August 18, 2014

The Community Side of Cycling

There are various types of communities out there covering ethnic, political, business, and activity based interests. For cyclists, there are different organizations involved (e.g. Cycle Toronto, Share The Road, Toronto Bicycling Network) and different types of cycling (e.g. mountain, road, commuter), but the feel of being part of a community is present amongst all. This summer, I took part in two events which emphasized this community feel; those being the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and Bike Rave.

Ride to Conquer Cancer (June 7-8, 2014)

While it was not my first charity ride (that honour goes to the 2013 Becel Ride for Heart), the Ride to Conquer Cancer was the longest ride I ever did. It’s a two day, 216 km ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls, in which 5,200 riders raised $20 million for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation this year. Each rider is required to raise $2,500, which is considered high for a charity ride.[1] Not only is the commitment required for fundraising, but also for training, in which six months is recommended including spin classes during the winter. This past winter was the first time I took spin classes, which were done at Spinout Cycle in Liberty Village. While I had the mishap of pulling a muscle on the first class, I was fine with other classes until I switched to outdoor training in late March.
The Ride itself was well organized. Riders could check in online once they raised $2,500, including making tent and shuttle bus arrangements. While bicycles could be dropped off the night before Ride Day 1, the starting line was close to my building so I rode over along with the camping gear, which they brought over to camp (and the finish line). A catered breakfast was waiting for riders at the starting line and food was provided along the route via pit stops (every 20 – 30 km), boxed lunches (near each day’s halfway mark), and catered dinner and beverages (including alcoholic) at the end of each day. At the opening ceremonies, several passionate speeches were given with serious background music, though there was a Freudian slip during the surgeon’s safety talk that cracked up riders. Instead of saying “no riding erratically,” the surgeon said “no riding erotically!”
As the ride started, I noticed some riders had yellow flags to signify they were cancer survivors, as well as others who had props such as flamingos and monkeys on their helmets. Supporters could be seen cheering riders on and the route was clearly marked. On Day 1, there was a downed power line early on that held up riders briefly and a challenging long hill in Hamilton before arriving at Mohawk College for camp. Day 2 was mostly flat terrain and offered the best views including overlooking Hamilton from the Escarpment (picture below), wine country, and Niagara Falls at the finish. Day 2 also saw a road in Beamsville which was so pothole-ridden it resembled a war zone. Many riders (myself included) had flat tires there, but it was a humbling experience when 3-4 other riders came by to help. 20 minutes later and I was up and running again to finish the ride.
While it was an unforgettable experience, I will likely skip a year before doing it again, given the fundraising requirement. If you are interested in doing the ride in 2015, go to

Bike Rave (August 9, 2014)

Another popular type of bike event is critical mass, where a large number of cyclists occupy public streets. I took part in a few such rides before including Bells on Bloor, Lansdowne Phantom Bike Lane Ride, and the “Coldest Day of the Year” Ride. The Bike Rave stood out, in which 500 – 600 cyclists decorated their bikes with glow sticks and lights. The ride was accompanied by sound systems with a particular playlist and stopped at several parks where riders could dance the night away. Along the route, some riders will cordon off streets to ensure cyclists’ safety. While it was cool, I’m not sure if I would want to visit High Park at night again, given the poor lighting there.
Speaking of critical mass rides, Bikestock (Bells on Bloor, Bells on Yonge, and Bells on Danforth) will be on September 14 with a rally at Toronto City Hall for October’s municipal election. You can go to to learn more.

Final Thoughts

Charity rides, critical mass, and other functions make it clear the cycling community is one where riders support each other. No need to be a pro racer with a $6,000 Cervelo. Almost any bike will do to take part in these experiences.

Ride safe!
Rob Z (e-mail)


[1] For comparison, the Ride for Heart’s requirement is $100 and several other charity rides require less than $1,000.

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