Bars, cafés, taverns and restaurants have historically functioned as meeting spots for all kinds of urban communities, from intellectuals to politicians and artists – revolutions have even been planned around the table. Nowadays in Barcelona, another community, one that has flourished in numerous cities around the world, has started gathering in these types of venues: cyclists.
The number of cyclists in Barcelona has increased some 30 percent in recent years, according to the City Council – in 2017 alone, 38 percent of residents moved around the city on two wheels. With more than 230 km of cycling lanes and a fleet of 7,000 brand new municipal bikes, the city is still adjusting to coexisting with so many bikes and riders. Moreover, cycling regulations and the amount of public space dedicated to riders are swiftly becoming a political matter, one that will likely factor into the next municipal elections this May.
Historically, cycling has been very popular in European countries – look no further than the popular bicycle races that sprung up in the 20th century, like the iconic Tour de France (from 1903), Giro de Italia (from 1909), Vuelta a España (from 1934) and the smaller Volta a Catalunya (from 1911). In countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy, these big sporting moments were celebrated in cafés and bars that were either specifically opened by cycling clubs or frequented by groups of cyclists.
More recently these types of spots have become hipster hangouts: old bikes, cycling accessories and the possibility to repair your fixie are paired with specialty coffee, craft beer and healthy food. A whole culture and lifestyle has blossomed around the idea of sustainability and “slow” living. Famous bike brands like Bianchi and Rapha took this concept and ran with it, building shops in London with a similar aesthetic.
Thanks to the popularity of these new cafés, restaurants and bars, the cycling community has grown more inclusive and larger than ever. This interest in two-wheeled culture also coincides with a growing awareness of the need to reduce pollution and the growing desire for a healthier and more sustainable food landscape.
In Spain, the numerous peñas ciclistas (currently there are 3,426 clubs) have traditionally met in more intimate spaces, such as private garages and social centers. Out of all the regions in Spain, Catalonia has the largest number of clubs – more than 600 and counting. It’s common to catch sight of large groups of cyclists having a coffee or refueling with a jamón serrano or tortilla de patatas bocadillo in road bars, or enjoying traditional meals in a rural masia in the Catalan mountains after a good morning ride.
But now, Barcelona has begun opening its doors to this growing community. New cyclist cafés are popping up to both cater to this group and introduce the two-wheeled culture to the wider public. These spots offer up good food and drinks, often with a focus on high-quality local products. Here are some of our favorites:
Olga Ábalos Cuevas, director of the beautiful trimonthly biking magazine Volata, recently decided to bring the written word to life by opening a café of the same name in Poble Sec. “Cycling was always a community sport, and here in Poble Sec there is a cycling club that’s more than a hundred years old,” Olga explains. “The idea of the cyclist community was always there, but now, it’s like an art director has put their touch on everything, adding a proper style and modernizing it by incorporating elements like specialty coffee, craft beer and sustainable products. These markers of a modern culture are attracting younger generations.”
The specialty coffee she refers to is from Café de Finca in Castelldefels. As for alcoholic drinks, they serve organic Catalan wine from El Bages and a special pale ale that pays tribute to the cyclist Malabrocca, made by Zeta/El Pedal brewery in Madrid. Their space features paintings and photos from previous magazine covers as well as copies of the magazine and other cycling accessories.
As Olga Ábalos says, “Sometimes cycling is just an excuse for the people to meet and have a good time together.”
This huge restaurant in L’Example, which is comprised of numerous interior rooms and a patio, was recently open by the Italian non-competitive cycling events brand Eroica. Run by the Catalan Miguel Santalices and Graciella Nowenstain, a cook specializing in handmade pasta, this excellent spot couples cycling culture with high-quality food rooted in Italian cuisine and made with Catalan ingredients (except the pasta flour, which, as Graciella explains to us, is specially imported from northern Italy).
According to Santalices, cycling in Italy (like in Spain and France) has traditionally been connected with the land and the food that was offered to cyclists in rural areas during races and excursions. It was often the case that meals during these pleasure rides consisted of local dishes (whether pasta in Italy or cold cuts like chorizo in Spain), cheese, bread and wine.
In order to pay tribute to this tradition and promote a slow lifestyle, Eroica used to organize rides in Tuscany that crossed the beautiful vineyards of Chianti and included stops to enjoy local cuisine. Based on the success of these rides, they began organizing similar excursions in other countries, like their ride through La Rioja, a Spanish region famous for its wine and cuisine. This restaurant is just the next step in celebrating a close connection with the land, which is best forged on two wheels.
Like many of these new bicycle-centric spots, they offer specialty coffee and craft beer, but we prefer to order a DelaCrem ice cream, which is one of the best creameries in the city. The menu includes different pizzas, salads and meat dishes like porchetta with celery and orange salad, and local organic local veal carpaccio alla puttanesca. All the pasta is handmade by Graciella and changes during the week; we’re partial to the ravioli with zucchini and ricotta, and plin filled with squash, butter and salvia. But the pappardelle al ragù, made with local organic products that result in a wonderful homey taste, is the real star.
On y Va
With two spaces located in the Sarriá neighborhood, On y Va is a project centered on community building. In addition to their bike shop and repair service, they also organize cycling events and experiences around Barcelona. Plus, everyone is welcome to their café and restaurant.
Both eateries offer specialty coffee made in their La Marzocco espresso machines, fresh juices, healthy breakfasts and brunches, and afternoon snacks like bagels or handmade pastries and cookies. But we often opt for their incredibly satisfying and rich toasts, which fall somewhere between a sandwich and a salad. They feature combinations like artisan bread, blue cheese, roasted eggplant, roasted squash cubes with rosemary essence, avocado and mollet eggs.
Fabricio Pastorello and Andrea Marini, two Italian transplants, opened this bike-friendly restaurant in 2014, the first in the city. Both have experience in the hospitality sector and were inspired to open Bicioci after visiting various London bike cafés. Located in the Gràcia neighborhood, the restaurant cooks up an excellent cross section of Mediterranean and Latin American flavors, from pizzas and tasty crispy croquets to Venezuelan patacones (fried green plantains), which can be washed down with Catalan wines and local beer.
Brun On Bike Café
This bike repair shop does more than offer quick, professional service: it also serves up specialty coffee, fresh juices, homemade pastries and organizes rides. In addition to the sweets, they also have a number of savory options, from spicy Korean tacos to various types of burritos.