Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category

Seasonally Challenged?

The air is cool and full of the damp smell of decay. I’ve spent the morning digging through my basement in search of the sock bin that’s been snubbed for the last four months in favour of sandals. In my humble opinion, the best time of year has finally arrived. It’s fall and along with all of the fabulous smells and sights comes the best time for getting outside.

Don’t let the cooler wet weather keep you and the family inside. With the right gear and clothing, the “off-season” out-of-doors has so much to offer. Pumpkins and apple pies, a couple of wheels rolling over crunchy colourful leaves, evening thunderstorms and early morning misty paddles, these are a few of my favourite things. It’s time to triple up friends with a base layer, mid-layer and wind/rain jacket combo. These will keep you covered from the cold break of dawn through the warm sun breaking through in the afternoon and then back again. Light gloves and a cute hat are invaluable for keeping in the cosy and take up almost no room in your pack or pockets, so be sure to bring some along on your adventures.

Whatever your excursion of choice, be prepared with the right gear. Whether running, cycling, or just walking the dog, remember that night is coming sooner these days and even your commute home could get a little dark. Bring your lights and reflectors and make sure that you can be seen. Staying out overnight? Bring a tarp, a cozy sleeping bag and a full-fly tent and be prepared to fix hot meals and drinks to keep up your comfort level and your spirits.

Now that you’re ready for the weather, get out there and enjoy the changing seasons. And don’t forget to find those socks…you’re gonna need them.

A Modern Gift of the Maji

Here’s a new version of the Maji story to help get in the holiday spirit. A big thank you to O.Henry for the wonderful original. Enjoy!

photo by Amy Sly @


There once was a couple, so madly in love that the light that shone from their eyes for each other was too bright for outsiders to look upon. While they were rich in bliss, they were decidedly poor in funds. They shacked up together in a shabby bachelor flat on the bad side of town. To save money, they cooked modest meals for two and shared them by candlelight. It boosted the ambiance as well as the pocketbook. And they entertained themselves by exploring the city by bike. Their bicycles while simple, strengthened their bodies and minds, but most importantly their bond.

There was not a single day that their humble steeds remained chained to the rusted gate out front of the apartment. No, the bikes carried them to all of their favourite places. The market ten blocks down, the library three streets over, all of the best parks, and of course they often found themselves resting out front of the coffee shop where the young lady fashioned the most flawless foamy coffees in town. The faded paint and rusty chains didn’t bother the pair. In their eyes, the bikes were beautiful.

The young man, who delivered parcels and letters by bicycle, often worked from very early in the morning. Businessmen needed their important documents before the day got rolling. And he often worked until very late in the evening. People all over the city found themselves in various tight situations; needing deliveries long after the postal service had parked their vans for the night. Deep into the month of December, daylight was at a premium. Our young fellow found himself in some close calls. He hadn’t any lights for his bike, and while he knew that he was putting himself in danger, he simply couldn’t afford to remedy the problem. This troubled his girl. If anything happened to her partner, she surely couldn’t live without him.

As the first snowflakes of the season began to fall, the city was divided into two camps, those who greeted the snow with excitement, and those who faced it with dread. Our couple fell into the latter. The flakes brought chills to the young lady for more reasons than the cold reach of their fingers. You see, our girl knew that the tires on her ride were on their last tread. They were closer to slicks than studs and her commute was becoming perilous. This fact hadn’t escaped the young man. He worried that the streetcar tracks were conspiring to swallow his lady whole. When he let his mind go there, he feared that she might slip away. The holiday countdown was on and as the days light grew shorter, so did our couples hope of collecting the means to procure the gifts they knew the other wanted, and in truth desperately needed.

While pedalling through the market one day, our lady found herself in front of the local used bike shop and inspiration struck. The only parts on her bike worth a dime were the rims on her old beater. They were pretty enough for the label “vintage”, while the rest of the bike might at best be designated old. And so with only the slightest hesitation, she stripped the pieces and took them inside. On the helpful advice of the resident tech, she traded them in for a strong and reliable light-set. With her treasure bundled into her coat and a smile on her lips, she set off for the long walk home.

Cozied in bed under the serape blanket that the couple had unearthed at the thrift shop, she carefully wrapped the lights in a kitchen towel. Emotions swayed between the excitement of providing her love with a brilliant gift, the pride of keeping him safe, and the fear that he might be upset with her. How would they ride the streets together now? How would they visit their beloved spots? Would their connection somehow be weakened? With bated breath, she watched the clock and waited for her love to return home and when she heard his footsteps begin their ascent up the four flights, her heartbeat quickened. Before long, the door opened and the young man stepped through.

Our lady greeted him with a shy smile and hesitantly handed the parcel over. As the towel fell to the floor, she hurriedly explained that she’d traded her rims for the lights and that there was no need to worry. “I can walk to work”, she explained. “I don’t mind. And we can go for strolls in the park and you can fetch our groceries any time of day or night with your beautiful new lights!” The puzzled look dropped from the boy’s face and was replaced with a pale blank stare. Her eyes pleaded with him for the assurance that everything was okay and her fear jolted him back. He apologized for scaring her and sheepishly produced a parcel of his own from the hallway. She peeled back the cardboard to expose a thick and strong set of new studded tires. Amazement turned to defeat as she remembered that her rims had a new home. But how had her boy afforded these she wondered, as he wrapped her in his arms. He guided her to the window and all was revealed as she peered down to the street and saw the young man’s ride a few parts shy itself.

Fear not for all ends well. From the ashes of two remains, a single phoenix arose. A hybrid of two loves married into a single more graceful incarnation. This story is one of selflessness, impulsiveness and love. And if you see two happy lovers exploring the side streets of town perched atop a single bicycle of shabby parts and shiny tires, a bright beam lighting their way, know that those who give all of themselves are truly wise and blessed.

photo courtesy of

Fit By Numbers

Fitting a bike helmet is one of those things that we all feel we can do well enough.  This however, is completely untrue.  All day long one can see examples of poorly fitted helmets pedalling past.  Most often it is perched too high, or is sitting too far back.  At Bikefest Toronto this year, we were lucky enough to have a trained professional from the organization ThinkFirst, fit Zach with a new helmet.

Have you heard of the 2-4-1 rule?  Here’s how it goes…

TWO – hold your first and second fingers together and place them just above your eyebrow.  This is where your helmet should sit.

helmet fit - two

FOUR – make two V’s with your first and second fingers.  Place the V’s starting under your ears, your fingers flat along either side.  This is where the straps should sit.  They should not run over your ears.

helmet fit - four

ONE – place one finger under the chin strap.  Tighten the strap so that no more than that one finger can fit underneath.

helmet fit - one

Easy peasy, right?  I think it goes without saying the size of the helmet itself should also fit.  They can be purchased in different sizes and are somewhat adjustable with thicker or thinner padding.  Some have a dial in the back that when turned adjusts an internal band.  The helmet shouldn’t be able to rock back and forth and shouldn’t slide to the front or back.   It can only save your noggin if you put it on, so WEAR IT.  Go forth, ride on!

Bike Rodeo Roundup – Bikefest 2011

Wow!  What a venue for this years Bikefest.  The Distillery District is absolutely gorgeous and served as a wonderful backdrop to the festivities.  The rain held off and the conditions were ideal for a good old-fashioned block party.  Tonnes of shiny, happy people and shinier, happier bikes.

Instructors, techs, reps and attendees were in high spirits and fun was had by all.  The workshops were well attended and a special shout out to Bicycle Commons and Bike Sauce who I think must have recruited every bike tech in the city to come out and provide free service and minor repairs. 

I was also blessed with the best cappuccino I have ever had the pleasure of consuming thanks to our proximity to the incomparable coffee shop, Balzac’s.  To top it all off, there was live music courtesy of the Toronto Jazz Festival.  What a day.  Thank you to everyone, and we’ll see you next year.

Bikefest in Toronto’s Distillery District

Bikefest 2010

An exciting day for the Toronto cycling community is coming up tomorrow.  It’s Bikefest, a family cycling festival being held in the Distillery District at Parliament and Mill St.  Rain or shine, all festivities including clinics, free-rides and demos will run from 11am-5:30pm.

There are so many things happening tomorrow, I can’t possibly list them all.  I would be remiss not to mention that proceeds from the event are being donated to the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation, and that our friends at Bicycle Commons along with Bike Sauce will be offering free basic bike repair and tune-ups.  There will be free safety and helmet checks by Thinkfirst! and bike valet parking by Toronto Cyclists Union.  Don’t miss the booths by local bicycle retailers and free bike demos.

Although registration for clinics has closed, any available spaces can be filled free of charge on site and there are plenty of free activities.  There is so much to do, come on down and enjoy the day!

a few words of advice and a little push

a few words of advice and a little push

literally the first independant pedal...and freedom

literally the first independent pedal...and freedom

On a personal note, last years Bikefest was a special day for Zach.  Lets just say that Zach was a “late-bloomer” when it came to cycling.  I’m no master instructor, and I had been unable to shed light on how to conquer the much desired two-wheeler.  Our collective efforts had produced nothing but a whole lot of frustration.  My wrench had gotten quite a workout removing and reinstalling training wheels over the years.  Luke got on a two-wheeler when he was barely three and never looked back.  No instruction required.  I was baffled.  Fast forward to Bikefest 2010.  We brought Zach’s bike and there was an instructor from a local bike training school.  I promise, no word of a lie, he gave Zachy one piece of sage advice and wouldn’t you know it, Zach took off riding.  He marched his bike straight over to one of the bike techs (thanks Shuaib) and had his training wheels removed for the last time.  By the end of the day, he was riding the bmx ramps!

Bikefest is a welcoming, friendly place to learn new skills and meet like-minded people.  For some though, it is so much more.  For some it is a place where a new world of freedom, independence and pride opens its doors.

Uphill Both Ways

I’m starting to sound like my parents.  I hear myself telling stories about “when I was a kid…”.  The truth is that I really didn’t spend much time inside the house.  I lived on my green banana-seat bicycle.   As much as I nag my kids to get outside, my parents were on my case about coming home every once in a while!   There’s got to be a happy medium.  Our children need to get more exercise for their health and well-being and we all need to spend more quality time together.

bike love

Our little urban urchins don’t seem to have as many options as we did.  Our streets are so much more dangerous than they used to be.  I’m not referring to crime here, I’m referring to traffic.  There are so many cars on the road.  Not just cars, but SUV’s and minivans…big,  heavy bone crunching vehicles.  What to do then?  Don’t corral them within your property perimeters…teach them where and how to ride safely.

Yes, this post is about cycling in the big city.  I know, I know.  This has nothing to do with the backcountry.  My blog, my prerogative…lol!  Seriously though, cycling is such an important part of childhood.  At least it should be.  Maybe you left your cycling days long behind you, having graduated to a car on your sixteenth and never looked back.  It would do us all some good to make riding a regular part of our routine.

zach bike ramp

zach just had to be the first to ride the ramp

Do as I say, not as I do.  I rode to work and back everyday when I lived in Vancouver.  When we were moving back to Toronto, we left almost everything behind.  I left my bike to one of the kids that lived in our housing co-op.  I told him to be safe, have fun, and take good care of my baby.  I walked away and never looked back.  I feel guilty, not just for leaving my bike behind, but for leaving cycling behind too.  Toronto riding scares me.  Plain and simple.  I’m going to face my fears and pick it back up again this summer.  I need to do it for me, and I need to do it for my kids.

Here’s the big plan.  I’m going to partner up with some of my bike fanatic friends and get them to go riding with me.  I’m going to take advantage of bike clinics in and around the city.  There are PLENTY of them.  Ones that teach riding skills, ones that teach maintenance and some just plain teach how to enjoy yourself!  I’m proud to say that my son Luke is a good influence on me.  He loves his bike.  He loves the freedom and independence that it affords him.  He and his gang of friends ride the roads around our urban home.  Tomorrow he’s taking his love of bikes one step further.  He is going to volunteer at an event being held in the downtown core.  He is going to help out a fabulous organization called The Bicycle Commons.

daddy gives zach a helping hand

The Bicycle Commons is a non-profit that helps train inner city youth in the art of bicycle repair and maintenance (bike tech’s).  They provide them with marketable skills, affordable transportation (each tech in training works on a bike they eventually get to keep along with a helmet, lights and lock)  and set them up for success.  BC holds free bicycle clinics all over the city.  It seems like every weekend they are represented at one (or MORE) community gathering or another.  That is just the tip of the iceberg.  You really need to check them out online or in person.  You can’t help but be inspired! Luke will be volunteering at the free community bicycle clinic at the St. James Town Festival at the Wellesley Community Centre here in Toronto.  It runs from 10:00am – 4:00pm Saturday June 4th, 2011.  I’m thrilled at the opportunity for him to learn practical lessons from such a great organization, but also for the opportunity to learn about giving back to the community.  It’s just feel good all around.

lukey bails but keeps on smiling!

Luke and Bicycle Commons have a lot to teach us.  Reach out, help out and share your passions with others.

To wrap up, here is a quote from the Bicycle Commons Facebook page:

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. H.G. Wells (1866-1946)

Well said.  Kids on bikes grow into adults on bikes.  Now let’s make it so.

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