See More Blogs | Login or Register to Start Your Own Blog
Main BikingToronto Page

The Night Rider

Last week’s clock rewind is yet another dead giveaway that winter approaches. And it’s turned many bike commuters into night riders

The basic trick to night riding is to see and be seen. Even on well-lit streets, darkness not only makes it more difficult to see, but also judge distances and direction, which means slower reaction times – for both drivers and riders.

Reflective helmet & clothing, rear light under seat, reflector and reflective tape on fender, reflective strips on pannier

Got Your Back?

In addition to the lights needed by law, a few simple additions to your bike will help drivers travelling in your direction spot and react to you a mile away:

Standard reflector – Many fenderless bikes don’t have rear reflectors, but try attaching one to your seat or bike frame.
Reflective Tape – Good old Canadian Tire or your local bike shop will have reflective tape for your bike and helmet
Reflective Strips – On clothing, panniers, helmets – anything. When buying any bike accessory that might be seen on the road, try to find one with reflective strips.
Armband – Armbands, visible from the back and front, help make your hand signals more visible
Safety Vest – Too cumbersome for many, the ultimate in nighttime visibility for others

Be Seen All around

Try to improve your visibility from all angles to help motorists approaching from the opposite direction or from other streets. Bright clothing is a good start.

Headlight, reflective tape on forks, reflector on rearview mirror

From the Front

Sometimes your headlight is all an oncoming drivers can see of you – and you’re competing with the headlights on the cars travelling in your direction.   Be seen and let ‘em know you’re coming down the road:

White front reflector – If you don’t have one, they’re usually reasonably priced packed together with a rear reflector.

Reflective tape – A couple bits, placed in the right spots, make a big difference.

Gloves – Day-glo or reflective gloves help you be seen and help drivers see your hand signals – read more on gloves for visibility at Duncan’s City Ride

From the Side

At night, especially during rush hour, many drivers approach intersections and simply scan each direction for headlights – not expecting to see a bicycle. Improving your visibility from the side will help you be seen by all cars in an intersection.

Wheel reflector, reflective tape on forks, headlight, reflective strips on panniers

Wheel reflectors – Made to be seen from the side, the motion of your wheels also helps wheel reflectors get noticed
Reflective tape – Yes, I know this is the third time I mentioned it – but it works really well all around your bike
Lights – You must have front and back lights anyway, choose ones that are visible from the side too

Remember, the darkness reduces your reaction times too. You’ll need to keep a closer watch for bumps and debris in the road. Quick glances over your shoulder are not as quick, the images in your rearview mirror not as easily identified.

Night riding takes a bit of adjustment, but it’s as much fun as riding at any other time of day.

Does anyone else have any tips on being seen at night?

(via fwd, photo via securiteroutiere)

Posted: November 17th, 2010
Filed under: Commuting
Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Hitting the Sauce on a Sunday

Is it true that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”?

I have straight, dark hair and a darkish complexion. My son has light, curly hair and is white like rice.  Our personalities are even further apart.

As a child he learned to ride early and we spent many incredibly amazing, stunningly wonderful days riding around town.  But as he got older, the riding days were fewer and, once he got his driver’s licence, they stopped.

If the apple doesn’t fall far, my children should be riding fiends.  I tried, but not even the Ride for Heart roused him.

Last weekend, as we picked what stays and what goes in preparation for him moving into university residence, he suddenly said “I wanna take my bike”.

I was in the garage before “…ike”.

I was met by two dead flat tires on an 18-speed Arashi mountain bike that hadn’t seen the road in two years.

No problem.  I figured I’d pump up the tires, add a drop of oil to the moving bits and tweak the brakes and gears – after 40 years of riding, that’s my entire repertoire of bike repairs.

As I made my way to the back derailleur, I noticed the back wheel moved from side to side.  But the nuts holding the wheel to the frame were tight.  It looked like the wheel was loose on the axle.


How do I tighten the axle?  YouTube had some helpful videos, and I went back out and wrenched the “locking nuts” tighter than shite.  No more looseness…but the wheel wouldn’t spin.  WTF.  Maybe it just needs a drop of oil.

Clearly I needed help and luckily I remembered BikeSauce.  The web site states that it’s a place where cyclists can fix their bikes for free, using BikeSauce’s tools and work areas, while volunteers are available to help those with small repair repertoires like mine.  There’s a lot more going on too with a wifi equipped “social hub” lounge and a fully stocked library/transportation advocacy centre.

After managing to get the wheel to spin, I thought I’d pop down to BikeSauce, check it out, and quickly get an educated opinion on the integrity of my repair.


It was way busier than I expected.  And way better.  Before I had a chance to get inside, someone greeted me, spun my wheel on its axle, told me it felt a little “crunchy” and set me up with a bike repair expert – Ben – who got me a wrench (I learned later it was a #15 cone wrench), a place to work, clearly told me what to do and left me to it.  Within 5 minutes of arriving, I was working on my wheel.

Without going into the full play-by-play of the entire visit, whenever I needed help I just sought out Ben who invariably stopped what he was doing to answer my question, help me or show me how.

By the end of my hour and a half at BikeSauce, I had handled the cone wrench, a chain whip, sprocket wrench and  truing stand; said “hey” to at least a dozen people and got help from three; removed, cleaned, replaced and greased all the ball bearings in the wheel and put  everything back together without finding mysterious extra bits.

Small repertoire no more.  Earlier this year someone told me my “headset” might need some work.  Then, I hadn’t a clue what he meant; now, I can’t wait to get back to BikeSauce to fix it.

BikeSauce is a great, welcoming place full of very nice people.  Visit.  Fix your bike. Donate. Enjoy.

Or check out the BikeSauce’s Biking Toronto blog.

Posted: August 31st, 2010
Filed under: Bike Repairs
Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Sharrow Hal

Either something’s happening, or it isn’t, but it’s been a heady couple weeks for Toronto’s one step forward, two steps back approach to becoming a more people-friendly city.

Witness the sharrow lanes on College Street, new pedestrian friendly zones, City Council’s approval of the BIXI public bicycle system, public toilets at Harbourfront and the tabling of the 3-foot bicycle passing law.

Photo by chewie2008~, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by chewie2008~, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Imagine if boneheadedness hadn’t scrapped the University Ave. bike lane trial.

But, is it just me or does it seem like we are hodge-podging our way through some cool initiatives without really committing to them.  Lots of good ideas, but not enough of any.  It’s like we’ve gone to the shopping mall of nifty urban planning ideas and picked up a few things.

- One public toilet
- 1,000 public bikes (Montreal started with 3,000)
- Sharrows on one street
- Two pedestrian friendly zones

List done, let’s get sushi.

Is it just the way we do things in Toronto?  Rarely bold, never leading, cautious in every step.

Or maybe it’s like what Lock wrote in a comment on BikingToronto’s Pedestrian Friendly Zones blog post, it’s baby steps. It’s better to have a seemingly unfocused, spread-shot approach to making the city more people friendly than to have none.

Except for the University bike lanes embarrassment, the recent news is all very good.

But doesn’t it feel like we’re being teased?

Posted: May 20th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized
Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

The Half Cycle Commute

If you’ve thought of commuting to work by bicycle, but figured it’s just too far, you’re probably right.

But that’s not an excuse to avoid it.

If we’re lucky, there’ll be a few times in our lives when we can justifiably say to ourselves “it doesn’t get any better than this – not for anyone, not even Diddy or The Queen.”
bicycle 2
For me, one of those times was a cycling commute.  From St. Clair & Warden to Lawrence & Leslie, I could ride almost all the way on trails beside Taylor-Massey Creek and Williket Creek.  In other words, a 13 km commute along a riverbank, through morning mists, over wooden bridges, past rabbits and snakes.  Every day. Twice.

Commutes don’t get better than that. And then it stopped.

I got a new job at Queen and Dufferin.  Double the distance and an earlier start time.  Not only was the constant riverbank gone, but distance and time meant I couldn’t ride to work at all.

Don’t know if someone gave me the idea or if it was desperation to find a way to ride, but it was then that I discovered the Half Cycle Commute.  I realized that if I drove half way to work and rode the rest of the way, I would get to work in a reasonable time and also get to ride.  So I put my bike in the back of the family minivan, parked at The Beach and rode along the Lakeshore trail into town.

Without getting into too much detail, my new commute took me across the Don River, past Harbourfront, through Confederation Park, in front of the Princes’ Gates, through the King West neighbourhood, past Dufflet Pastries, and onto Queen near The Drake.

Once I got familiar with the route, a thought struck me one day – commuting doesn’t get much better than this.

Hold the phone.

It wasn’t the riverbanks, tourist destinations or trendy neighbourhoods that made my commutes unbeatable.  It was that I was doing them by bike.

That was 2006 and since then I’ve changed jobs again and now the van is parked at a play field and I ride through north Scarborough and Markham – across seven lanes on Steeles and again at Hwy. 7 – and commutes don’t get much better than that.

Also since 2006, more buses are equipped with bike racks, there’s a Bike Station at Union Station and post & rings are popping up in suburban parks (like E.T. Seaton near Don Mills and the DVP) that make all kinds of half cycle commutes possible.

So if you live too far to ride your bike to work, you have no excuse not to.

Any other half cycle commute ideas out there?

My 1st Half Cycle Commute Cycle Route

My 1st Half Cycle Commute Cycle Route

Posted: May 13th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Two Problems, One Solution

JamSometimes when I’m in a car stuck in traffic, I often think of how bad the traffic jams are in Los Angeles and I’m glad that I don’t have to put up with them.  On visits to New York City, I wonder at how terrible it must be to get caught in their rush hours, with only so many ways to get on and off Manhattan.

So learning that Toronto’s commute times had grown worse than those in both New York and Los Angeles was a shock to my T.O. pride (our commute times are also worse than London, Chicago and – arrggghhh – Montréal.)

That pride took another hit when I read that Torontonians are less active than other Canadians.  A study shows that 57% of us over 12 years old are inactive during our leisure time (is blogging leisure time?)  And it looks like we’re getting more inactive, with an increase of six percentage points in the last 4 years.

According to the report, the most frequently cited barrier to activity is: lack of time.

So we have one of the longest commutes in the world, and we are the most inactive people in Canada (which means we’re in worse shape than people in – arrrggghhhh – Montréal.)

We spend more time in our cars and we have less time for physical activity.

Hold the phone!  What if we reduced our commuting time?  Then we’d have more time for physical activity!  Wow.

BicycleIf we had the $4 Billion for transit infrastructure that the provincial government has withheld, and met the 10-year-old goals of the Bike Plan, maybe we will start to get people out of their cars and onto public transit, their bicycles and other modes of transpo. New York City proved that if you build better bike lanes, they will be used.

Simply using public transit increases our activity exponentially – from walking five seconds to our car to walking five minutes to the bus.

Then we will have fewer cars on the road, which means buses, street cars and bikes will move faster, further reducing commute times and more people will be encouraged to use them and … OMG!  It’s an enviable upward spiral of faster commute times and improved physical fitness.

Hmmm, all we need to start is $4 billion that is already earmarked and to meet the 10 year old goals of the Bike Plan.

Oddly, despite the profound benefits of these initiatives, a lack of courage and leadership stifles them.

Fortunately, there are positive signs, like the approval (so far) of a Public Bicycle system for T.O..

Now we’ve almost caught up to – arrrgggghhhh – Montréal.

Posted: April 28th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized
Tags: , , | 8 Comments »

Do You Remember Your First?

Ever have a sight, sound or smell bring back a lost memory?  I love to check out bicycles as I walk or ride along, looking at the different brands, colours and types and thinking about the personalities who ride them.  Two weeks ago, one bike made me do a double-take.  It was something I hadn’t seen since about 1970.  Something I used to stare at for hours; that filled my chest with pride.  It was the near forgotten, but immediately familiar again logo of an Eaton’s Glider, soaring gull and all.  My first bike was a Glider.

Do you remember your first bike?Sturmey-Archer

Unlike the 3-speed model with the classic Sturmey-Archer thumb shifter that I saw the other week,  mine was a 23” coaster, but with similar fenders, seat and striping.

Shopping used to be so much easier before the internet.  In the days of catalogue shopping, to order a bike; you picked up the phone; dialed the Eaton’s order line (always answered – by a human); gave them a catalogue number and that weekend, when all your friends were about, the Eaton’s truck would appear on your street to deliver your new bike, assembled, to your door.

Or that’s how it should’ve happened.

The truth is that we took delivery of my green with white fenders Glider (I think the chrome fenders were a feature of the geared models) before the snow melted and its first weeks were spent propped against a basement wall.  That’s how I got so familiar with the gliding gull on the front badge – for weeks I could do little else than teeter on the bike and stare at the logo.

I know you’ve heard this a million times, but I really was always the last one picked for sports teams; couldn’t hit a ball, skate or run to save my life.  I was picked second-to-last once, when we played the pre-schoolers. With no budget for training wheels, prospects were dim for me learning to ride in a reasonable time.

Benny, a good friend of our family who is now in his 70s and still a very nifty guy, volunteered.  I started off ready for it to take hours, if not days. On my second pass I thought I was going a little fast for Ben to keep up and I turned slightly to check on him, but he wasn’t there.  I can’t remember ever learning anything, that previously seemed so daunting, so easily.  But being a quick learner has its downsides.  Unprepared for my early success, Benny hadn’t yet shown me how to stop.

I fell off the bike a lot that first summer. I got the nick-name Sergeant for all the band-aids that neatly lined my knees.

Life changed.  I fractioned my school commutes.  I didn’t have to run after my cycling friends to keep up.  And slamming the always reliable coaster brakes laid a patch a mile long.

GliderbadgeThe Glider was stolen twice.  Once from the side of our house, but the police quickly returned it. The second time, it was gone when I got out of my Cub Scout meeting.  After a long search, I made a late-night, non-stop run home from Lawrence to Ellesmere, crying all the way for the loss of my Glider.  I never saw it or the soaring gull again.

Until two weeks ago.

My research since shows the Eaton’s Glider to be a coveted classic on the local bike market.  But I haven’t seen a coaster.  Got any info?


Posted: April 20th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized
Tags: , , , | 13 Comments »

Here We Go

Thanks for checking out my new blog.

In thinking about starting the blog, I figured it should have some sort of direction or theme.  Since I recently turned 50, and there didn’t seem to be too much on the web for slightly used cyclists, I thought that might be an interesting angle – hence the name Cycling 50+.

But then I realized the age thing might alienate a lot of groovy young people and I definitely don’t want to exclude anyone.  So after lots of thinking about themes and angles and directions, in the end, this blog is about cycling.  (But I can’t think of a better name, so it stays for now – suggestions?)

We all hear about having a passion for something, like an activity or interest you enjoy deeply, in which you can lose yourself, lose your sense of time – and the doing of it is unquestionable, regardless of effort.

As I get older, I wonder if I ever really had a passion for anything.  I’ve had great jobs, but I always can’t wait to get out of the office.  When I travel, as much as I enjoy seeing new places, I can’t wait to get back home.

There are two activities in which I can become immersed, body and soul.  First, I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs and manipulating images.  The problem is that I’ll spend countless hours, lost to the world and focused, but still won’t be able to straighten my nose just right.

I think I have a passion for riding my bike.  After 20 years of cycling as an adult, I’m arriving at that conclusion through a process of elimination.  For example, I definitely DO NOT have a passion for getting out of bed in the morning, but I get up earlier than normal so I can ride my bike to work.

I’m careful with money (a.k.a. cheap), but I’ve recently spent a bit on gear to make it easier for me to ride in colder weather and the rain – is that another passion indicator? That I WANT to ride in the cold and rain?

Whether I do or not, it’s nice to think that I have a passion for cycling.  I look forward to sharing whatever it is I have for cycling with you through this blog and I hope you’ll do me the favour of sharing back.

Many thanks to Joe, Duncan and everyone at BikingToronto for this opportunity.

Posted: April 15th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »