Now, the popular venue performs a new function – as a hub for campaigning for a better future for cycling.
I met with Alex Davis, from Look Mum No Hands!, on a typical day at the café. It's packed to the rafters with cyclists and non-cyclists alike. The cycle stands outside are so full they form an unfathomable labyrinth of metal and wires. The people inside are vibrant with youth and energy, helping sustain the café’s friendly vibe.
So what's so good about cycling?I mention this vibe to Alex. She laughs and nods. “The cycling community have really just connected with what we do. It’s all just personal and genuine, I think they kind of like that.”
She tells me the story of how three cyclists, Lou, Sam and Matt, got together five years ago and founded Look Mum No Hands! out of a dream to create a place for cyclists to hang out.
As a fellow cyclist, I was interested in why Alex decided to dedicate her career to her hobby. “It just makes sense, going from A to B. You just start to realise that being on a bike is so much easier, and when that happens, that’s when you cycle.”
"There’s a bug to cycling, and people just get obsessed with it"Not only is it quicker, she goes on, but it’s also quicker, more fun, and you get to see areas of London that you’ve never seen before. And you’re outside. I couldn’t argue with that - except when it's raining.
“There’s something about cycling,” she added, leaning forward and motioning to the cyclists surrounding us in the cafe. “There’s a bug to it, and people just get obsessed with it.”
Again, I couldn't argue with this. The place is abuzz with a dynamic mixture of people, from a casual group of older women laughing over their lattes to a group of lycra'd-up guys stopping for a drink halfway on their journey.
Why don't women get the same as “big-deal male cyclists”?
I move onto the campaigns which the group gets involved in – how do you do it? “We just sort of let people into our space and let it happen,” Alex says. All seems very chilled out.
Closer to Alex’s heart is their campaigning for greater equality for women cyclists. She’s disgusted by how little women racers are being paid in comparison to “big-deal male cyclists”, and it’s something the group are trying to tackle.
They have a women-only race team, which they hope will kick off and become popular. They have also hosted two events featuring Half the Road, a campaign video about female professional cycling, each bringing in more than 100 people. The video highlights some amazing statistics on the inequalities surrounding the industry.
"I think this is the biggest, most amazing thing about Look Mum No Hands!"Alongside that, Alex tells me about one of her favourite events at the venue, featuring Eileen Sheridan, now aged 90, who was the first female cyclist to go from Land’s End to John O’Grotes. She came in to talk about a film about her experience.
Alex is hoping to get involved with London Cycling Campaign to further this cause.
“I think this is the biggest, most amazing thing about Look Mum No Hands! – we are really pro-women cycling.
“Even though it’s owned by three guys, we really support women cycling, and that's really cool.”
Photography by Louise Adby and Misa Watanabe.