Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ride Studio Cafe

On the Minuteman Bikeway... the historic village of Lexington, Massachusetts...

There's a coffee shop.

Now on the surface, there's nothing special about a coffee shop in Lexington. Across the street from this Ride Studio Cafe is a Starbucks and a Peet's Coffee. And like every other town in Massachusetts, a Dunkin Donuts isn't far away.

But the Ride Studio Cafe taps into something extraordinary.

According to a historical plaque outside the old Lexington train station, through which the Minuteman Bikeway now passes...

...19th-Century Lexington was once known as a "town of taverns", a place where weary travelers could escape the cold, and enjoy good food and company before resuming their journeys.

I'm not sure Peet's and Starbucks reflect that today, but for cyclist-travelers on the Minuteman Bikeway, the Ride Studio Cafe brings the romantic notion of a mid-adventure tavern back to life -- but now as a 21st-Century cafe, with coffee and croissants rather than ale and roast mutton! The Ride Studio Cafe is a coffee shop devoted to cyclists.

What an ingenious idea! It's part high-end bike shop, part repair shop, and part coffee shop.

I stopped by the Cafe on my own journey down the Minuteman Saturday morning, and it was as if I had stepped into a vortex of cycling culture, in all its cool creative essence. After all, "coffee-shop culture" and "bike culture" are like old friends, each with a deep appreciation of community consciousness, off-beat artistry, and good story-telling.

If you plan to visit the Ride Studio Cafe but don't have a bike lock, no worries. Just bring your bike inside and park it on the rack. That's my blue bike in the foreground:

Feeling self-conscious about your biking shorts, snug-fitting jersey, cycling gloves, and helmet? Don't. On the morning of my visit most of the customers were in full cycling gear.

In fact, during my entire time there I never bothered to take off my helmet or cycling gloves!

After placing my bike on the rack, I ordered an iced coffee from the barista and sat down at a big wooden table which had an assortment of strange and wonderful cycling magazines.

I watched a bit of the 2000 Championship of Zurich that was playing on the large flat screen television...

...and then I turned my attention to those magazines and journals as I enjoyed my iced coffee (it was excellent coffee, served in a nice big glass).

Although the Ride Studio Cafe sells these hard-to-find cycling magazines, I didn't have a way to carry them home on my bike. So I can't wait to go back one night after work this week and buy them! Rouleur looked especially intriguing -- an artistic, almost avant-garde journal with thoughtful stories and striking photography.

The owner and staff kindly let me take pictures in the shop (I asked permission), but I'm always sensitive about taking close-ups of people. So although there aren't many other cyclists shown in my photos, a steady stream of customers did roll in and out during my brief time at the Cafe. One man who seemed to know everyone happily told tales of his cycling trip to Italy.

So there I was in this unique cafe, enjoying iced coffee in a tall glass, surrounded by sleek handmade bicycles, reading exotic cycling journals, all in the middle of a historic village not far from America's most popular rail-trail. It doesn't get much better than that.

I could have stayed there all morning! But now that I had discovered this super-cool place, I knew there would be more visits in the future. So it was time to get back on the bike. I paid for my coffee, left a tip in the jar, walked my bike out the door and down the sidewalk, and then resumed my journey on the beautiful Minuteman Bikeway.

But a funny thing happened as I sped down the path. Having spent time at the Ride Studio Cafe, I felt like I was no longer just a single cyclist enjoying an early-autumn ride. I was now part of the greater cycling culture. Thinking of those cutting-edge cycling journals, riders telling tales of faraway places, and the old-world artistry of handmade bicycles, I had the sense that a simple ride can inspire endless creativity.

Maybe that's why so many great stories include cafes, inns, and taverns. There's a kind of subtle wisdom in those intimate spaces. We enter, enjoy, reflect, and then resume our journey -- but somehow we're changed, just a little. The path ahead seems richer than ever, bright with possibility.


  1. The Ride Studio Cafe sounds and looks just great...I wish we had somewhere like that in my area....!!


  2. As always, loved the pictures and envied you again :)

  3. Thanks, Trevor and Neha. It's always so cool getting comments from all around the world! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Hi Jason. Thanks for including me in your blog list. BTW, I like your writing style. It's refreshing.

    It's been many years since I've been on the Minuteman Trail but I remember how special it is. We gobbled a pizza in that park.

    We now have a cafe similar to the Ride Studio Cafe, though it's not a bike shop. Check this out:

    I guess the cycling culture is really growing everywhere - so cool.

  5. Hi Annie -- That's amazing, another cycling cafe! I guess it's true ... coffee and cycling do go well together. Thanks!