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Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

With recent articles talking about cuts on transit funding by the Province and an increasing delay in travel times for commuters I can’t stress enough the importance in diversing our transportation network. We have discovered, yet again, that private automobile use is plauged with issues of congestion and it’s easy to understand why – supply and demand. The more cars on the road (which is the result of an increasing population both in the City and from our neighbouring suburbs) means increased demand for the supply of roads we have, which is not growing since we can’t sprout roads in a dense city like Toronto. Increasing demand, short supply, congestion. Unless we find a way to increase the number of roads on our city streets (double-deckered roads? But then again their is the issue of induced demand) or drastically change demand for roads there is only one viable solution to this: increase supply of complementary goods.

In economics, complementary goods are similar products/services that can be used in replace of an existing good, for example: if the supply of apples cannot meet demand the supply of pears can help satisfy the demand to achieve equilibrium. In the case of commuter demands, we need to invest in complementary goods such as transit and cycling infrastructure. It may sound crazy to some pro-car-anti-cycling folks out there but more bikes mean less cars. How does work? Well let’s look at a bike lane such as the one on Harbord Street. Harbord is a minor arterial with two lanes of traffic. Not one. Two. The left lane is a vehicular lane and the right lane is a bike lane. If, for example, at an intersection there are five cars in the left lane and five bicycles in the right lane. That means if the bike lane did not exist and the cyclists chose to drive instead that intersection would have 10 cars waiting. Now, that may seem like a small number but when there are thousands of cyclists in Toronto that’s a LOT of cars off the streets contributing to congestion.

Though it has been established by countless studies as well as proven examples across North America and Europe that increasing cycling infrastructure can help congestion there are still many critics out there. Yes, a family of four cannot ride their bikes from their home in the inner-suburbs to downtown Toronto or an elederly man cannot bike from his home in the Beaches to Little Italy but the point is not to transition all drivers into cyclists (though that would be dandy). The purpose of increasing cycling infrastructure is to provide viable options for commuters in deciding their modal type. In providing options of walking, biking, taking transit, or driving we diversify how people travel: More transit riders, less cars. More cyclists and walkers, less cars. Less cars, safer streets. Safer streets, more cyclists and walkers. Etc.

And don’t worry about those bike lanes being under-utilized, Mr. Rossi, they are being used. Unlike cars, bikes don’t have the issue of being held up at intersections so there is never a backed-up bike lane like there is a backed-up street. Also, don’t forget the adage if you build it they will come as increasing the supply of bike lanes will induce demand for it, a study conducted by Ipsos Reid supports this, “up to 40% of recreational cyclists could be motivated to cycle to work or school regularly, half of whom would do so if biking to work/school were safer than it is now.”



Posted: March 30th, 2010
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Filed under: Transportation Issues
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The ABCs of your bike

Before you leave the house you check to see if the iron is off and you lock the door.

Before you go to work you check to see if you have your wallet and you’re wearing pants.

But before you go ride your bike do you check to see if your tires are inflated properly and that your brakes are in working order?

A pre-ride check only takes a quick 5 minutes but can save you even more time in the event of an emergency such as a flat tire or a broken shifter cable but it’s something a lot of us don’t normally do. So here is my quick tutorial, known as the ABCs, on how to do a quick pre-ride check on your bike (did I mention this is quick?).

A is for Air and tires:

The sidewall of your tires indicate the recommended air pressure (in PSI or Pounds per Square Inch) to ride your tires with. If they are too low you run the risk of getting a pinch flat, if they are too high the inner tube may not be able to hold the pressure before popping. Routinely check that your pressure is adequate and to the recommended PSI (A cheap tire pressure gauge from Canadian Tire or a bike pump with a pressure gauge is a must for this). Do a quick check on your tires to see if there are any bulges, wear or embedded objects in your tires as any of these can result in a flat. If you see any of these things try to re-inflate the tire, boot your tire or replace it, you may need to take your bike in to a shop if you do not know how.

Inner tube bulging out of the tire bead; deflate your tire and fix this ASAP!

B is for Brakes and cables:

Having functioning brakes is very important for safety so make sure your brakes engage properly. Squeeze your levers and feel the brakes stopping your wheels, if they don’t you should check why (it may be a case of a loose/broken cable, worn out pads or improperly set up brake pads). Ensure your pads are lined up with your rims and that they have not passed the wear indicator line. If they have you should replace them immediately. If you have some extra time to spare, routinely clear any gunk build up on your brake pads by sanding it down a bit with sandpaper.

Wear indicator line; if the line is gone replace the pads to increase stopping power

C is for Chain and drive train:

A gunky, kinked or rusty chain can slow down your pedalling efficiency and cause excess wear on your drive train. Lubricating your bike frequently can help keep your chain happy (avoid using WD40 since it leaves your chain dry). For best results, clean your chain, gears, chain rings and derailleurs with degreaser then lubricate.

A rusty bike is an unhappy bike

Check your derailleurs (if you have any) to see that they shift properly and that the cables are not frayed or rusting. Sluggish shifting or damaged cables are a sign that you may need to take it into a shop for repairs.

So for a quick recap:
-Check tires for damage and adequate tire pressure
-Make sure your brakes work and your pads aren’t worn or misaligned
-Check for good shifting and keep your chain oiled up

For easy tips on how to check/fix a lot of these issues visit www.bicycletutor.com



Posted: March 28th, 2010
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Filed under: How to
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A sign of the times

You know something is mainstream when it’s being sold in Walmart:

Some bike bloggers on the intertubes are going crazy about Walmarts new bike, the Mongoose Cachet. Though Walmart is quite ambiguous about the specs of the bike one look at it clearly indicates that it is the big-box attempt at entering the fixed-gear/single-speed world of cycling. It’s heavy, it’s cheap, it’s got no-name componentry, and it probably comes in only one size but this is still big news in my books. From a anti-big box consumer’s perspective I think this is pretty funny that Walmart is trying to reach out to this niche crowd, but from a cyclist’s perspective there is a lot of potential with this bike.

Most new commuters I see don’t jump into the bike scene with a hybrid or a cute Dutch bike, rather they are toting around heavy-than-needed too-much-suspension mountain bike that they purchased at a big box store like Walmart. They aren’t practical and the components are of poor quality since they need to cut corners in quality to make it affordable. This bike can change all that. Now, new commuters have a chance of owning a bike free of uneccessary extras like dual-suspension or super heavy frames. This bike could have a lot of potential as a commuter as its single speed drive train is easier to maintain than a multi-geared bike and it’s chunky 700c wheels are much better for city streets over knobby mountain bike tires (it also looks like the wheels are 48 spoke? If so that could mean a practically bomb-proof wheelset). I can’t wait to see these in Canada.



Posted: March 27th, 2010
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Filed under: Review
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Help a cyclist win his dream wedding

Meet Dan and his fiancee, Katherine.

Several months ago Dan was involved in a hit and run while on his bike and spent months in ICU in a coma with punctured lungs, head trauma, multiple broken bones, and dependent on life support, he teetered between life and death.

Having spent their engagement in the hospital they are hoping to win the ultimate wedding contest and celebrate with everyone who supported them through their past few months.

I’ve never met Dan but I certainly would like to help him and so can you. All you have to do is vote for their story here: http://www.ultimateweddingcontest.com/entries/39384?sort=playlist
I hope they win their ultimate wedding!



Posted: March 22nd, 2010
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Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Beater Bikes Review

As much fun as it is riding a carbon fibre road bike or a full suspension mountain bike they just aren’t practical for riding in the city with its poor road conditions, theft and inclement weather which can do a number on our bikes. We also need a few things such as fenders, a rack or even reflectors on our ride just to make our commute bearable. Sure there are bikes out there designed for commuting but with prices starting at $500 it may be steep for many potential first time buyers or cyclists. Sure they beat department store bikes in terms of quality and performance but the price tag also makes them targets for bike theft.

Enter the Beater Bike.

Weighing in at $325CND (After tax) this bike is designed to be your bar hopping, wet weather, grocery getting, everyday commuter. There’s a men’s and women’s model and and each one comes ready with an all steel frame, 6-speeds, fenders, chain guard, kick stand, rear rack, and reflectors. Both the wheels and seat post use a solid axle bolt rather than quick release skewers to deter theft as well. Inspired by the commuter bikes of Europe, this no-frills bike is pretty enough to ride but not attractive enough for thieves to eye. Other nice features include 700c wheels rather than 26″ mountain bike wheels, giving you more options for street tyres and better speed as well as V-brakes rather for better stopping power. For anyone who’s interested, the frames have horizontal dropouts in case you’re thinking of turning this into a single-speed/fixed gear/coaster brake/3-speed bike.

However, there are a few draw backs to the bike. The bike only has 1 chain ring up front and 6 gears on the rear which may not be ideal for people who have to commute over hilly terrain. I personally don’t mind since I’ve been riding a single speed for ages now.

Another drawback is the bottom bracket which uses the old school style adjustable-cup-and-cone rather than sealed cartridge bearings. It’ll do the job, but over time the bearings will be exposed to the weather and will need to be regreased.

Beater Bikes aren’t comparable to high end bikes…but that’s the point, they’re meant to be beaten around on your daily commute. I’m already seeing some of these on the street and I’m hoping to see more. For more information visit: www.beaterbikes.ca

Post Script: This was written a year ago and since then I’ve seen a number of them on the street and I even had a chance to ride one and darn are they fun to ride. I love how they are ready to ride without having to dish out extra cash to get the bike commute ready and it seems like many others love them too.



Posted: March 19th, 2010
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Filed under: Review
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Track Cycling!

This is actually a mix of 2 posts from my blog: www.bikeroo.blogspot.com

Good news, spring is in full swing and so is cycling in TO.

Bad news, winter is just around the corner.

Winter here in Toronto with its snow, slush and bitter cold forces many cyclists into hibernation from as early as November until as late as March. For many, this means losing that toned butt and superb stamina they developed over the summer, but it doesn’t have to end there. Imagine being able to keep cycling during the winter in an environment free of potholes, red lights, head winds and angry motorists. The Forest City Velodrome provides a unique cycling experience as riders can ride on an indoor cycling track capable of reaching speeds in excess of 60km/hr. Located 2-hours outside of Toronto in London it has been open for cyclists since 2005 and is one of only 4 existing in Canada. it is maintained by the Forest City Velodrome Association, a not-for-profit organization of passionate volunteers.

Special bikes, known as track bikes, are used to ride on the velodrome. These bikes have only 1 gear ratio which is ‘fixed’ to the wheel, this does not allow the rider to coast. These bikes also lack brakes and water bottle cages. These things aren’t necessary since everyone is going in the same direction and in a predictable manner without any obstacles in the way. Though riding on the track may be a bit scary at first it is actually a thrilling experience shared by cyclists of various ages and levels. The Forest City Velodrome is the shortest and steepest in the world and when you ride it feels like you’re on a human powered roller coaster. Beginners must go through training sessions to understand how to ride a track bike and how to ride on the track safely. The drills are as much fun as they are necessary to enjoy the track.

Aside from the thrill and the speed of track riding it also offers many benefits for cyclists of different styles/disciplines. Track bikes are great for improving pedal performance since the bike forces riders to constantly pedal, often at a high cadence. This helps smooth out pedaling technique and really kick the nasty habit of coasting. Workouts can also be done efficiently without having to stop or slow down for red lights or canceled due to bad weather.

Here are some other photos I took:



Posted: March 18th, 2010
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