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Look mum no hands! announces closure of Old Street cycle café

The popular London cycling café cited rising costs, the ongoing impact of Covid on hospitality businesses and a change in work patterns for a "significant reduction in turnover"...

Look mum no hands! has announced the closure of its cycle café after 13 years serving the capital's cycling community.

The Old Street venue — which also had a workshop, hosted cycling-related events, as well as comedy and live music — was simply a space for all who love bikes and enjoyed a "hugely successful" 10 years having opened in April 2010, but never fully recovered from the impacts of Covid.

The three partners confirmed the closure to customers via Instagram and noted their struggles were similar to those suffered by many hospitality businesses in recent times, with changing work patterns and rising costs resulting in a reduction in turnover.

"There isn't something special about our case that isn't hitting loads of people at the moment," one of the partners Sam Humpheson told road.cc. "In some ways we were actually quite resilient through Covid because we had the bike workshop attached.

"Essentially everything was fine and great in the business for ten years. We missed our tenth birthday in April 2020 which was a little bit upsetting, but up until that point everything was great.

"Hospitality was one of the sectors which was really quite savaged by the Covid restrictions, like every other café, restaurant, bar we were trying to weather that storm. We were fortunate that at least I was there fixing bikes throughout, but coming out the other side of it was always going to be the challenge.

Look Mum No Hands 9

"Financially we were pretty well-supported, as lots of businesses were, but we always felt it was going to be the challenge of suddenly when you are on your own again with a very suppressed market around us. It has been a bit of wait and see and work out when things are going to get back to normal.

"Certainly for us, things have never got anywhere near back to 2019 levels of trade. Businesses like ours, in the heart of Barbican, the whole ecosystem is built on commuters, so almost every business around us is reliant on people coming in from outside of London five days a week. That has just not come back.

"I'm quite happy with people having hybrid working, it's a nice thing, but there was just not enough footfall and then everyone who is around is starting to feel the pinch."

Estimating Look mum no hands! served close to one million coffees and fixed 20,000 punctures, fellow partners Matthew Harper and Lewin Chalkley said it was "such a shame but we just ran out of options" and thanked all their customers and staff from over the years.

Look Mum No Hands! (Image: Look Mum No Hands!)

"Its demise will leave a hole in the capital's cycling scene that will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to fill"

road.cc community editor and long-serving reporter Simon MacMichael was a regular at Look Mum No Hands! and has many fond memories of the "must-visit destination for many London cyclists" during the past 13 years.

"Assured of a warm welcome from staff, a top-notch food and drink offer and the chance to talk all things bike with fellow customers, it's long been a quick pit-stop for me when riding through that part of town – a literal one when I needed a puncture repaired on an unusual wheel size – as well as somewhere to dwell longer when there's been a special event on or a major race being shown on the big screen.

"It helped, of course, that the welcome extended to the four-legged passenger in the basket of my bike, who would happily curl up on her blanket on the bench beneath the big screen while I got on with some work on the laptop.

Look Mum No Hands 1

"On the day of a Monument such as Paris-Roubaix, a key Tour de France mountain stage or a World Championship road race, there was always a special buzz there, and it was also a perfect venue for events including book or Q&A sessions with big names from the world of cycling, or exhibitions of cycling photography and artwork.

"Of course, many other cycling cafés can be found in London and beyond. But none, I think, have the range of customers and the vibe of Look mum no hands! plus the workshop facilities and range of merchandise on offer – nor, to the best of my knowledge, a cracking pastrami on rye sandwich on the menu.

"Its demise will leave a hole in the capital's cycling scene that will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to fill."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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28 comments

Avatar
peted76 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Sad to see this this morning.. I've made a point of going to for years whenever the opportunity arised whilst in London, best wishes for the staff and owners.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 1 year ago
1 like

Perhaps everyone in London has been there at least once - it must be the best known 'cycle cafe' in London. Like The Ace Cafe is for motorcyclists. Good luck to everyone who worked there. 
London has changed work pattern wise - and much for the better. Millions of people coming into a space, day after day, to sit in an office and then to repeat in the opposite direction each evening is over. 

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Carton | 1 year ago
2 likes

The end of an icon. A real pity, particularly for those who worked there and for the regulars.

It seems like quite a bit of tough luck, had they been closer to somewhere more residential or touristy they probably would have weathered the post-pandemic commuting slump better. 

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lonpfrb | 1 year ago
3 likes

Sad news indeed as it used to be my local bike site when I lived in London. When I moved to Kent the Velo House was a similar wonderful venue for club meets and after ride refills. Sadly that also closed due to financial pressure, before Pandemic, and is still a vacant property many years later. Perhaps land banked. More happily the workshop guys have new positions so good help can still be found.

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Sjl | 1 year ago
1 like

A real shame, have been going there after morning loops for ten years and will miss David's cheerful greetings and good company. Had a nice vibe and good food, will be missed

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dodgy | 1 year ago
2 likes

On first glance it looks like about 3 of the women in the picture are cloned. In fact, on second glance also!

I went there once, nice enough place. They weren't the first cycling cafe by a long stretch, though.

I wish the owners well and hope they can try something else that does as good a job as LMH did.

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jaspersdog | 1 year ago
3 likes

What a shame, I used to be fairly regular when I lived in London, nice sandwiches, coffee, friendly service and good atmosphere. Wore one of my LMNH T- shirts for an MTB ride on Sunday, must have felt the shift in the cycling universe.

 

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Awavey | 1 year ago
0 likes

I might be mixing it up with the Hackney store, which also closed, but I thought few years pre covid Old Street was at risk of closure as well ?

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Brauchsel | 1 year ago
2 likes

A pity, I only went a few times but they were always very friendly and helpful. 

If hybrid working is here to stay (which remains to be seen), I wonder if a solution would be a number of smaller venues located where the clientele now are? My bit of south London seems to sustain a lot of cafes and quite a few bike shops: there seem to be enough hipster posers like me around that a (good, welcoming) combination of the two would do well. 

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kil0ran replied to Brauchsel | 1 year ago
2 likes

I think the problem anywhere is less commuting. Other than for a change of scene if you're WFH why would you pop into your local bike cafe when you've got better/cheaper cake and coffee at home? Those sorts of spaces work best when you're an hour's ride from home and need fuel or a minor mechanical fixing.

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Creakingcrank | 1 year ago
1 like

Sad for them. I had a "big" birthday party there a long time ago. (I've had another big birthday since...). It was a nice place.

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Huw Watkins | 1 year ago
3 likes

It's such a shame - LMNH was a breath of fresh air when it opened.  Sam, Matt and Lewin managed to create a completely non-cliquey environment and LMNH was a great proponent of all things cycling to anyone interested.

The place will be very sorely missed.

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brooksby | 1 year ago
1 like

So it's not that they were losing business, just that the increasing costs of overheads (utility bills etc) were crushing them...?

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:

So it's not that they were losing business, just that the increasing costs of overheads (utility bills etc) were crushing them...?

The comments from Sam Humpheson are pretty clear that in the return after COVID the increase in hybrid working has meant that their levels of business never recovered.

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brooksby replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
1 like

Fair enough - I misinterpreted the comment about "changing work patterns and rising costs resulting in a reduction in turnover".

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ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
0 likes

Goodbye hipster posers gentrifying the area. Won't be missed.

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
8 likes
ChuckSneed wrote:

Goodbye hipster posers gentrifying the area. Won't be missed.

Clearly they will be missed by some, despite your attitude.

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Huw Watkins replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
9 likes

You obviously never went there then.  Nice of you to be so pleasant about a lot of people losing their jobs, their efforts and their investments.

 

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Steve K replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
9 likes
ChuckSneed wrote:

Goodbye hipster posers gentrifying the area. Won't be missed.

How on earth did anyone accuse you of being trollish...

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Simon E replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
4 likes
ChuckSneed wrote:

Goodbye hipster posers gentrifying the area. Won't be missed.

Have you ever even seen Old Street? 'Gentrified' certainly isn't how I'd describe it.  [street view]

I guess you'd prefer to socialise in run-down locations where there are fights outside the Bargain Booze, litter everywhere, damp, poorly maintained flats and homeless people sleeping in the doorways.

Or is it just that you don't like cyclists (especially if they look like they're enjoying themselves)?

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Awavey replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
2 likes

tbf its better than it was 25+ years ago, I always hated using that underpass by the tube station, and would get off a stop early and walk further to avoid it, or just walk straight from Liverpool St, at least it was above ground.

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a1white replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
2 likes

Oh look a troll. What an original comment

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perce replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
7 likes

Phone yourself up. When you answer, tell yourself to shut up.

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EddyBerckx | 1 year ago
7 likes

FFS!!!!!!!!

Gutted, brilliant place, really friendly and cheap (for london) workshop. Totally understand the reasons but meh.

Saw them on that TV advert for GoDaddy the other day and thought great, hope that helps them out.

Meh again.

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brooksby | 1 year ago
2 likes

Will that website company keep them on their television adverts?

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belugabob replied to brooksby | 11 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:

Will that website company keep them on their television adverts?

They are still using them on radio ads, several times a day - too cheap to make a new advert, I guess...

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Steve K | 1 year ago
5 likes

This is really sad.  It is literally a minute from my office.  As well as serving me some nice food and drink over the years, it's also got me out of some jams with emergency repairs.

It's been closed for the past few days and I've been googling to try and find out why.  I was worried this would be the reason.

Avatar
Steve K replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
2 likes
Steve K wrote:

This is really sad.  It is literally a minute from my office.  As well as serving me some nice food and drink over the years, it's also got me out of some jams with emergency repairs.

It's been closed for the past few days and I've been googling to try and find out why.  I was worried this would be the reason.

I've just told the news to colleagues in a team meeting - none of them are cyclists but they all had loved the cafe.

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