Espresso Cycles on Annette at Runnymede seems like the sort of place that would be half cafe, half bike shop. Based on its name, I pictured bikes and equipment set up in back while in the front horn rimmed artists and stroller moms sipped almond milk cortados from Mason jars. Espresso and cycling are the two hobbies fuelling Toronto's youth culture, so it made sense more and more that shop owners would be putting them together.
Instead, I find a well-stocked and airy bike shop with owner Victor Oliveira tending an espresso machine, a Saeco Single Gruppo, so compact that it's cute. The shop, which opened in March, provides bikes, equipment, and repairs for the cozy, family-oriented neighbourhood that surrounds it. While dedicated commuter cyclists are his target customers, Oliveira wanted the store to be a more affordable option than the high-end bike shops on Bloor. From training wheels all the way up, he's got the whole family covered. He offers a range of services: tune-ups are $45, while flat tire repairs start at $15.
Fuji, Breezer, and SE Bikes are his main brands, selling mostly in the $500-$600 range, although he has been known to make custom bikes for the customer with very specific desires (usually single speed). Before opening Espresso Cycles Oliveira worked in construction, but has been into cycling since he was a child in Portugal.
"I've always loved bikes," he says. "I'm doing something I love doing and for me, that's priceless."
So why did he also want to sell coffee? Espresso and cycling have always been intertwined, Oliveira explains as I sip a creamy latte from a tall glass. (Lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos are $2.50, while Americanos are $1.50. All are made with Bristot premium blend.) He claims that early Tour de France competitors relied on shots of espresso to jolt their energy mid-race. Sadly, now professional cyclists are suspected of slightly more hardcore stimulants.
But for Oliveira the presence of an espresso machine is about creating the right sort of friendly, neighbourhood atmosphere, a place, he says, "where you can relax have a coffee while we fix your bike." He might get the odd customer in the off season (come winter, "I'm a fair weather rider myself," he admits) but providing espresso beverages isn't really about turning the shop into a cafĂŠ.
Although Oliveira might add some tables and chairs at some point, he wouldn't fundamentally change the business too much out of fear of the wrath of the landlord or city inspectors. "If it was a cafĂŠ, I'd have to change a lot," he laughs. "First of all, I'd need accessible washrooms."
Espresso Cycles is open Tuesday-Friday 9.30am-8.30pm, Saturday 10am-7pm, and Sunday from 12pm-6pm.
Photos by James C. Lee