Independent of the Month: Bicicletta

This part cycling shop, part café is proving a good combination

Bicicletta opened in April 2015, the brainchild of Christopher Middleton, a local man with a love of cycling. The sport is very popular in the area, with lots of local cycling clubs and enthusiasts – and of course, Saffron Walden is close to Cambridge, a city famous for its long-standing love affair with bicycles! Christopher noticed the hugely positive reaction in the town when the Tour de France came through in 2014, and felt there could be a gap in the market for a shop and café based around cycling. 

The aim was to run Bicicletta as part café, part bike shop, with a 50-50 split between the two. Towards the end of the first year, it became apparent that there was an opportunity to maximise the potential of the food and drink side of things, so Christopher decided to take it in a slightly different direction. He hired manager Peter Moore, who has eight years’ experience running a restaurant in Chamonix.

Before Peter started work, he spent hours walking the streets of Saffron Walden, seeing what the other cafés and restaurants in the town had to offer. “There are loads of fantastic places to eat,” he says, “but I thought that we could offer something different, which led to the idea of us offering healthy food.”  

The café has a selection of cakes and other items that they sell all the time, and four or five regular menu items, but also one or two specials that change daily. “The idea is that if you wanted to eat here five days a week, you could have something completely different every day,” explains Peter. “And of course the healthy angle fits really well with Bicicletta’s sporty theme.”  

The team at Bicicletta are very proud of their indie status, and are keen to work as much as possible with other local, independent producers. “Our coffee is from Hot Numbers in Cambridge, our cakes are made by two local bakers – Coco Fleur and Honest to Goodness – and all our fruit, veg and meat comes from local suppliers,” explains Peter. They’ve also started a collaboration with local company This Is Cambridge, who make cycling jerseys, socks and caps. “The guys who run it used to come in here as part of their own rides, and we got chatting and found out what they did,” says Peter. “Going forward we’ll aim to work with small independent companies like that. It gives the shop more of a boutique feel, but it’s also really nice to have a relationship with our suppliers that goes beyond just business.” 

Although the café has an obvious bike theme, you don’t have to be a cyclist to appreciate the great atmosphere, and delicious food and drinks. “To begin with, I think that some people who weren’t into cycling might have been a bit unsure about coming in, as it perhaps wasn’t obvious that we are a café,” says Peter. “But word has quickly spread since we started doing breakfasts and lunches, and we now get a lot of visitors who have no interest in bikes at all – just in good food.” 

Having said that, Bicicletta’s reputation as a great hang-out for cycling enthusiasts stretches far and wide – helped by the fact that the shop stocks a fantastic range of high-end bikes from brands including Colnago, Cinelli, Bianchi and Mercxx, plus lots of other gear such as clothing, accessories and footwear. They are also able to source and custom build bicycles.  “We get people from all over coming in here as part of their cycling route,” Peter explains. 

"You don't have to be a cyclist to appreciate the atmosphere"

“Walden Velo is the big local club, and those guys come in at least three times a week. But at the weekends we get cyclists from further afield – a guy cycled from Hackney the other day, and we have regular riders coming in from Peterborough or North London. Lots of them cycle here, come in for some food and a bit of a browse of our bikes and equipment, then get the train back.”

The cycling community is quite a small world, and Peter finds that one week they’ll get a solo rider in from a particular club, then the next week a whole group turn up who’ve been tipped off that Bicicletta is a good place to stop. “Our clientele is a great mix; cycling enthusiasts, who might have heard about us from clubs and want to come in to refuel and chat, and people who are just into good, healthy food.” 

You often hear that the key to business success is to do one thing, and do it well. But Bicicletta has proved that doing two things brilliantly can work even better. 

Bicicletta, 1-2 Market Row

Saffron Walden, CB10 1JZ