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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 "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.

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"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" 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 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, 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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