Café Etiquette 101

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Have you ever been enjoying a quiet breakfast with your family at a café and twenty cyclists show up and completely ransack the place? Moving tables, shouting loudly, bragging about how we all smashed each other on that climb, and treating the place like our own locker room. We’ve all been on both sides of the fence, and it’s easy to see how the outside world can view us when we forget our manners.

Aspiring pro cyclist Verita Stewart tells us about her first  café faux pas and the rules she’s set for herself since she was reminded that helmets stay off the café table.


I cringe every time I think of this moment:  my first, of many, lessons in cyclist related café etiquette.

This happened at the end of one of the first bunch rides I ever did. I was very new to cycling and had no idea about anything. I definitely had no idea that there was etiquette to follow at cafés. I was just coming to speed with bunch ride etiquette (that’s another story for another time…). In the end, cafe etiquette is just common sense and good manners – etiquette is a mere label.

My friends do a regular recovery ride, always finishing at the same café, which is very cyclist friendly. We parked our bikes, stacking them neatly top and tail against the wall outside and walked into the café. As my friends sat down, I followed, pulling out a chair and placing my helmet and gloves on the table. I was about to sit down, but one by one, I could feel a glare from across the table. They were all looking at me in absolute horror.

“What?” I said, thinking that there was something on my face or perhaps a bug in my tooth.

“Ummmm…. Helmets do not go on the table,” they said to me in sync.

Of course they don’t, I thought.

I have never put my helmet on the table. Not because my friends told me not too, but I would never do that at home, why would I do that at a café! That was my introduction to café etiquette. Over the years and many coffee rides later, I have come to the learn and observe cyclist-café etiquette.

Here are my top 10 café etiquette tips:

  1. Be cautious that you are not blocking access to the café.Make sure that you lean your bike in a place that is not obstructing the footpath, doorway or pedestrian access. When arriving or leaving, try to avoid congregating out the front of the café, blocking access to customers and pedestrians. Like you, they just want to get a coffee in peace and don’t want to play dodgem cars to get there.
  2. Remove your helmet, sunnies and gloves before entering the café. My mother said never to wear your hat inside, same applies here. There is no need to wear your helmet inside. Hang your helmet on your bike and put your sunnies and gloves in your pocket. If you must bring your helmet indoors, place it under the table or chair so that people don’t trip over it.
  3. Under no circumstances should you put your helmet, gloves, caps or other sweaty accessories on the table. Not only does this take up valuable room on the table for coffee and food, it is unhygienic and pretty gross. I wouldn’t eat my dinner next to my helmet at home, so I wouldn’t do it at a café! No one wants to consume food that has been placed next to your sweaty helmet and gloves, now do they?
  4. Be aware of your surroundings. It pays to pay attention.The café is not your lounge room, so remember to ask the café staff before you go rearranging their tables to suit your bunch. Pay attention when the wait staff are taking your orders. It is annoying for everyone when the staff have to scream “skinny cappuccino” twelve times over the top of your chatter.
  5. Cleats are for riding, not clip clopping around a café. Make sure you look down at what surface you are walking on and step lightly so you don’t damage it, especially on wooden floors. The less walking around in the café you do, the better – better for your cleats and better for the general noise level too. No one wants to deal with the upset owner when you’ve just etched your speedplays around the cafe into the cleanly polished floorboards.
  6. Look up. Pause your Strava app, upload your final ‘gram, put your phone down and enjoy the social interaction and post ride banter with your friends. The #WYMTM hash tag or snap chats can wait until you are at home…(I’ll admit it…this is the one I break the most).
  7. Be patient. Remember that you are not the only customer in the café. If you enter as a large group, you may have to wait a few minutes whilst the barista makes your coffees. Sure, you may have ridden 200 km into a gnarly headwind, but no need to take this out on the staff. So be patient, especially if you are a large group.
  8. Don’t forget your manners. It is a given that a smile and a simple “please” and “thank you” can go a long way. And try not to swear, it is not good for you or the kids that are in earshot. We are all guilty of getting animated about those Strava segment we just nailed or our mate we just dropped on the last climb, but not everyone in the cafe needs to hear about it.
  9. Be prepared to hear ‘no split bills’. Not all cafés will ‘split bills’, so don’t make a fuss about it if they don’t. Always be prepared with the correct change or shout your friends a round of coffee – they will love you for it and will return the favour next week.
  10. Take your rubbish home with you. Don’t empty your pockets of your empty bar/gel wrappers or banana peels and leave them on the table. The staff don’t need to clean up your mess when you leave. Take them home with you or bin it yourself.

Have I missed any?

We are all probably guilty of doing some or all of these things from time to time, but observing these tips at a new café or your regular haunt will go a long way in keeping everyone happy. It may even result in staff remembering your order and filling your water bottles for you with a smile. My regular café does.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing. She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram.

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