THE INS & OUTS OF BIKING IN TORONTO
Story by Jacquie Clancy
Illustration by Madison van Rijn
Brittany McLeod lives and works in Toronto and her preferred method of transportation has quickly become her bike. Not only is it good to add a little extra exercise into her day, but choosing two wheels instead of four eliminates a lot of car-related gas emissions and helps keep the city green!
According to McLeod, the biggest appeal of biking rather than taking public transit, a cab or walking is “the speed I’m able to get around the city. I seem to always be rushing out the door constantly five minutes late for everything, and being able to hop on my bike and get anywhere I need to be in about 25 minutes is way more reliable (especially on weekday mornings) than waiting for the crowded streetcar.”
Cycle Solutions is a popular cycling business comprised of everything from clothing and gear to servicing. Their E-comm store/website manager, John Fornasier, is a great supporter of city cycling and says, “I love preaching about the physical and mental wellness and joy a bike can bring to anyone who rides one. I really enjoy my job because I love what I pedal!”
Although there are a lot of positives that come along with biking around the city, there are also safety concerns that can be a challenge to both new and experienced cyclists. As McLeod explains, “the biggest challenges are definitely streetcar tracks and dodging bad drivers who aren’t from the city.”
Fornasier agrees. A self-proclaimed “avid cyclist/commuter for over 27 years”, Fornasier goes everywhere with his bike and has a lot of expertise regarding bike safety. “We really push rider and bike safety [at Cycle Solutions] to all of our customers but especially to our customers who may be new to the sport or new to using their bikes as a means of alternate transportation/commuting,” he explains.
According to Fornasier, some of the tips that Cycle Solutions makes sure to pass along to their customers “include always wearing a proper bike helmet, investing in and installing front and rear flashing lights for when riding between dusk and dawn, having a working bell on your handlebars at all times and investing in a good quality bike lock to protect your investment in a city notorious for bike theft.”
It’s important to remember, though, that equipment isn’t all you need to have a safe ride. “Planning your route is key,” explains McLeod. “Knowing which streets have bike lanes in your area is important to limiting your time on hectic, and often non-bike-friendly, roads. [Most importantly], never get comfortable with riding downtown. The moment people transition to the ‘comfort zone’ when riding on busy roads is when they stop being aware of their surroundings…. Being alert on a bike is your responsibility as a rider; take it as seriously as you take would take driving a car.”
In addition to being a responsible rider, you also need to take care of your bike. Like any other transportation vehicle, bikes need maintenance and repairs. As Fornasier explains, Cycle Solutions is one of the many places in the city that can help you out with the upkeep of your bike. “Proper bike maintenance is the key to hassle-free biking and commuting. Our service departments are extremely busy all season long as we have some of the best bike mechanics in the city and offer very affordable service on any bikes that customer bring into the shop. Also, all of the bikes that we sell come with a two-year free service program. I like to call it two years of hassle-free riding!”
After recently upgrading her older bike for a new Trek model, McLeod will definitely be keeping her new ride in tip-top condition. “I’m in love”, she says of her new wheels. “The biggest appeal is that it has more than one speed, which really comes in handy for my uphill commute.”
McLeod isn’t the only cyclist in the city upgrading her ride, the new trend being hybrid road bikes. “It seems like the hybrid road bikes are all around the city this year. They look similar to the professional road bike with slim and nimble features but upgraded on the style side,” says McLeod.
Now that the weather is nicer, and bikes become a common mode of transportation, remember to keep cycling safety tips in mind. The experts at Cycle Solutions, or any of the other great bike shops around the city, are there to help you. At Cycle Solutions, Fornasier notes that “all of our staff are passionate about bikes and feel strongly that all of our customers, be it the weekend warriors, week-day commuters…or the seasoned experts, are the reason why we are in business, and have been for the last 14 years.”