It’s hard to imagine a better sport for the social distancing era
. One rider astride two large wheels, ensuring no one else comes too close, with plenty of wind to keep the fresh air circulating.
Is it any wonder the popularity of bicycle riding and sales exploded in 2020? The city is gearing up for that trend to continue this year, with a further expansion of on-street bike lanes and weekend closures of major roads near the most popular recreational trails under the ActiveTO program.
But why wait for the summer heat and the crowds it attracts? Here are five great cycling adventures in the GTA you can enjoy in the months ahead.
Nature in the city circuit: The Don Valley
The recreational trails along the Don River Valley are some of Toronto’s most popular, and with good reason: they are well-developed and expansive, with beautiful rolling scenery. The valley forms the city’s backbone, with many great creeks and ravines feeding into it. While the excellent main trails do get busy on weekends, try some of the secondary routes, such as the Moore Park ravine or the eastward route along Taylor Creek Park. The valley infrastructure is being consistently improved. The recently reopened East Don Trail, which winds eastward from the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, includes three new bridges. The route will form part of the Meadoway, a massive undertaking to link the trails of the Don River to the Rouge, at the city’s eastern border.
: Keep an eye out for the many excellent art installations along the route.
: The less developed Rouge Valley Trail in Markham is also a great ride.
The mud circuit: Kelso Conservation Area
This spectacular park on the Niagara Escarpment is one of southern Ontario’s best-known destinations for mountain biking enthusiasts, and it hosts a weekly race in the summertime (still to be confirmed for 2021). There are more than 30 kilometres of trails that accommodate all skill levels. Note: this year you need to book your time slot for “Kelso summit” in advance at parkvisit.ca. Adult tickets are $6.50, kids $5.
: Kelso’s got fine hiking, swimming and camping too.
: Try mountain biking at Albion Hills, which is expected to open when the snow and mud clear.
The daredevil circuit: Sunnyside Bike Park
Nestled between the Gardiner Expressway and Sunnyside Beach, this park makes superb use of its small footprint, delivering all sorts of mounds, ramps and zigzagging wooden courses on which to hone your off-roading skills. There are activities here to suit all skill levels and ages, with colour-coded signage to warn you before attempting a stunt that may be out of your league. Don’t forget the protective equipment.
: The park is situated conveniently close to High Park and the scenic Humber River and Martin Goodman trails.
: The Wallace Emerson BMX Park at Dufferin and Dupont streets is a less busy dirt bike facility with fewer bells and whistles.
The easy family ride: Caledon Trailway
Following an old rail path, this long, mostly flat trail is the perfect place to take the family or see if your relationship can withstand the cooperation required for a tandem bike. You’ll ride over wooden footbridges, past farms, through forests, marshlands and beaver dams in this 34-km trail that connects villages including Terra Cotta and Cheltenham (both of which have parks worth exploring).
: The trailway forms one wee part of the cross-Canada Great Trail, which means you’ve only got another 24,000 kms to go.
: Toronto’s popular, nine-kilometre Beltline Trail similarly follows a defunct rail route and links to Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
The urban explorer circuit: Explore the bike lanes
No bike? No problem! There remains a serious inventory shortfall at bicycle shops around the GTA, owing to the incredibly high demand and lower than usual supply. That’s where Toronto’s Bike Share network can come in handy. Download the app so you can see bike availability at every dock along your route. A 24-hour pass is only $7, as long as you return your ride every half hour (before undocking another bike). Suggested route: From Bloor Street and Riverside Avenue (at the Humber River) all the way east to Danforth Avenue and Victoria Park This route traverses some of Toronto’s newest bike lanes, along Bloor and Danforth, with ample opportunities to take side trips along the way.
: Try to snag one of the network’s speedy e-bikes, which add a battery-powered kick to your pedal pushing.
Ariel Teplitsky Special to wheels.ca