We had heard about Park Bikeworks a few weeks earlier from Twitter and were keen to try it out. Its free bike parking, showers, cafe, good food using local and seasonal ingredients, bike servicing, sports injury clinic, and cycling as a way of life all under one roof, sounded like our sort of place and the sort of place we had already imagined The Roasting House may turn into one day – a destination for bike and coffee lovers.
Only problem (for us) was the 50 mile round trip and the diminishing suitable daylight hours as we enter the autumn months but we were keen to make time.
We found time on a whim the first Sunday in November 2014; a cool day, light breeze and only a small chance of rain. Knowing that Route 6 services the outskirts of Nottingham and it would take us straight there we packed up some cowboy coffee in a flask (grinds and hot water – no filtering which tends to make a bitter brew but we used light Sumatra beans to counter) and headed towards the nearest blue and red Sustrans signs to follow them west. Google suggested 2 hours for the journey but with a few wrong turns, a leisurely pace, and a coffee break, this took us a little over two and half hours from NG5.
Following Route 6 you enter Derby passing a BMX and pump track that the local youth were putting to good use, going through more parks and across a couple of roads you find yourself in the city centre. It didn’t take long to find Park Bikeworks, a purpose built three storey building.
The lower ground floor is where you enter with your bike. We hadn’t registered but the helpful person behind the counter said when we come back just explain we are non-members and they will be able to locate our bikes. It’s free to register and you can do it from their website and makes things a whole lot easier for them so do this before you go.
After leaving our bikes we headed upstairs to an open-floor café-cum-bike-shop. Hardwood flooring throughout and a well thought-out layout which let us glance at the fancy bikes but didn’t obscure or take over the café area. There was plenty of seating inside and out on the terrace.
Our immediate hunger was our first concern and with a choice of vegetarian options at a reasonable price we opted for the Fritatta & salad at £4.75 and Mushroom Burger at £6.50, for drinks we ordered Long Blacks (they call them Americanos). We decided to head for the terrace where the sun was shining and we could rest our legs.
Naturally our drinks arrived first. The coffee had a good crema but the taste was disappointing. Quite bitter suggesting to us that the blend they use is quite heavy in robusta and they are using pre-ground coffee. We did not see which coffee and roaster they used and they don’t seem to advertise this either leading to conclusion it’s probably a generic buy-by-bulk-purchase type. We added sugar (something we never do) and while discussing that our cowboy coffee should be more bitter, our food arrived.
The food was excellent and really hit the spot. Enough to fill up the hole a 25 mile cycle ride can make. Finishing off our food quicker that what would have been polite in anyone else’s company, we sat a while and admired the cycle hub.
On the terrace you can see all human life with bikes enter. From the fisherman who looked like he may have had more drinks than fish bites on his outing to the lycra-clad who are just stopping in for a quick look in the shop or to use the facilities. I can imagine on a weekday Park Bikeworks is be very busy with commuters coming into the centre. Not having to carry a couple of heavy locks with you makes travelling by bike and using Park Bikeworks a no-brainer for transport in Derby. Case-in-point was the previous Friday evening in Nottingham centre we wanted somewhere to go for coffee and cake but because we didn’t have locks with us our only options were those with outside seating and still open. We did find one eventually but if a Bikeworks existed in Nottingham chances are we would have already dropped off our bikes and chosen from many of the wonderful cafes Nottingham has to offer and we could have chosen somewhere warm to sit.
The shop caters for every bike need. Mostly premium but quality brands and similar prices you would find in all bike shops. You may not find bargain of the century but you will find your preferred cycle area catered for with quality items.
After looking round the shop and putting all our will against the science of n+1, we decided to have a look around Derby City Centre. One affect of Bikeworks on Derby seems to be that there weren’t lots of bikes attached to street furniture. This helps remedy the false perception that some non-cyclists think a disproportionate amount of space is given to bikes. Likewise, people on bikes feel the frustration when cars are parked in facilities not designed for them when there is a perfectly good car park nearby and so pedestrians feel the same when bikes are in the way in places not designed for them.
Summary – build it and they shall come.
We came because they built it so that is proof enough. It’s brilliant in its execution of what bike advocates are crying out for: a destination for someone on a bike, something we rarely see outside of London. It takes up fewer square metres than you may imagine and makes it one of the better cycling infrastructures in The North – which is either to say how good this hub is or how bad years of poor decisions on sustainable transport have been. But we want to focus on the now and we believe that if there were places like these every 10 miles the harshest opponents of bikes would soon be converts as it would free so much space on the roads for more essential motor vehicle journeys (one car takes up as much room as eight bikes in slow moving traffic).
We spent five hours in the saddle just to have a look. We will be going again because the route is nice and the food is great. Showers on the top floor are a nice touch making it accessible even for the tidiest of business men and women to freshen up. You can even leave your belongings in a locker on the lower ground floor so there is no question of what to do with your stuff if carrying is undesirable.
We are disappointed in the coffee and we hope that considering the crossover between cyclists and coffee lovers seems to be high, this may be something they remedy in the near future. You may think we are overlooking this too much for a coffee blog, but we are also cyclists and coffee is easier to change than cycling infrastructure. We would be keen to hear from anyone who has milk based coffee drinks so we have a comparison. As drinkers of only black coffee, maybe our preferred tastes for sweeter beans does not compliment well with the larger latte and flat white market.
We did a back of the envelope business plan of what it would take to get one up and running in Nottingham and starting a co-operative consisting of entrepreneurs in coffee (us obviously), a bike shop, bike maintenance, deli/cafe, clothing, sports injury clinic and you have shared costs in one amazing space in which a large percentage of your customer base have as a destination. We would certainly be interested in anybody interested in joining us in such a venture one day.