When Ben Johnson was three years old, his family went on holiday to Noosa. His father, Neil, fell in love with the place and decided to move the family there from Melbourne.
When they arrived just two weeks later, Neil bought the cheapest business in town, which happened to be a bicycle shop. Before then, the former cabinet-maker knew nothing about bikes or cycling, but it didn’t take long before he was head-over-heels with that world too.
Johnson grew up riding with his dad and eventually moved to Europe to pursue a professional racing career in Italy, Spain and France. Then in 2013, his dad had a bad accident and broke his shoulder. Johnson moved home and got the idea to start his own bike brand.
That idea came to fruition just before Christmas, when he opened Johnson Bikes and an attached cafe, Rouleur Espresso, on Victoria Street in Abbotsford. “Cycling and coffee culture go hand-in-hand,” he says. “We wanted to segregate the coffee shop but also integrate it at the same time.”
Johnson did the design and build himself, with the help of his dad and a friend from Noosa. Their goal was to find the perfect balance between bike shop and cafe: lycra certainly isn’t mandatory.
The sleek, black-tiled bike shop is located in the heritage-listed shopfront. Walk through to the building’s former carport and you’ll find a plant-filled, white-tiled covered courtyard, where communal tables are laden with cycling magazines and Tour de France coffee-table books.
The two shops are divided by folding windows. Bar stools face into the workshop, so you can watch flat-tyre repairs from behind a flat white. In a first for Melbourne, the coffee comes from Flying West Coffee Roasters in Noosa – owned by another mate of Johnson’s. It’s espresso only, pulled through a La Marzocco.
Everything on the menu is $12.50 or less, with the exception of the $16 smashed avo. There’s chia pudding, granola, pastries, house-made cakes and a few toasties. The corned beef number with sauerkraut, provolone, housemade pickles and chipotle mayo is good for any cyclists counting their macronutrients.
Johnson says he’s stoked the majority of customers are non-cyclists, ready to be converted: “People have come in for their coffees and said, ‘I should’ve ridden my bike.’”
511 Victoria Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9429 0813
Hours: Tue to Sun 7am–2pm