It is a sure sign of spring when the trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and you have an irresistible urge to jump on your bike and go for a ride.
That is, if you have two wheels at home. Sales exploded through the pandemic and there continues to be shortages of bikes, with no sign of the demand slowing down. In Quebec alone, 950,000 bikes were sold in 2020 compared to the usual 600,000 purchased the previous year.
In Toronto, biking became one of the most popular activities through the repeated lockdowns. It offered people a chance to get out of their house, condo or apartment and enjoy the fresh air and cycle the city’s network of bike routes and parks.
If you’re ready to get pedaling again, this guide will help you prepare for the season.
Get a tune up
“Most riders park their bikes in the fall and don’t anticipate that it was their last time riding, then the frost comes, and six months have passed,” said Pete Lilly of Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop in Bloordale Village, which has been in business for more than 25 years.
He recommends you get you bike tune-up annually. “It’s like seeing a dentist. You brush your teeth every day, but you still see your dentist at least once a year.”
Lilly said you should start by looking at your bike’s tires. Check them for any cracks or bald spots. Have they lost air? If so, it might mean you need a new inner tube for the wheel. Next, have a look at the brake pads. “Even if you’re not a bike mechanic, you can look to see if the pad is the thickness of a pinky. If they’re well worn, it’s time for new ones,” Lilly said.
Finally, Lilly said you should hop on your bike to see how it’s shifting. You want to be able to feel how it is performing and also listen for any noises or squeaks. If you aren’t sure why something appears off while peddling, then the problem might be above your knowledge level. “That is when you need to bring it into a shop to have it looked at,” Lilly said.
If you want to learn how to fix and maintain your bike, check if your local cycle shop or community centre is offering classes or pop-up events. Markham Cycles in Markham is offering complimentary drop-in DIY bike repair programs at Milliken Mills Community Centre through mid-June, and at Evergreen Brickworks, the Gateway Bicycle Hub has a workshop space where staff and volunteers are available to help you out.
Lilly said if you own an e-bike, you will want to get it tuned up more than once a year as they are heavier than regular bikes and people ride them faster and for longer distances. Because of the variety of batteries and parts used, you should look for a cycle shop authorized to work on your brand of e-bike.
Last, don’t forget to check your helmet as part of your spring routine. It’s more important than your bike, said Lilly. “People assume a helmet is good forever, but the foam in helmets can dry out and expand and contract due to the weather.” Even a small impact, like a helmet falling off a shelf, can cause damage, he said.
Did you know?
Self-serve bike repair stops are available at 29 TTC subway stations around the city. At them you will find a bike pump, wrenches, Allen keys, screwdrivers and a wheel chock so you can do an emergency repair on the go. Subway stops with repair stations are noted with a bike icon on the TTC’s website.
Toronto has bike lockers for rent to the public so you can protect your bike from being stolen or vandalized, as well as from the weather. There are 19 locations across the city at various destinations, including TTC subway and GO stations. There are also four bicycle parking stations, including locations at Union Station, Nathan Phillips Square, Victoria Park and Finch West Station. The one at Union Station even features a washroom, change room, showers and complimentary towels.
Looking for places to cycle, or trying to plan your route to visit friends? You can find network map on toronto
.ca to help you map out your route. It details cycle tracks (protected lanes where there is a physical barrier between you and vehicles), quiet-street routes (roads with low traffic or that pass through quiet residential areas), and multi-use trails.
SUB: Trails to Try
We asked Ry Shissler of Cycling Toronto, an advocacy group that works toward making Toronto a better city for biking, to share some top trail recommendations.
- Etobicoke Creek Trail: This quiet trail runs alongside Etobicoke Creek from north of Highway 401 to Ponytrail Drive in the south, passing through parts of Brampton and Mississauga.
- Don Valley Trail and Martin Goodman Trail: These are a great pick for first time riders or families looking for a relaxed pace. The Martin Goodman Trail runs 56 kilometres along the waterfront while the Don Valley Trail follows the Don River from Lake Ontario to East York.
- City cycling: A number of new bikeways have been approved for installation by the city, making Toronto even more cyclist friendly. These include Wellington Street from Bathurst Street to Blue Jays Way, and the Queensway from the Humber Bridge to Burma Drive. “We’re hopeful the city will reach its target of 100 kilometres of new bike lanes by the end of 2024,” said Shissler.