a weekend fueled by friends

Thanks to:
...Kyle for sending me lightly used tires [from L.A.] when I told him a giant hole in one of mine [and being close to broke] was keeping me from doing long rides...

...Rob for reminding me [around this time last year, actually] that cassettes and chains are actually silver, not black, and that bikes should always be kept clean...

...Deej for email-kicking my ass to go out and do the Onekan route again [me: I don't think I have the legs to do it...what to doooo? Deej: You have the legs.]...

...and the first-ever drive-through Starbucks I've seen in Tokyo for being located at the perfect point on my now-favorite route. And for being across the street from the Sanrio headquarters.

Hope you guys all got some riding in this past weekend!

coffee excursions: little nap coffee stand

When Kyle told me he was coming for a visit last month [it’s been nearly a month, since!], he remained stubbornly vague about his past year in L.A. A good thing, maybe, because between bike shop visits, sushi, and burgers [yes, we did all three in the same day], we also had our fair share of coffee to sip. And stories – especially with friends – is always better over something slightly less than scorching and abundantly well-caffeinated.

And while I was supposed to [mostly] guide the way, Kyle came prepared with a recommendation via his girlfriend; a casual mention of a tiny café tucked away on the far side of Yoyogi park. We walked there on Kyle’s third day here, and found a simple exterior with a door handle wrapped in bar wrap. And much like the girl with an awesome sense of style and quiet charisma that you inexplicably find attractively inviting, I liked it already. I wanted to like it more as I slid open the door. But even I was surprised when, inside the small space complete with worn wooden floors and counters and touches of retro Americana, Little Nap Coffee Stand served up possibly the best Americano I’ve tasted in Tokyo.

The minute attention to detail at Little Nap Coffee Stand – though not unusual for smaller businesses in Tokyo – is distinctive due to its subtlety. A selection of baked goods neatly lined the counter beside the usual extras [simple syrup, sugar, etc.], primped and waiting patiently for hungrier customers. Straws were displayed in a vintage plastic container, a large world map and retro stickers playing up the comfortably worn vibe. Our beverages were served in cups that were attractive in their simplicity; the slightly mismatched furniture adding further to the café’s charm.

We swapped life news [as all friends should over coffee] at the front counter facing the street in the otherwise empty space. A young couple drove up, a small child tucked into the backseat, and upon seeing us at the window, waved hello. The reception was unusual and I glanced for a second in quick panic at Kyle before recalling that this was normal behavior in all great coffee shops. They came through the door with happy smiles as if we all hadn’t seen each other in too long and we sipped our coffee, smiled, waved, and said hello to their small daughter.
It was an awesome start to the day.

coffee excursions: bear pond espresso

In an unassuming spot by Shimokitazawa station, you can find a rare thing: exceptional espresso.
Urged to go to Bear Pond Espresso by Dave S. at Ride.Studio.Cafe, and jonesying for some good espresso, I jumped on the Odakyu subway line to get a taste. The space is small but cozy, with worn wood counters and a stylishly stark interior. A white La Marzocco machine perches on the counter, behind which hang single serving French press pots. The menu is simple, but delicious.

Photos can’t be taken inside, so you’ll have to content yourself with a shot of what remained of my cold brew as I walked back to the subway station. I had an espresso before that; a bright shot with echoes of Stumptown’s Hairbender, although Bear Pond roasts [and sells] their own.
A few bags of beans might just be delivered into the hands of some lucky friends in a few weeks. Until then, feel free to vicariously indulge…

coffee excursions: café de l'ambre

Outings, rides, and bitch-fests all require good coffee: a big steaming cup of black coffee – hold all the extras – or a great Americano. For the past few years, I’d taken the existence of meticulously obsessed coffee shops within walking and riding distance, completely for granted.
But a move to Tokyo presented not just the question of where in the world I should ride, but also where to find those coffee shops where you’ll want to linger, return, and order one more for the road. My coffee experience in Tokyo being a big, fat zero, I turned to Google and stumbled upon Café de l’Ambre. A coffee shop that only offers coffee? It sounded right up my alley.


Nestled in Ginza, it’s a small unassuming coffee shop conveniently located near my Dad’s office building. But it wasn’t the location that drew me; rather, it was the fact that Café de l’Ambre offers pourover coffee from aged beans [some from as far back as the 1970s]. A concept I’d never seen or head of before, and with a father willing to shell out over $8 for a cup of coffee, I sought out my first cup of vintage coffee.



I unfortunately couldn’t get a seat at the bar, near the action, but was offered a seat at a table with built in ashtrays. I glanced at the menu I’d obsessed over via the Internet, wished for a second I had a cigarette [in a long cigarette holder...perhaps with a vintage dress], and ordered a medium pourover of straight/single-origin coffee. The coffee? A 1982 Kivu.


Presented in a cup the size of an espresso cup, a “medium” size got me about 50ml of liquid. Initially, there was a sense that I wasn’t getting what I/my Dad paid for; that this could be grossly overrated. But this cup packed a lot of flavor; moderately acidic with notes of berries, it’s a bright-tasting coffee that I wish I could afford on the regular. But intensely brewed, that small cup left me feeling like a wired squirrel and I almost bounced out of the shop [in heels, so this is saying a lot] without noticing the small roasting set-up out front.



My father grabbed me a card before we left, ready to take on Ginza and the oppressive summer heat. It’s no RSC, true, but Café de l’Ambre, I’ll be back.