“I wanted to bring a little bit of Looks Mum No Hands to Newcastle,” says Eric Murphy, owner of Pedalling Squares, a cycling cafe which opened in February in a former 19th century brass works.
He travelled around the country checking out other cycling cafes and then set to work on his own. He’s a self-confessed bike geek, with a love of grand tour cycle races. His cafe shows the major races on a big screen.
The idea for the cafe was born from a three year old online business selling cycling caps and other items of retro memorabilia (want a Roger de Vlaeminck Brooklyn Gum jersey? Murphy’s yer man). Murphy also runs a newer custom jersey business. Pedalling Squares brings everything into one place, with his son Adrian being webmaster for the online business as well as being a barista in the cycling cafe. Murphy’s daughter also works in the cafe, which serves paninis called the Sagan, the Basso and the Pantani (with side orders of energy gels).
What most customers don’t know is that above the cafe there’s a full-on photo studio, used by record labels to shoot video and promotional stills. Downstairs there are murals of Marco Pantani and Eddy Merckx, upstairs in Bananastudio could be Olly Murs getting a portrait pic done.
Pedalling Squares is based in Swalwell, south of the Tyne, not far from the Gateshead Metrocentre. It’s at the base of Whickham Bank – Col de Whickham – an ideal stopping/starting point for roadies doing hill work or MTBers heading out to Chopwell Woods, heart of the local mountain bike scene. The cafe is about six miles from the Cycle Hub on Newcastle’s Quayside, a cycling cafe co-owned by holiday company Saddle Skedaddle and
Cycle Centre of Byker. Tyneside’s cycling culture is being nurtured by businesses like these.
Murphy has been a pro photographer for 25 years and has worked for Nike, Reebok and LA Gear. “I’ve not shot for any bike brands,” he says, “but I’d love to do so. The studio can be rented out for catalogue work or we can take the pix.” Pedalling Squares is attracting cycling clubs as well as locals who just like the coffee and the cakes. The locals can’t ignore the fact this is a cycling cafe – by the entrance there are hooks for hanging up customer’s bikes.
“We don’t mind how mucky they are,” says Murphy. (The bikes as well as the customers).
“The others parts of the business mean the cafe isn’t on its own, I’m happy for it to grow slowly. I like hanging out here. I love bikes.”