Café, workshop, beloved bike space: Why Look Mum No Hands! mattered

For me and thousands more, this pioneering London venue was more than a café and workshop: it was a social hub and a home-from-home.

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Look Mum No Hands! may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.

Located down a grubby high street between the hipster enclave of Shoreditch and the creative hub of Farringdon, the iconic Old Street venue came to be a lot more than just a café and workshop.

Whether it was pre-ride coffee, post-race beers, or an alternative night out, Lmnh! had your back.

For me and thousands more, it was a social center and daily ritual, a ground-breaking multi-purpose venue that became a home-for-home.

But as the proverb goes, all good things come to an end.

“Like everyone in hospitality, the past three years have been very difficult for us and although we did our best to survive, we’ve come to the end of our time on Old Street,” read a statement Wednesday from the Lmnh! founders.

Look Mum No Hands! influenced a lot more than just those that visited for its punchy flat whites, robust signature pies, and brilliant bike servicing.

Opened in 2010 – perfectly positioned at the start of Britain’s Olympic-Wiggins-inspired bike boom ­– it was at the vanguard of the café-workshop craze that soon swept the globe.

What Lmnh! started 13 years ago – at a time when a “flat white” needed explanation and avocado-toast seemed exotic – cafés copy-pasted for the following decade.

Hailed as one of the first bike-centric coffeebars in the world, “Look Mum” soon became an inspiration for entrepreneurial bike geeks from the U.S. through Thailand, Australia, and back.

Lmnh! screened all the big bike races way before GCN made live streams so accessible. Photo: Lmnh!

But Lmnh! represented more than an industry trend.

It was a De Facto HQ for the burgeoning London fixed gear scene, a makeshift creative space for local freelancers and digital nomads, and a venue for book readings, bike-race screenings, and everything in between.

For me and thousands of others, it was a default space where things got done.

The post on the Lmnh! Instagram account this week that broke the café’s end is already pushing at 6,000 “likes,” and the list of comments is long.

London-born WorldTour pro Tao Geoghegan Hart, Brompton Bicycles, and retired racer and mediaman Matt Stephens are among those expressing a shared sense of grief at the loss of a cultural icon.

“The three of us were fed up with our jobs at the time and wanted to be excited to come to work, the business achieved this and so much more,” said co-founder Sam Humpheson.

“I think we showed that bikes and cycling are inherently fun and friendly, as well as being a practical solution to many of our problems such as climate, congestion and health. We set out to not take ourselves too seriously, be friendly and inclusive, and above all to have fun.”

The array of “loaner locks” available to riders arriving at an unplanned pit stop said it all.

Lmnh! was welcoming to whoever rolled in, whatever they were wearing, and whatever they were doing. It brought disparate demographics bonded by a love of good coffee and bike-geekery into one shared space.

Look Mum No Hands! Photo: Helena Exquis
Lmnh! served locally roasted coffee at a time when flat whites were new and hip. Photo: Helena Exquis

But like so many independent venues – whether concert halls, theaters, or bike shops – COVID hit hard, and the ripples of changing post-pandemic habits pulled the brakes on the venue’s long, brilliant ride.

“When we started in 2010 we didn’t have much of a plan. Sometimes it’s best to just get on your bike and start pedalling. The best rides are not really about the destination but the things you see, the snacks you eat, and the friends you make along the way,” read the note on social media this week.

“Is this the end? We’re not sure, keep an eye on our socials and perhaps we’ll be back once we’ve had a breather.”

Look Mum No Hands! might never come back.

But it will never be forgotten, either by those it served or the businesses it inspired.

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