With more than 80km of designated cycling routes, Richmond is the perfect place for a bike ride and a post-ride hangout and chat over coffee. But there’s one place in particular that caters to the cycling crowd.

Sanctuary Cafe is just a wheel-turn or two from London Landing’s Fraser River shoreline. It first opened its doors in May 2018—and began warmly welcoming fans of both cycling and great neighbourhood coffee shops.

Sign outside the Sanctuary Cafe
Sanctuary Cafe, where coffee and cycling culture combine. | Photo: John Lee

Civilized Cycling

“There are bike-friendly cafes in many countries and it just made sense to me to open one here,” says owner Tim Lee, an avid cyclist who has pedalled on roads and routes throughout the world. “We wanted it to be the perfect marriage of coffee and cycling.”

Building on the long-established link between biking and coffee—“Many riders won't set out until they know where their next coffee stop is,” says Lee—Sanctuary’s cozy, wood-floored interior has some fantastic cycle-themed features.

Tim Lee of Sanctuary Cafe
Owner Tim Lee behind the counter. | Photo: John Lee

Beneath a ‘chandelier’ made from bike wheels, the walls are adorned with framed pedals and racing photos as well as colourful race shirts, shiny bike frames, and even full bicycles on prominent display—including a mint condition 1979 Raleigh bike from the UK that’s mounted like an artwork on one wall.

But the cafe isn’t simply a clubhouse for steely-calved bike nuts. Describing himself as a fan of “civilized cycling,” Lee points to a quote painted on the wall behind the counter: Go Fast Enough to Get There, But Slow Enough To See.

Sanctuary Cafe
There’s a mint-condition 1979 Raleigh displayed on one wall. | Photo: John Lee

Tasty Ingredients

Slowing down, in fact, is the overarching ethos at Sanctuary—and it’s a hurry-free approach that appeals to both cyclists and non-cyclists. “We’re inviting you to bring your friends and hangout over good coffee and conversation in a comfortable setting,” says Lee, pointing to cozy non-biking features such as an antique church pew and a well-used communal table that was fashioned from salvaged BC barn wood.

They’re the kind of unique coffee shop inclusions regular customers love—whether or not they’re cyclists. And Sanctuary, says Lee, has worked hard to create a convivial space that welcomes everyone. “I think most coffee shops miss the mark on connecting to their community, but that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do,” he says, adding that his staff routinely takes the time to chat with customers.

The local focus also extends to the menu. Sanctuary Cafe changes its coffee supplier every few months but always chooses BC artisan roasters such as Agro from Vancouver or Rooftop from Fernie. Additional products are also regionally sourced, including craft sodas from Victoria, savoury pastries from Vancouver’s Aussie Pie Guy, and sweet treats including cookies and muffins from nearby bakeries (tip: don't miss the cinnamon buns).

Ride & Run Collective

But while non-cyclists have fully embraced Sanctuary, the region’s bike fraternity is also delighted to have a coffee shop that welcomes and understands them. The cafe’s busy bulletin board announces upcoming races, gatherings, and bikes for sale; while two additional special features highlight a hub-like commitment to the area’s cycling community.

One corner of the cafe has individual wall-mounted bike racks, so you can bring your wheels inside while you sip your coffee—rather than nervously watching it through a window. And every Thursday, Sanctuary organizes drop-in group rides on one of three routes—including a regular ride out to Iona Beach Regional Park. Up to 40km long and taking around two hours, these weekly rides are aimed at experienced road cyclists. Don’t fancy biking? There’s also an organized run on Tuesdays. Check the schedule here.

Bottom line

After celebrating Sanctuary’s first anniversary this spring, Lee says he’s delighted that both cyclists and non-cyclists continue to discover his cafe. But he also notes that it took him a while to figure out exactly what it means to be a true community establishment. One of his regular customers, he says, helped him see the light, albeit in a deeply poignant way.

“Carl used to come in here between cancer treatments. It was always great to see him and know that his treatment was going well. One time he came and gave me a poem he’d written. It was the last time he visited.”

A simple yet affecting portrait of what Lee’s neighbourhood cafe means to its regulars, the poem is now framed on a wall near the counter. Lee later discovered that Carl Leggo was a writing professor and nationally renowned poet. “I didn't exactly know what this place was until I read Carl’s poem,” he says slowly and thoughtfully, before turning to serve another customer with a friendly smile.

If you go:

Sanctuary Cafe is located at #160 - 13020 No. 2 Road in Richmond’s London Landing area. A 30-minute walk or 10-minute bike ride east of Steveston Village, it’s open from 7:00am to 6:00pm Tuesday to Friday and from 8:00am to 5:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sanctuary Cafe
Tim working his magic behind the counter. | Photo: John Lee