Mud sweat and gears and British XC series round 2

Firstly thank you to everyone at N+1 Lindfield Coffee works team for the ongoing support. Being part of a team where everyone wants to help each other out is a massive part of the sport, and N+1 have got it perfect. 

After a slower start to the season than I would have liked I made a last minute decision to race MSG round at Lee valley. A different course to usual, fully man-made around the Olympic velodrome and bmx track, surrounded by easy London docks. A totally new experience to me, creating a hill and seeing a motorway a couple of meters away.

The course was flat, slightly rocky, open, but narrow. After a good start I had a race long battle for second until the last lap where a gap got created, and I was able to ride home for 2nd place. Happy with how my legs felt after a few heavy days of training prior.

Next up the following weekend was the second round of the British XC series at the Olympic course venue of Hadleigh Park. Another fully man-made course, with some big rock features, and no real let up. You’re either downhill, off rocks or uphill.

Again after a good start and sitting second wheel comfortably for the first quarter of the first lap, I dropped my chain on a rocky uphill section, after a dash of the bike and a remount I found myself outside the top 10 and chasing.

Surprisingly with my bike never doing this before it happened two more times throughout the race, continently all on uphill sections, making the remount nice and uncomfortable.

A race that felt like I was constantly chasing and dismount more than a cross race I ended up in 7th.

Happy with how the body feels, but as we all know, everything including the bike needs to come together on the day.

Next up is southern xc round 2 at chekendon this weekend. I missed the first round due to illness, so hoping to get going in the southern series well with this race.

Industry Focus: Kris of Lindfield Coffee Works

Lindfield Coffee Works

How long has Lindfield coffee works been up and running?

Lindfield Coffee Works has been trading at its current site for 2 ½ years now . I took the previous business over a year before that and before that they had been roasting in Lindfield since 1994 so its well and truly part of Lindfields history!

What got you into coffee? Is it something you’ve always been into.

I’ve always been interested in coffee and have always consumed it. I used to work in the spirits industry before and discovered many similarities across both industries. We also used coffee as an ingredient in cocktails so I’ve always been inquisitive of it !

Have you always had a passion for coffee?

Yes, ever since I started being a consumer of it . The more I read the more I was fascinated. I have a passion for most of the drinks industry as a whole.

What would you say drives you?

On the roastery side I’d say continuously looking to improve our coffee roasting and developing our profiles , sourcing responsibly , sustainable, interesting & high grade coffee . On the coffee bar side I love seeing our customers enjoying our space and taking more and more of an interest in the distinct flavours of coffee and choosing coffee by origin.

What aspects of the coffee industry excite you, frustrate you…

There are so many aspects of the coffee industry that excite me from sourcing green coffee both through our wholesale partner and direct with our trade partners in Colombia. Experimenting with different processing techniques like black honey , fermentation and how improving practices at farm level can have a real impact on taste. The innovation in roast profiling and the more and more information out there on this . This was a frustration when I first started out was the lack of info out there meant it was a case of trial and error . Roast , taste , tweak, roast, taste, tweak and on and on – all the time not knowing if we were doing it the ‘correct’ way. Everything along the coffee chain from growing, farming processing to milling , shipping, sourcing , roasting and finally producing a delicious cup of coffee excite me . Every stage of this has to be really taken care of and thought about and can have a real impact on final taste. I’m not sure there are many industries quite like this. Another frustration is the final price for a cup of coffee and the disparity with say a Gin & Tonic in a bar. Having seen how much goes into getting coffee to us here in the Uk and with the roasting and making of the coffee I believe there is so much more care and attention that needs to be made for coffee yet its sometimes 3 or 4 times less of a price. Coffee is still seen as a commodity product where I don’t think , specialty coffee should be.

Do you get the opportunity to source direct from the farmers

Yes we buy from 3 farms in Colombia from the region of Antioquia which is a renowned coffee growing region . Buying direct allows us to have two way dialogue with the farmers and provide real time feedback . If we can tell our customers when the coffee was picked , which variety it was , if it was shade grown , how it was processed and at which altitude this gives us and them confidence it’s been well farmed and cared for along the supply chain.

How bigs your team, can you tell us a little more about them?

Our team is currently 11 and we wouldn’t be able to do this without them . We have amazingly talented , multi skilled team that all input towards what we do . As well as being a co-manager , phoebe manages all our social media and in house marketing . She is just 21 and has a bright future in front of her ! Sunni is the head barista and is the account manager for our wholesale customers and leads all our trainings . Miranda is our roaster and we now are roasting 4-5 times per week and I am taking on more of this role too now as I develop my roasting skills. We have an events manager now too as this is a growing side of the business – Helen looks after this side of things expertly as well as working shifts on our coffee bar. Vic (our co-manager), Antonia , suzy , beth , emma , ethinie and amber make up the rest of the team and their passion for what they do makes doing this job so easy. The whole team contributes across the board and any ideas for new menus / events etc is listened to and implemented  – I think that’s what makes it a nice place to work – no one is just a barista they can get involved as much as they want to – if you are passionate about what you do then anyone can do anything .

What side of the business do you enjoy the most?

There are many aspects of the business I enjoy from roasting coffee and experimenting with recipes for our coffee and testing different methods to brew it . However what I’m enjoying most currently is working directly with the farms in Colombia . To be able to be involved at this level is both exciting and humbling . We have two-way direct communication regarding specific processing methods and can be involved in experimenting with different processes like fermentation and naturally drying the coffee in certain ways (honey, black honey etc) . The farms are very remote and pose real challenge to get coffee down the mountain and it’s very labor intensive & hard work . They lead very simple lives . It’s very rewarding because to see the hard work and go that extra mile to produce a quality coffee and in turn reward them with a far higher price than they would if they sold via a cooperative- to do so really makes it worthwhile and encourages farmers to produce quality coffee over quantity. 

Where do you see yourself and the business in 5 years?

I don’t like to plan too far ahead but know we should but this industry changes so quickly it’s difficult to imagine . I hope we will still be producing and supplying even more wholesale customers and educating them on specialty coffee. Another coffee bar would be nice in a similar location to what we have in lindfield . I hope we are still working with our farms in Colombia and really gained some new knowledge and skills in farming coffee between us . And I hope the consumer is more aware about specialty coffee industry and there’s a move away from instant at least which we are seeing now ! 

Do you feel you’ve created a specialty coffee scene in lindfield now?

I wouldn’t say we have created a specialty scene in Lindfield . We are still very behind the likes of London and Brighton and even as a roaster / coffee bar I wouldn’t call us ‘specialty’ per sey . We source from the specialty industry and have the same principles and values as a specialty roaster but we need to remember who our customers are and what they want . I can see the gap widening between real specialty roasters and more ‘ mainstream ‘ roasters like ourselves . As long as we are sourcing high quality coffees responsibly and making good quality coffees that our customers love and take some interest in then that is enough for me and a ‘scene’ I guess will follow . I think lindfield is really becoming interested in coffee and hopefully this is just the start ! 

It’s an incredible space you’ve created here, is it how you imagined it.

Yes absolutely we couldn’t be happier . We’ve tweaked things from when we first opened but think it’s nearly finished ! We really wanted it to feel like you were walking into a working coffee roastery and not to be another usual coffee shop.

Where’s your favorite coffee shop?

Raw coffee roasters in Dublin first gave me the idea and inspiration for our site but I do not get to go there that much . Closer to home I’d say ozone coffee in London and caravan in kings cross . And all our wholesale customers shops 😉 

I love your branding, how did that come about.

My now good friend Will Parr does all our branding / menu design / murals / sign writing etc and has done an amazing job . He approached me when we first took over the previous business . He typically designs alcohol brands but wanted a coffee in his portfolio and as we were on a budget he really helped us out ! I think we are ready for a little refresh as we evolve as a roaster so will Will definitely be involved in this !

How did the relationship with the cycling team come about?

We supply Dan at n+1 cycle cafe and Dan approached us with the idea of starting a team. We loved Dan’s passion, vision and values he had for the team so it wasn’t even a consideration whether to be involved or not . Cycling and coffee is also a perfect mix and are synonymous so we liked the association and hope we can build on the amazing work Dan and the team have achieved in such a small space of time . We can’t wait to see what’s next and would love to still be involved as they and us grow !

Are we likely to see you out training soon

No I look too bad in Lycra . I would love to and am now taking more of an interest in cycling the more and more people I meet involved in cycling so its only a matter of time  .

Images courtesy of Breakaway Digital

Industry Focus: Ross McCracken of Proper Cycling

Ross McCracken Proper Cycling

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how Proper cycling came about?

Since I was 15 I’ve worked in the Music industry as a producer and, at first a drum tech, then a tour manager. As a result, I spent a lot of time touring and stuck in hotel rooms. A few of the artists I worked with took bikes on tour so they could keep fit and see some of the places we visited. It was also popular as a helmet and a pair of glasses was a great disguise for sneaking past autograph hunters at the hotel gates! I followed suit and soon fell in love with road cycling. Many years later (too many to think about!) I set up Proper Cycling in Hassocks as a coffee / bike shop which is run by a friend of mine, Rachael. Becoming increasingly despondent with the Music industry I found myself spending more time there so I became more involved setting up the bike fitting (I’m literally obsessed with cycling science and marginal gains) followed by the Holiday company in 2018.

How did the bike fitting come about?

Being a bit of a geek at heart I started bike fitting 7 years ago as a hobby. When the opportunity to make it part of my job arose I jumped at the chance. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the latest techniques and I was lucky enough to be trained by Tony Corke. The best of the best in my opinion. I’ve now completed over 600 bike fits and every one of them was different!

It must be really satisfying when a rider experiences improvements in performance down to your own adjustments, Is there a particular story or fitting that stands out?

It never gets dull. The human body is amazing and we are all so different. Especially when it comes to doing something we weren’t really designed to do…riding a bike!I love a challenge and some individuals need more attention than others. Some have medical / physical problems and it’s hugely satisfying to find a way around that.One story that does stand out was a young girl who suffered from a chronic pain condition meaning she couldn’t ride outside but loved Zwift. She knew all her numbers as a result and was over the moon with a 43% average power increase by the time we’d finished. Her opponents however… not so much….

Do you still get time to focus on your own riding as much these days, what events/goals do you have lined up?

After my experience in the music industry I made a promise that if the job prevented me from riding and enjoying it I would stop working in cycling. So far, so good. I have a coach who provides plans and I ride 5-6 times a week. I’m not fast but I enjoy distance riding. London to Gibraltar started that and last year the length of Portugal where Proper Cycling Holidays is based.I’m looking for a new goal at the moment. I think I’d like to get faster…. at least I could then keep up with the N+1 team… on their recovery days at least!

We recently joined you out in Portugal for an incredible weeks cycling, What made you choose Portugal as a base for the experience and service you’ve put together?

That was a great week, I’m still impressed by the team’s performance. I’ve been riding in Portugal for around 14 years as I have family there. I just love it. Smooth roads, great scenery, amazing people and most of all, It’s so quiet. It’s like a secret cycling paradise that I really want to share with others. Hence, we built Casa Karibu specifically designed around cyclists.

With the bike industry being notoriously difficult to survive in these days, What would you say is the secret to your success?

I think survival is the new success at the moment. It’s tough out there and not just in cycling. Being realistic is important. If you want to make a fortune then it’s a tough industry. If you want a good lifestyle job then it’s perfect. I think treating it as a service industry rather than a retail one works for us in the UK. You can’t buy a service, coffee and cake or a bike fit online…. yet!

It seems like you’ve turned your hand to so much already but what’s the next adventure?

Good question, I think this year will be spent getting the holidays side of the business more established and setting up Proper Bike Fitting in Portugal. Maybe another cycle cafe out there too but I intend to take that slow and steady.

What do you find most challenging about running bespoke tours, aside from not being able to ride yourself all the time?

Not being able to ride all the time is a challenge but there are worse places for a turbo session than on  the terrace overlooking the hills. The biggest challenge is the language. I’m learning Portuguese but it’s unbelievably hard especially when so many of the locals speak English. It’s always amusing when a local approaches the group speaking Portuguese and everyones looking at me to respond!

How often do the missing the pasteis de nata going missing?

All the time if I get there first…. 😉

Images courtesy of Breakaway Digital