The term comes to mind today because I just experienced about the worst case of Cafe Legs I have ever had. In use you might hear something like, “Dude, I can’t stop at the Pastry Peddler again. Last time we did that I got wicked Cafe Legs. Man, I almost had to crawl up Prison Hill.” …This statement is purely in jest, of course. One can always …in fact, should always stop at the Pastry Peddler regardless of how bad the ensuing Cafe Legs will feel.
I love this term. Like so much dry humour, it has its origins in England where cafe stops were a regular part of cycling long before there were decent cafes to stop at in Canada. Oh yeah, they also spoke English. I reckon that the Italians might say, Gambas Caffes and the Spanish might say, Piernas Cafes. Funny, those terms never quite caught on. Nope, for probably the first and only time in the history of language, the English has got more charm, a fine ring. In fact, I like to think that on a Sunday afternoon in the Pyrenees you might just hear a passing cyclist call, “Esperame, Josef. Tengo muchas Cafe Legs!”
This is the way it goes. You ride. Feeling great as you punch into the wind and over hills, all of a sudden you are overcome by the desire to celebrate with a stop at a charming little village (or Mac’s Milk). Honestly, this can happen to you anywhere. Stop you do. Eat. Drink some coffee, go for a pee. Back on the bike …BAM… What the hell just happened? The legs that felt so good are suddenly gone to jello. Weak as a kitten, you start to question your ability and commitment to cycling (seems drawn out, but this process only takes about 12 seconds). Cafe Legs have struck.
Cafe Legs usually pass in a few minutes but if you are the only one in your group suffering then these few minutes can be pure hell.
Nobody knows the physiology of the syndrome …actually, I am sure this is well studied. Let’s face it, I don’t know the physiology of the syndrome. Basically, you ride, then you stop. It can be any stop. Maybe a cafe, maybe to fix a puncture. When you restart it feels like hell. All you need to know is that when you see a friend/rival grovelling after a brief stop it is time to turns the screws. It might be the best chance you ever have to put the poor Cafe Legged rival on the ropes.