Prepare yourself – and your bike – for the cycling season
It’s a sure sign of spring when the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, and you have an irresistible urge to hop on your bike and go for a ride.
That is, if you have two wheels at home. Sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic and there are still shortages of bikes, with no signs of slowing demand. In Quebec alone, 950,000 bicycles were sold in 2020 compared to the usual 600,000 purchased the previous year.
In Toronto, cycling has become one of the most popular activities due to repeated closures. It offered people the opportunity to get out of their house, condo or apartment and enjoy the fresh air and cycle through the city’s network of bike paths and parks.
If you’re ready to start 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 plan that was the last time they would ride, and then the frost comes and six months has passed,” Pete Lilly of Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop told Bloordale Village, which has been in business for over 25 years.
He recommends that you have your bike tuned every year. “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 cracks or bald spots. Did they lose air? If so, it could mean that you need a new inner tube for the wheel. Next, take 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 little finger. If they’re well worn, it’s time to buy some new ones,” Lilly said.
Finally, Lilly said you should get on your bike to see how it moves. You want to be able to feel how it works and listen for any noises or squeaks. If you’re not sure why something pops up when you’re pedaling, the problem might be beyond your level of knowledge. “That’s when you have to take it to a store to have it looked at,” Lilly said.
If you want to learn how to repair and maintain your bike, check to see if your local bike shop or community center offers classes or pop-up events. Markham Cycles in Markham is offering free DIY bike repair programs at the Milliken Mills Community Center until mid-June, and at Evergreen Brickworks, the Gateway Bicycle Hub has workshop space where staff and volunteers are available to help you.
Lilly said if you own an e-bike, you’ll want to have it serviced more than once a year because they’re heavier than regular bikes and people ride them faster and for longer distances. Due to the variety of batteries and parts used, you should find a cycle shop authorized to work on your brand of e-bike.
And 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 foam in helmets can dry out, expand and contract due to weather conditions.” Even a small impact, like a helmet falling off a shelf, can cause damage, he said.
Did you know?
- Self-service bike repair stops are available at 29 TTC metro stations around the city. You’ll 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 marked with a bicycle icon on the TTC website.
- Toronto has bike lockers for rent to the public so you can protect your bike from theft or vandalism, as well as weather. There are 19 locations across the city at various destinations, including TTC and GO subway stations. There are also four bicycle parking stations, including Union Station, Nathan Phillips Square, Victoria Park and Finch West Station. The one at Union Station even includes restrooms, changing rooms, showers, and free towels.
- Looking for places to cycle or trying to plan your route to visit friends? You can find a map of the network at toronto.ca. It details bike lanes (protected lanes where there is a physical barrier between you and vehicles), quiet street routes (roads with light traffic or that pass through quiet residential areas), and multi-use paths.
Things to try
We asked Ry Shissler of Cycling Toronto, an advocacy group working to make Toronto a better city for biking, to share some recommendations for the best trails.
Etobicoke Creek Trail: This leisurely trail follows Etobicoke Creek from Highway 401 north to Ponytrail Drive south, passing through parts of Brampton and Mississauga.
Don Valley Trail and Martin Goodman Trail: It’s a great choice for beginners or families looking for a relaxed pace. The Martin Goodman Trail stretches 56 kilometers along the waterfront while the Don Valley Trail follows the Don River from Lake Ontario to East York.
City bike: A number of new bike lanes have been approved for installation by the city, making Toronto even more bike-friendly. These include Wellington Street, Bathurst Street to Blue Jays Way, and the Queensway, Humber Bridge to Burma Drive. “We hope the city will reach its goal of 100 kilometers of new bike lanes by the end of 2024,” Shissler said.