to meet him. This Crank story by John Caskey.