Inside / Out at Musette Bicycles and Coffee in Bordeaux, France

After six months of traveling the world–sans bicycles–Gideon Tsang and his partner Christie touched down in Bordeaux, France. With a full month’s stay ahead of them in the southwestern French city, the couple scooped up two 80s flat-bar “road bikes” for commuting and almost immediately fell in with the wonderful community-centered Musette Bicycles and Coffee. Read on below for Gideon’s insightful shop visit and interview with co-owner Rob Lawrence…

Picture this: my very first day of riding in Bordeaux. I had a package to ship, and wouldn’t you know it, just as I stepped out of the Airbnb, the heavens open up and rain poured down. But, you know what? I didn’t care. I was stoked to feel those cobblestone streets under my tires, hear the gears shifting, and feel the wind hitting my face. Then, pedaling along, I spotted a bike shop out of the corner of my eye. Three blocks down the road, rain coming down, I made a U-turn—there was something about that shop that just grabbed my attention. I had to check it out.

I parked my Gitane outside and walked into the shop, water dripping off me like crazy. Right there in the window was a Ritchey hardtail. And as I stepped inside, that familiar aroma hit me – a mix of espresso, bike grease, and fresh tires. As soon as I laid eyes on the standard wall-covered-in-gravel-bikes-and-camping-gear, I knew I’d found my shop.

Rob Lawrence, one of the owners, began talking to me in French at first. I quickly apologized for not understanding, and he smoothly switched to English, adding a touch of his Southern twang. (Come to find out, he hails from Kentucky.)

We got into a conversation about bike camping, handmade bicycles, and trusty steel frames. I’d finally found my tribe. Then, he mentioned that the Tour de France was rolling into town the following day. To my delight, (and turns out, typical Rob fashion) he extended an invitation to join his crew on the roadside. Our plan? Sip on some cold beers, hang out for a couple of hours, and catch the peloton whizzing by in a mere 30 seconds.

And to top it off, it happened to be Rob’s birthday that very day. So, naturally, we all headed back to the shop and kicked off a celebration that lasted well into the late hours of the night.

My cycling buddies usually boil down to whether I’d have a blast bike camping alongside them. So, to all the folks out there, if you’re on the hunt for a similar gem in France, allow me to present to you the amazing Musette Bicycles and Coffee, nestled right in the charming city of Bordeaux, through my conversation with Rob:

Now, Rob, I’m eager to hear more about this shop of yours. What’s the scoop?

Chris and I are the owners of Musette Bicycles and Coffee, located in Bordeaux, France (a two-hour train ride from Paris).

We were introduced by a mutual friend, and it turned out that Chris shared a similar interest in launching a bike cafe. He had already been crafting a business plan. The fact that Chris hails from England added an extra layer of convenience once we both agreed to team up for the bike cafe venture.

When did you open up shop, and could you give us a glimpse of the shop’s atmosphere?

Musette made its debut back in 2017. Our forte lies in providing a range of gravel, touring, and bike packing bicycles, with a particular emphasis on crafting them from steel and titanium. Additionally, we proudly feature cargo bikes from Omnium and Bullitt, recognizing them as the top-tier options perfectly suited for the demands of everyday life in Bordeaux.

Tim, one of Musette’s mechanics, utilizes the Omnium ‘Mini-max’ – a versatile workhorse capable of transporting everything, even couches. The cafe aspect has provided Chris and me with the opportunity to orchestrate group rides, bike packing events, workshops, and celebrations over the past six years. We share a passion for quality coffee, fine beer, and enjoyable bike rides, effectively creating a personal haven for indulging in these pleasures. Running a small enterprise in a foreign language and land has indeed been both fulfilling and humbling.

I remember the shop felt immediately like home for me with the kinds of people I like to ride bikes with. Do you host events as well?

Musette organizes regular events like our Rando Mollo (Chill Trek), which is a weekend of cycle-camping for anyone with a bike, or the Nocturno Mollo (our monthly relaxed night ride), and our annual big bike packing weekend with the great folks over at Brother Cycles: Brother in the Wild Bordeaux.

Rob’s Brother Cycles, known as ‘Big Bro,’ has been a well-traveled workhorse, journeying from Patagonia to various corners of Europe. Remarkably, it’s the only bike he’s ever sold and then reacquired.

In the coming year, I’m gearing up to relocate to France, and naturally, I have a bit of a self-serving motive: to encourage pals to join us on our cycling adventures. If anyone’s intrigued, how can they reach out?

Given that we’re a bilingual bike shop, we often welcome bike enthusiasts passing by for coffee and repairs. Should you find yourself in the vicinity, don’t hesitate to look us up. We boast an abundance of information about cycling in France, and if you’re bike-less, we’ve got some available for rent too.

A customer passing through Bordeaux on a solo 3,000 km trip from Berlin to Santiago de Compostela.

Naya grabbed a cup of tea waiting for her phone to charge. She is in the midst of a solo 900km trip from Beziers to St.Gilles Croix de Vie.

So, being from Kentucky, how did you find your way into the cycling scene here in Europe?

After completing my studies in Philosophy at University, I found myself in Prague, mainly because of a few factors. One notable reason was the allure that had been brewing within me for years, thanks to reading works by Franz Kafka and catching License to Kill featuring Timothy Dalton as James Bond.

What was the cycling landscape like back then in Prague?

During my time in Prague, it seemed that the only folks pedaling around the city were the messengers. They tackled the streets on hardtail mountain bikes, a wise choice considering the cobblestones, hilly terrain, tram lines, and even snow, all of which posed quite a challenge for cycling. I eventually acquired a mountain bike after my move and took great pleasure in exploring the local trails.

By the way, that stunning Soviet-era track bike you were riding recently really caught my eye. Where did you come across that gem?

One day, while I was on the tram, I spotted a fellow cruising on a fixie. Without a second thought, I hopped off the tram and swiftly pursued him. I reckon he must have thought I was quite a sight, but I couldn’t contain my astonishment at encountering another individual pedaling a fixed gear bike in Prague. Patrik, as it turned out, shared the same level of excitement at meeting a fellow track bike enthusiast. That marked the beginning of a strong friendship between us.

Over time, the fixie culture began to take root in Prague. We gradually started acquiring frames sourced from old Soviet-Era velodromes and teamed them up with hubs. These sought-after combos found their way to other members of the cycling community, contributing to the growing fixie movement in the city.

Our first alley cat in Prague, circa 2008; Riding the abandoned Soviet-era Velodromes, also circa 2008

It’s quite evident that the bike polo scene is flourishing in Bordeaux. What’s your involvement with that community?

My connection with bike polo goes back to 2005 when I attended the Bicycle Film Festival in London. It was there that I witnessed the exhilarating game for the very first time. Inspired by what I saw, I was determined to introduce bike polo to Prague. Alongside a fellow enthusiast, Spencer, who hailed from NYC and had prior experience with Bike Polo, we kick-started Prague Bike Polo in no time. Our team, Praha Pistola, was born.

Fast forward to 2010, as I arrived in Bordeaux. My search for the local fixed gear community led me to the delightful discovery that bike polo was also part of the mix. Although the polo scene in Bordeaux was still in its infancy, I teamed up with my friend Guillaume, another avid player, to establish the club. Our mission was clear: organize tournaments and scout for a permanent playing venue. Eventually, we found our spot within an abandoned army barracks, where we fashioned two courts. Today, one of those courts continues to serve the club. Interestingly, this entire army base has been remarkably transformed into an eclectic hub called Darwin, encompassing co-working spaces, a brewery, a skatepark, and event areas. It’s an absolute must-visit if you happen to find yourself in Bordeaux.

The first Bordeaux open bike polo tournament in 2011; Rob’s team: Impossiboys at the European Squad Championships, circa 2017

Darwin gave me an immediate sense of belonging. It’s akin to what Austin felt like a decade ago, in all the finest ways. Now, how did you transition from the world of Bike Polo to launching Musette?

My familiarity with bicycles was solid, and the concept of a Bike Cafe had been percolating in my mind ever since I laid eyes on the renowned Look Mum No Hands bike cafe in London around 2009. It just felt like the perfect path to pursue. And that’s when Chris entered the picture.

I’m well aware of the immense effort required to launch and maintain a shop. It has truly been a joy riding alongside and immersing myself in the vibrant Bordeaux cycling community. How about we set our sights on organizing some thrilling bikepacking escapades next year?

I’m genuinely enthusiastic about that idea. This region boasts an abundance of fantastic cycling routes, and we’re itching to unveil its beauty to fellow enthusiasts from across the globe!

For those interested in collaborating with you for bikepacking or touring ventures, what’s the most effective way to reach out?

Just give us a shout and make sure to keep tabs on our journey through Instagram!

Thanks to Rob and everyone at and around Musette during our stay. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of this amazing community soon…