The 2019 Coffeeneuring Challenge arrived just when I needed it. My personal low fuel light came on after Paris-Brest-Paris, and the thought of just going for a bike ride to get coffee sounded perfect.
If you’ve somehow ended up here and don’t know about the challenge, read all about it at Mary’s blog Chasing Mailboxes.
This year’s rides featured all the joys of fall: cooler temperatures, the trees of the East Coast turning to blazing reds and yellows, and our annual visit to the Philly Bike Expo in early November. We rode the Green Apple Co-Motion tandem into downtown Philadelphia from Phoenixville and the colors along the Schuylkill River Trail were delicious.
Mary and I have developed a coffeeneuring routine over the years in which we tend to go to familiar haunts around Washington and in Philadelphia. I like the comfort of poking my head into coffee joints that feel like reliable friends. The shorter rides and long coffee stops felt like pulling on a cozy wool sweater.
I tried three new shops this year, but only one was worthy of a return visit. I did not count as official stops the two near the Washingotn convention center that fell short. They had lovely atmosphere but the espresso at both was bitter. (Note: neither was Chinatown Coffee, one of our favorite places that closed this fall).
As I count things to be thankful for this season, one of them is that Washington really does have a core group of fine coffeehouses – Swings, Filter, The Coffee Bar, Baked & Wired and others – that don’t take the customers for granted. Other places try to get by on sleek interiors and lots of steamed milk and flavors, but serving good espresso every day is not easy and the best ones are worth supporting.
Speaking of being grateful, I stand in awe before my dear spouse Mary – the original Coffeeneur – who ran the Coffeeneuring Challenge another year. It’s a lot of work, but she loves the goodwill that the international coffeeneuring group enjoys. Her social media feeds are filled with the sweetest posts from riders who take the challenge and run with it in endearing ways. Some take their kids out for hot chocolate, others fill out little journals with illustrations, and others enjoy a quiet spot in the country with friends.
Our dinner table has been overwhelmed this year with the stuffing of mailers with coffeeeuring socks, finisher pins and patches. It’s amazing to see.
With that, here’s the 2019 rundown of my coffeeneuring rides!
Ride No. 1: Oct. 12
Caffe Amouri, Vienna, Va.
Drink: Soy Cappucino
Distance: 86 miles
Notes: Tandem ride with Mary
It was fitting that my first 2019 coffeeneuring ride was to Caffe Amouri, a regular stop for us when we ride the W&OD Trail out to Leesburg. They have a suburban vibe but rise above the nearby chain places with smooth espresso drinks and a wide variety of pastries.
Moderate temperatures in the 50s added to the fall feel.
Ride No. 2: Oct. 26
Grace Street Coffee, Georgetown, Washington
Drink: Soy Cappuccino
Distance: 62 miles
Notes: Single bike ride with Peter C.
Mary was resting her legs for the Marine Corps 50K run on Sunday so I cooked up a ride with Peter, who is part of an bunch of guys who try to get out most weekends and have nicely added us to their weekly discussion thread.
He took me on the leafy roads in Montgomery County that are one of the reasons to live in Washington, in that we have good riding within close distance. I got the opportunity to ride my much-loved and neglected Rivendell Rambouillet, which I bought just before I met Mary and we started tandeming everywhere. It should probably be sold to someone who rides it more than me.
Grace Street is a bustling place in Georgetown with great drinks and food and absolutely no outside bike parking unless one gets creative with railings. I locked up a few doors down at the Rapha store/clubhouse outdoor rack and went back there after coffee to try on the duds, though I didn’t buy anything – this time.
Ride No. 3 Oct. 27
Baked and Wired, Georgetown, Washington
Drink: Soy Cappuccino
Distance: 8.5 miles
Notes: Another single bike ride
Morning rains soaked the Marine Corps Marathon and 50K. I went to Georgetown to look for Mary because of the shelter along the course as the runners passed me under the Whitehurst Freeway. The field was too thick for me to catch her and I ended up going up the street to Baked and Wired to kill time.
The cappuccino was delicious as always. B&W is known for its cupcakes, but has a separate coffee bar with some pretty good pastries. Today I rode my steel Rawland dSogn that I’ve set up as a commuter. The big 650b 47mm WTB Horizon tires are a blast to ride around town and the disk brakes are great in the rain.
Ride No. 4. Nov. 2
Elixr Coffee, Philadelphia
Drink: Espresso and Oat Cappuccino
Distance: 2 miles
Notes: Green Apple tandem with Mary
We rode into Philadelphia for the Philly Bike Expo on Friday but I’m not counting the stop at Volo Coffeehouse in Manayunk as we stopped there leaving town on Sunday.
Before the expo opened Saturday we got the tandem on the street and rode over to Elixr, one of the most sublime little shops we’ve found. Situated on secluded South Sydenham Street, it feels like a place out of Helsinki or some other tony northern Europe capital.
The drinks were pretty close to perfect. We like going there for some quiet wakeup time ahead of the energy of the Expo, and usually see the friendly Velo Orange folks and other exhibitor coffee aficionados.
To get the official two miles, we had to ride a couple extra blocks around downtown before taking the tandem into the expo, in anticipation of the seminar we held on tandem randonneuring with Cecilie and Patrick Gaffney, who also rode PBP this summer.
Ride No. 5 Nov. 3
Volo Coffeehouse, Manayunk, Philadelphia
Drink: Soy Cappuccino
Distance: 28 miles
Notes: Green Apple tandem with Mary
Our two front panniers bulging with expo swag, Mary and I made our way back on the SRT to our car in Phoenixville, stopping at Volo. This annual stop for us is always bittersweet as the expo is usually the final big bike thing we do for the year. We have a great time and see friends and all the cool stuff. Then it’s over and we ride on the deserted trail into the fading daylight.
Volo helps with the transition into the dark fall days. The espresso drinks are always good and they have nice sandwich menu. Fall Sunday afternoons are laid back and it feels good to exhale, even if we wish the fun times at PBE could go on just one more day.
Ride No. 6 Nov. 9
The Coffee Bar, Washington
Distance: 51 miles
Notes: New bike! Kona Rove LTD first long ride. Plus a danish.
Mary was out of town this weekend visiting family in Iowa. I took my new Kona Rove LTD gravel-ish bike out for a proper ride on the C&O Canal Towpath.
I sold off my Rivendell Atlantis frameset to help pay for the Kona, which I built up from a new frameset with my usual custom mix of bar-end shifters and triple crankset and other personal choices. The bike is a lot of fun, with 650b wheels. The steel frame with a carbon fork gives it a lively feel and shaves some weight.
I swung by The Coffee Bar where I felt the lovely Kona with its sparkly black cherry paint job might help me fit in with the stylish Logan Circle/Shaw crowd. I even ordered a trendy cortado to complete the aesthetic. Nobody paid much attention, but I felt cool with my new bike and all.
The Coffee Bar appeals to me with its fine drinks and funky former hardware store interior. This day was no exception, and the visit there capped off a good outing on the bike (as good as it can be without Mary, that is).
Ride No. 7 Nov. 17
Colony Club, Washington
Drink: Cortado (though it looked more like a cappuccino)
Distance: 10.3 miles
Notes: A new place! Single bikes with Mary
To commemorate completing my annual Coffeeneuring Challenge series, we decided to go up to Colony Club in Northwest, where we had been separately but not together. This was a grey fall day and perfect for a short urban ride.
Colony Club is a small local place that has what appears to be an urban pioneer following: folks who are putting down roots in the city and buying fixer-uppers and getting involved in neighborhood politics.
The coffee was terrific, easily passing the Felkerino test (meaning, good enough to go back for a second drink, similar to Elixr), and I had a yummy focaccia as a light lunch. There was some kind of gathering in the upper meeting space with a comedian so the sounds of laughter tumbled down the stairs, adding an interesting animation to our time there.
Colony Club is off our regular tracks around the city and was worth the trip. I first went there when the city closed part of traffic-clogged Georgia Avenue on Oct. 5 and I was told about it by friends who held a ride. The event worked, in that I now know part of the city better because it was turned into a pedestrian and bike thoroughfare at least for a few hours, and even went back to spend money.
Coffeeneuring season always fits in well between Labor Day and the year-end holidays. It captures the joy of riding and savoring cool temperatures and warm drinks. This year was a particularly satisfying one in that it helped me recharge after a busy spring and summer. Thanks again to Mary for running the challenge, I’m proud to be part of it and part of the worldwide coffeeneur movement. Viva Coffeeneuring!