The Velo House must be a cyclist’s heaven.
Let’s be clear, I did my fair share of cycling in Kent in the 1970’s and 80’s. Career highlight; possibly winning the Underriver village Silver Jubilee bike race in 1977 (realistically, it was raining so hard most children left their bikes at home). But given the big increase in cycling recently via inspiration from Bradley, Chris, Victoria, Laura, Jason et al, combined with a large number of mid-lifers looking to a bike as a great way of keeping fit, The Velo House is a perfect place to make you feel part of an established and growing club.
Their website explains, ‘The Velo house was created by cyclists for cyclists and those who don’t realise they are going to become cyclists yet. We do all of this because we love bikes and want to share that love with as many people as possible. We think we sell some pretty cool stuff, serve great food and drinks and will look after your bike better than anyone else so please come and see us and try us out.’
This cycling emporium is located at the beginning of St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, between the war memorial and M&S garage. There is a handy cycle lane along most of this road, just as well as the traffic has been awful since the 1960’s. You can park if your bike is being sorted or don’t own one. This is where their idea is so welcoming, it’s no problem if you don’t have a bike, The Velo House are happy for you to enjoy their delicious coffee and homemade fare and take in the cycling vibe anyway.
There’s an extensive breakfast menu, serving until 12 as well as an array of tempting cakes. There is a good lunch menu including a varied children’s choice, wooden highchairs and colouring facilities. Beer on draught as well as a choice of bottled including one gluten free, one low alcohol and a wine list that changes with the cycling season. I love the detail.
To me the building looks quite ‘New York’, the exterior is painted a brooding grey against brickwork with contrast ‘leading cyclist’ yellow print. Inside the cafe has an industrial feel with high ceilings, steel staircase, hanging lamps and blue banquettes. Long tables printed with maps of the South East cover the tables, they are simple but very effective, each showing eight different routes around the South East and London from Tunbridge Wells. They range from ‘Box ‘n’ Biggin’ to ‘The Hell of the North Downs’…
I visited on a hot day and the air con was perfect, you felt cool but no icy blasts. It must be a godsend to Lycra’d cyclists. A very large screen currently showing the Tour de France covers one wall.
Coffee was fabulous, smooth and rich. I would happily use The Velo House as a coffee shop of choice. It helps that there are people in Lycra wandering around and a distinct lack of gossiping Mums.
Aside from a cafe, The Velo House offers a Workshop with varying degrees of service for your bike, their team have designed their own space (which you can see straight into from the cafe) bringing together all the good things about workshops they have worked in previously. They also offer a ‘Bike Fit’ service, basic or ‘Apex Fit’…this is going over my head but it’s clearly seriously good…no wind tunnel though.
There’s a shop too with bikes, cool clothing, helmets, components, wheels, accessories including ‘hydration stuff’ and ‘lubing stuff’. It’s all there and at their online store www.thevelohouse.com, a beautifully designed website.
I feel I’m going slightly over the top with this review especially as it’s quite evident I don’t ‘do’ cycling but the design and ideas behind this venture really impress.
If you are moving to Kent in the near future and love cycling (or the idea) or have always meant to start cycling again, do pay The Velo House a visit and I’m sure you will leave feeling newly inspired.