In the summer of 2008, I was lucky enough to go to Download Festival at Donnington Park – the world’s greatest Rock festival, formerly known as Monsters of Rock.
Having pitched our tent two days earlier, I was already a wreck by the time the festival started on Friday.
With Strongbow coursing through my veins, and with sand, beer, grit, and God knows what else stuck in my long, flowing hair, we made our way to the main stage on Friday.
See, at 27 years old, I was a fan of good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n roll. And whilst many of my peers were into the music of the moment, I was very much into the music that came decades before my time.
So to see Motörhead, Judas Priest, and KISS before they got too old to perform anymore was sort of a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Waiting patiently for Disturbed to finish their set, we made our way towards the stage in preparation for Motörhead – one of the highlights of my weekend.
I was a big fan of Lemmy. And when he made his way on stage for the start of their set, I was awestruck. The people around me cheered. All you could see were fingers and thumbs as the crowd threw devil horns into the air. The atmosphere was electric!
But the raucous didn’t last long. Because where the crowd were expecting Ace of Spades at 94,000 decibels, Motorhead decided to play a somewhat subdued set.
The songs were classics. But instead of thrashing the shit out of their instruments, Motörhead embraced a melancholy, bluesy vibe – rich with the dirty rock ‘n roll riffs of songs such as Stay Clean, Just ‘Cos You Got The Power, and Going To Brazil.
Disappointed with the laid back approach, many people left for more exhilarating bands on the other stages.
But I stayed to the bitter end – and I loved every minute of it. It’s a time I look back on fondly – especially since Lemmy sadly passed away in 2015.
Motorcycle Cafes In The UK
So what has Motörhead got to do with biker cafes? Well, let me explain.
There are some belting biker cafes in the UK – most of them rich with history, character, and nostalgia. And whilst this post is about the best cafes in the UK, I’d be lying if I said I’d visited any of them recently.
Back in the day, I wanted the illegal debauchery of an AC/DC concert in a biker setting. But these days, I want the considered atmosphere of Motörhead in 2008.
So I tend to ride past the big biker cafes in search of quieter cafes on the outskirts.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t go if you’ve never been. With hundreds (or even thousands) of bikers all in one place, there’s a real feeling of family, comradery, and togetherness.
For the few hours you’re there, you’ll speak to people with a common interest – and it’s a great place to be.
The problem is that we all want different things. Some go for the craic, so the shit coffee in paper cups doesn’t matter to them.
Others can live without the bike chat but want tasty food to fill their bellies.
Some are happy with a hotdog whilst sitting on a sloping bench. And others want a haute cuisine vegan burger in a wheat-free bun with a fat-free soy macchiato.
So whilst I think it’s nigh-on impossible to propose the ‘best’ biker cafes in the UK, we can certainly give you a varied list of the ones worth visiting.
A few of them are The Who in 1967. Others are Motörhead in 2008. You’ll just have to find the ones that suit you best!
Ace Cafe, London
If you’re going to write a list of biker cafes in the UK, there’s no other place to start than with the most notorious biker cafe in London.
Ace Cafe is almost synonymous with the phrase biker cafe – especially in London. With a reputation going back to the 60s, Ace Cafe oozes bikes, celebrities, and rock ‘n roll of bygone eras.
As you’d expect you can grab tea and coffee. But you can also order food. Some days, it’s acceptable. And on other days, you’d wish you hadn’t bothered. But on any day, it will be expensive for what it is.
There’s also a gift shop that sells all sorts of Ace Cafe-branded tat – none of which you need, but nice keepsakes if you’re visiting from abroad.
You can also find free exhibitions featuring everything from art, post-war youth culture, and motorcycle heritage throughout the year.
If you want to make the trip to Ace, it’s worth checking their website or social media to see what’s on. Because if anything bike-related is happening in London, people almost always meet at Ace!
Considering there’s been a lot of talk in this post about Motörhead and the Ace of Spades (which is also the brand logo of Ace Cafe), you likely won’t find me in there should you visit.
The one thing that is clear about Ace is that it trades on its heritage. So you’ll either love it or hate it!
Bike Shed, London
Bike Shed is like the Ace Cafe of the 21st century. It’s a completely (and I mean completely) different vibe. But it’s a biker cafe to be seen in – in the same way Ace Cafe is.
As with Ace, Bike Shed is a love/hate place. It’s undoubtedly cool and has an unmistakable feel. Situated in trendy Shoreditch, it’s the only place I know where you can get a breakfast brioche bun, a haircut, and a tattoo – all in one place.
The food is surprisingly good. However, it’s also unsurprisingly expensive. That said, it isn’t badly priced for the area. But if you’re from out of town, you’ll find it overly expensive for what it is.
Considering its central location, Bike Shed has done well to accommodate over a hundred bikes on site – but don’t be surprised if you find your bike has been moved when you’ve finished your food! It’s common for their trained staff to move bikes around to accommodate more people.
All-in-all, the Bike Shed is cooler than cool. It’s certainly an experience, and you can’t help but feel you’ve climbed up a level in the motorcycle fraternity when you visit.
That said, all the moustache wax in Shoreditch wouldn’t be enough to get me in there on the regular!
Ponderosa Cafe, Wales
The biggest problem I have with Ace and Bike Shed is that there is no real reason for you to go there (as a biker) other than to visit the cafes. Visiting these cafes is an event. But Ponderosa is a an experience.
I’m from the north, where I’m surrounded by the Lake District, the Peak District, Yorkshire, and Wales. I’m surrounded by roads that are made for riding.
So Ponderosa Cafe being located on the Horseshoe Pass in Llangollen seems like a perfectly natural place to have a bikers cafe.
From either direction, the riding is absolutely spectacular. You don’t go to Llangollen to visit Ponderosa – you go for the roads. But Ponderosa is so exquisitely placed that it makes sense to stop off and re-energise whilst you’re there.
On a Sunday in the height of summer, expect queues. Expect bikes for as far as the eye can see. And expect classic car clubs meeting up for a drive out.
The food is fine. And if you’re more greasy spoon than you are Shoreditch, you’ll likely find it’s perfectly adequate for a Sunday morning stop-off.
If the weather is nice, find yourself a bench outside (or sit on the grassy verge in the Welsh sunshine) and soak up the atmosphere.
It’s a bit too busy for me these days. But that said, I’d rather visit Ponderosa than Ace or Bike Shed.
Squires Cafe, Leeds
For me, Squires is a place to grab a drink and have a rest mid-ride. In my opinion, the food isn’t the best – and it’s expensive for what it is.
But you don’t really go to Squires for the food – you go for the bikes. Everybody in the area meets up at Squires, and you’ll find everything from superbikes to cruisers and brat bikes to cafe racers.
There’s usually a busy schedule with multiple events throughout the week. It’s not quite as varied as it once was, but you can guarantee something will be happening!
You’ll also find a 32-pitch campsite which is ideal if you’re touring the north of England and don’t want to pay for a hotel.
With bathrooms on-site, and breakfast in the main building, you can set yourself up for a day of riding in Yorkshire.
Super Sausage Cafe
Seriously, how can you not love this cafe with a name like that?!
If you’re ever around Silverstone, Super Sausage Cafe is the place to go – especially if you want a proper-sized brekkie to set you up for the day.
This biker cafe has been around for 70 years. But thanks to current owners Chris & Gail (and son Simon), the notoriety of this cafe has been on the rise for the last 15 years.
The menu is catered more around breakfast than anything. And nothing on the menu is fancy or complicated. It’s simple food, done well.
And what more could you ask for on a bike? Most people want something tasty, filling, hot, and reasonably priced – and that’s exactly what you get at Super Sausage Cafe.
There’s a reason why this place won the award for Britain’s Best Cafe in 2016 whilst nurturing a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor.
One of my favourite places to stop is Seaways in Fridaythorpe. If you’re a social soul, you’ll like it here. Virtually everyone you come across is friendly, chatty, and inclusive.
With ample parking out front, you’ll see bikers coming and going on an almost constant basis.
And as soon as you get off your bike, you can guarantee to receive a welcome hello – either from the staff or other random bikers enjoying their breakfast.
The food is as you would expect – loads of breakfast goodness plus toasties and cakes. It’s all simple food at this biker cafe. But it’s tasty, well priced, quick to arrive, hot, and served with a smile.
Loomies Moto Cafe, Hampshire
Rumour had it that Loomies was shutting down about three years ago – which was a travesty. But fortunately, new owners took up the challenge, and Loomies has since gone from strength to strength.
What I like about this biker cafe is their attention to detail. During your visit, you’ll notice small things, like visor wash stations and a helmet store – things that let you know this place is made for bikers rather than just accommodating them.
The food is simple but delicious. Known for its burgers, I have to say the breakfasts are the highlight for me. And you can tell the owners take pride in sourcing the best ingredients they can.
From what I hear, the cafe now has its own butcher who helps them source local ingredients.
Lastly, you’ll find a real community vibe at Loomies. A few of the places in this list are there for people ‘to be seen’. But Loomies is a place for regulars – regulars who are there four or five times a week for social reasons as much as the food.
Iron Horse Ranch
As with The Bikeshed, the Iron Horse Ranch is more on the restaurant/bistro side than biker cafe. But it’s still a fabulously raucous biker hang out.
No matter what time you pull up, you’ll always see a line of bikes parked outside. And once you make your way through the doors, you can count on a friendly welcome and a smiley face.
If you like the feel of Americana, this is definitely the place for you! Having spent a lot of time riding through the States, the owner brought a little bit of it back to the Lincolnshire Wolds for you to enjoy.
And the American feel is shown in the menu with American classics such as pancakes and syrup next to traditional English grub.
There’s a great community feel to the place. And it even has its own riding club that meets for regular ride outs and raises money for local causes.
Rykas has been around since the 1920s and is an institution in its own right. Despite being a biker cafe since the 1920s, Rykas is also frequented by a mixture of cyclists, hikers, and families on weekend walks.
In fact, such an institution is Rykas that Yamaha even used the venue as part of its Dark Side tour a few years back.
The cafe itself is known for burgers and milkshakes. But if they’re not your thing, you can pick something more traditional off the varied hot and cold menus.
A mere stone’s throw away from Box Hill, Rykas is the ideal place to combine great riding roads with a nice hike and a hot brew when you get back.
And it’s well priced, too.
Fourways Cafe & Grill
As I travel around the place, I’ve noticed that more and more cafes like this are popping up. And with good reason.
Fourways is situated on-site at J&S Accessories in Oakmere. As you enter the grounds, you’ll see the cafe on your left. To your right is the massive J&S selling everything from helmets to puncture repair kits and luggage.
A little further ahead, you’ll see a showroom selling a surprisingly large range of used bikes.
And just next to that is a riding school – all on one piece of land! With this much going on, it makes for a rich and varied gathering of people.
This biker cafe serves typical cafe food, as well as a few cakes and snacks. In my experience, the food has always arrived in good time – and hot.
It’s well-priced, too.
Top image: Beeline