Look Mum No Hands

Look Mum No Hands is the place where coffee and bikes combine – resulting in one of London’s most visible communities for bike enthusiasts.  

Text: Silje Strømmen
Photos: Mari Oshaug

When Lewin Chalkley, Matthew Harper and Sam Humpheson decided to open what would become Look Mum No Hands, they never intended on creating the brand that is today recognised as one of the original cycling cafes. All they wanted was a place to drink beer, have a bite to eat, talk about cycling and watch the Tour de France.

“We never realised how successful Look Mum No Hands would be as a brand. We never talked about it and we never realized that we had one. We knew that we needed a name for our space and much like finding the name for your band it took a lot of time. Luckily, Sam came up with Look Mum No Hands and we went with it”, Lewin says.

“The name is perfect for us. It is accessible, inclusive, open to anybody and you can identify with that phrase and that feeling. It works. And the name it is also about fun. A lot of other cycling brands look at cycling as suffering and stuff, and they forget that it is fun as well”, he continues.

Today you can buy everything from cycling kits, caps, water bottles and espresso cups with “Look Mum No Hands” written on them. Since 2010, the brand has become one of the most visible signs of the growth in London cycling over the past six years.

“We realised pretty quickly that London needed a place like this, because when we opened the doors people just started walking in. We got a lot of support from the London cycling community. Instantly people wanted to do product launches, book launches, talks, discussions, events and film screenings. We realised that London needed a place to do this stuff”, Lewin says.

If you spend a morning at Look Mum No Hands, eating scrambled eggs and drinking coffee, you’ll spot parents with their buggies wanting a pastry and a coffee, freelancers huddled over their Macs, a couple of regulars, someone popping in with a bike that needs a fix and a group of lycra-wearing cyclists getting their daily dose of caffeine before a ride. “Like the best pubs, we have a healthy mix of people. When we first opened, people were really positive and amazingly embraced what we were about. I always say this, but they also added to what we got. We provided the space, but I think people have contributed to LMNH by bringing in their ideas, events and products.”

And they have. A packed program of exhibitions, film screenings, live cyclesport and even cycle speed dating ensure that LMNH is always buzzing with all the different elements of London’s cycle culture. They’ve also hosted knitting groups, club meetings and bike jumbles.

“You want to come back, especially when you know everything going on here. And I think the atmosphere is the key thing. I like the fact that you can be eating your scrambled eggs on toast at the same time as you are getting your bike fixed.”

As Look Mum No Hands has been around for longer than most cycling cafes in London, Lewin and his colleagues have had front row seats to watch the development of London as a cycling city.

“I remember when we were working on opening this place; it would be like a mini peloton outside. The traffic light would turn green and cyclists would just go off. That number has doubled now. It is quite amazing to see just how many cyclists there are on the roads in London during rush hour now.”

Now they hope to see even more people getting on their bikes.

“We need more cyclists on the roads, we need more change in the infrastructure and we do need a change in attitude. The bad attitude of motorists towards cyclists is part of the British attitude. It is going to take a lot of time to change that. So I hope the development of the cycling culture in London will continue to go in the direction it has been going.”

Without a doubt, places like Look Mum No Hands will continue to showcase the many joys of cycling and contribute to the recruiting of new cyclists on London roads.