How to Keep Riding Your Bicycle on Rainy Toronto Days

Red Rubber Boots and Training Wheels

Perhaps one of the greatest hurdles to really becoming an everyday bicycle rider is rain.

No one wants to show up to work soaked to the bone, but on a humid, rainy day, taking the TTC can feel like giving up, and if you have to wait for a bus or streetcar you’re still going to get wet.

I started rain riding by accident. Riding home I knew I was racing a storm. About half way through my ride the sky opened and within seconds I was soaked.

But I was also smiling, ear to ear. After a long day in an office a rain ride is refreshing, invigorating. It’s like going for a jog in your shower (if that was even possible). Rain riding feels great and you’ll be the envy of your workplace, soaked and smiling and buzzing all day. Sure, you can take to rain riding cold turkey, but a little preparation can help you really enjoy the ride. Here’s what to do:

1) Accept that you will get wet: Fact, you will get wet riding when the rain starts to fall and there’s nothing you can do about it. Some people will ride faster, as if trying to outrun the falling rain, and rushing can lead to poor decision making. Pedestrians will be dashing across streets heading for the nearest shelter and drivers will be distracted and nervous. If you’re rushing, trying to outrun the falling rain, you’re more likely to put yourself in dangerous situations. Slow down and accept getting a little wet, you’ll be safer for it.

2) Dress for a mess: You can go out and purchase rain shells to wear over your work clothes, but in my experience these keep the rain water out and also keep your sweat in, still leaving you soaked. Shelling out for rain gear can help you stay a little drier and more comfortable, but during warm summer rains simply wearing clothing you don’t mind getting wet and dirty works great. Quick drying fabrics will make storing your riding clothes at work less problematic, so a thick cotton t-shirt that takes a day to air dry may not be the best option.

3) Get the right equipment: Fenders! Get fenders for your bicycle. If you don’t have them they are probably keeping you from rain riding because no one wants that “skunk stain” running up their back. You can buy a set at your local bike shop for around $25 or $30 and pay a little extra to have them installed (or learn how to do it yourself). A decent set of panniers or backpack will keep your change of clothes dry. I have a set from Mountain Equipment Co-op that are water-resistant, so on wetter days I would place my clothes in a plastic bag first to keep out the little moisture that would seep in. Reusable lunch bags can be used for valuables like your phone and wallet. A plastic grocery bag can be used to cover your seat and keep it dry during the day. Also, bring your lights and use them, anything to make you stand out on the road is going to benefit your safety.

4) Slow your roll: Wet rims and brakes take longer to slow you down and wet roads increase your chance of skidding. And when there’s a lot of rain, you can even start to hydroplane slide on water-covered streets, which reduces your control. So simply slow down and enjoy the water streaming down your face, it’s wonderful.

5) Take the lane: Beware the gutter. Puddles can conceal potholes and uneven sewer coverings. Moving into the lane, ideally where the right side wheels of cars would typically roll, can save you from the unexpected and will force drivers to pass you with less speed and greater caution.

6) Use extra caution near streetcar tracks and crosswalks: Streetcar tracks can be a nightmare for some even during the best conditions. In the rain, not only are the tracks more slippery, but the smooth concrete surrounding them becomes a sliding hazard as well. Same goes for crosswalks that use paving stones as smooth surfaces mean less traction for narrow bicycle tires. When turning left on roads with streetcar tracks you can perform an “indirect left turn” to allow you to cross the tracks at a 90 degree angle. Or simply dismount from your bicycle and use the crosswalks.

7) Think “muti-modal” transportation: The TTC is currently installing better bicycle parking at subway stations around town. If you’re not comfortable riding in the rain for your entire commute you can still skip waiting for buses and streetcars and simply head to the nearest subway station. You may be a little wet on the subway, but you certainly won’t be the only one.

8) Have fun: Always remember, enjoy yourself. Getting wet may seem like a pain, but if you pack dry clothes and a small towel and once you get comfortable changing at work, you can simply start to enjoy the rain and beauty of a soaking wet city. You may also feel a little super-human for braving the rains, so don’t let that go to your head!

Photo via the BikingToronto Flickr Pool

Covet: The reCYCLEr Gilbert Vanden Heuvel at ShopGirls

Discarded bicycle parts become functional everyday items like salt and pepper shakers and serving trays when placed in the hands of Ontario artist Gilbert Vanden Heuvel.

On display and for sale at ShopGirls in Parkdale, these designs allow you to bring your bicycle love indoors, without worrying about getting grease stains on everything.

More items and designs at The reCYCLEr
Or head over to ShopGirls at 1342 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

Penny Farthing Racing in the Land Down Under

Penny Farthing Race

CYCLOPS DIY Bike Trailer Workshops

Via CYCLOPS:

DIY Bike Trailer Workshops

You’ll hardly notice that you have a trailer following you!

Join us at CYCLOPS Studio for Clay & Paper’s Bike Trailer Building Workshops, where we’ll teach you how to build your very own bicycle cargo trailer.

Workshops will be held on:

Wednesday, August 25 7-9 PM
Thursday, August 26 7-9 PM
Wednesday, September 1 7-9 PM
Thursday, September 2 7-9 PM

Just $200 includes 4 workshops and the cost of materials!

Contact Bernadette to sign up, or call 416-708-2223.

Space is limited to 5 participants, so sign-up early!

Mariclaro to Recycle Your Old Tubes Into Bags

DSC_0270

Heading to the Bicycle Film Festival this weekend in Toronto? Well, don’t forget to bring your old bicycle tubes. Mariclaro is asking for donated old tubes that they recycle into bags.

You will find the Mariclaro Bike Tube Drop Off cart on Thursday, August 19, 2010 at The Mascot — 1267 Queen St. West and Friday and Saturday at The Royal — 608 College St.

Donate your old tubes and they could soon become this:

Mariclaro Bike Tube Bag 1Mariclaro innertube bag 1

How to Get Better Bicycle Parking for Your Condo

Urban Garden & a half-stolen bike

I was recently contacted by a BikingToronto reader, Ian, in need of contact information for bike rack suppliers in Toronto. He told me that he had recently moved into a newer condo building near Bloor and Spadina. The building has bicycle parking, but after speaking with other residents and noticing the mess of bikes in their outdoor racks it was clear that his condo building needed better bicycle parking.

Part of why living in a downtown condo building is appealing is the ability to free yourself from needing a car to get everywhere. Ian’s building is near a TTC station and is a comfortable cycling distance from his office. He owns several bicycles and is concerned about keeping them in good condition and free from theft for as long as possible. The current set up in his building doesn’t satisfy both of those conditions. While the most accessible outdoor parking is covered, it is in an alleyway that anyone can walk down. The racks are also cluttered and that means his bicycle is going to get scraped and bounced around in addition to possibly being stolen.

If this sounds familiar, Ian’s story and how a cycling committee in his building approached the board of directors may help you get better bicycle parking for your condo.

While condo builders are adding amenities such as rooftop pools, bowling alleys and fitness centres it seems that bicycle parking isn’t a top priority when space is defined and the building begins. Bicycle racks are often placed in out of the way areas that are hard to access, feature inappropriate racks or simply do not exist at all.

Recent amendments to Toronto Zoning By-laws have added more information on bicycle parking guidelines, yet these focus mostly on quantity of available spaces and less on quality of space provided.

Here then is how to get better bicycle parking for your condo.

Your first point of contact is your condo board. Find out if others have approached them about available bicycle parking. In Ian’s case, a bicycle committee was formed to determine the bicycle parking needs of tenants and to propose improvements.

Bicyles Will Be Removed

The committee then surveyed the building by distributing a questionnaire to determine the current state of bicycle parking as viewed by tenants. Below is a sample survey:

1. How satisfied are you with the current bike parking/storage arrangement?

2. How many bicycles does your household have (write the number 0, 1, 2…9 in each of the spaces provided):

_____Adult-size _____Child-size (small bikes) _____Tricycles (very small child) _____Electric Bikes _____Other

3. Where are your unit’s bikes currently stored? (please indicate the quantity of bikes in each location)

_____Outside – racks at back of building

_____Outside – post and rings in front of building

_____Ground floor “Visitor Bike Parking” room

_____P1

_____Storage locker

_____Balcony

_____Apartment

_____Other location: _________________________

4. Do you have a car parking spot?

5. Would you be interested in having a bike rack mounted to the wall behind your car?

6. How much would you be willing to spend (rack + installation) ? $_________

7. Please rank your preference (1=first choice; 5=last choice) of where you’d like to store your bicycle(s):

_____Outside – racks at back of building

_____Ground floor “Visitor Bike Parking” room

_____P1

_____Other location: ________________________

_____Bike rack mounted to the wall behind my car

8. Would you be willing to pay for an indoor reserved bike parking spot? qYes qNo

9. This question is about how often the people in your unit ride. If you don’t ride in the winter, just ignore the winter months. How many people in your household ride:

daily (4+ times per week) …….. _____

weekly (1-3 times per week)…. _____

monthly (1-3 times per month). _____

less often than monthly………… _____

10. Have you had any bicycles or bicycle parts stolen from in or around the Condo?

11. Have you registered your bike with the Toronto Police? qYes qNo (http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/bike)

12. Please share any other bike parking or storage ideas:

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

If you do not currently store a bicycle in the building, please make sure to return this survey with “No”

checked below. This is important for the committee to understand the needs of the building residents

and to evaluate the survey response rate. Thank you very much for your participation.

Does someone in your unit currently store one or more bicycles in or outside the building?

Optional:

If you provide us with your name & contact information, we will be able to contact you as soon as more

bike parking & storage options become available.

Your answers on this survey will be used only to guide us, not to commit you to anything.

Name: ______________________________________________ Suite #: ________ Parking Spot #: ________

Phone: ________________________ E-mail: ____________________________________________________

Please contact me as soon as more information is available Yes No

we meet again

Ian reports that the survey was well-received by tenants in the building and the response was more than enough to help guide them in creating an improved bicycle parking proposal for the condo board.

Using the survey results you’ll be able to identify problem areas and find out how much parking needs to be added and where residents would prefer the parking be located.

In Ian’s building it was determined that the outdoor parking was not properly laid out and created a cluttered and potentially bicycle damaging situation when using the racks. Indoor bicycle parking was limited and the racks did not provide secure locking options. Space was identified for additional parking in the underground parking lot of the building yet access and security both posed problems requiring passing through multiple doors which can be difficult with a bicycle and parcels.

Secure bicycle parking means racks that are permanently anchored to the ground or wall with enough contact points to lock both a bicycle frame and wheel. Racks should be spaced to allow for many sizes of bicycles and allow for clearance between them to assist in parking and removing a bicycle.

A bicycle user group for the City of Toronto recommends these bicycle rack manufacturers and models:

Cora Bike Rack Ltd.
www.cora.com
Tel: 1-800-739-4609
Model: Expo Bike Rack

Trystan Bike Racks
www.trystanproducts.com
68 Swan Street
Ayr, ON N0B 1E0
Tel: (519) 632-7427
Fax: (519) 632-8271
Model: TD1

Bike Rack Co.
www.bikerack.ca
395 Signet St.
Toronto, ON M9L 1V3
Tel: (416) 927-7499
Model: The lock up 1 and lock up 2

In order to make your bicycle parking proposal a professional one, be sure to contact suppliers as well as potential installers and determine the full costs of purchasing, shipping and installing. I’d also recommend contacting someone who can help you adhere to fire codes when determining where to install the racks.

Ian told me that after approaching his condo board they have been approved to make changes to the existing parking and a budget was given. The final move now is for the board to act on the recommendations of the cycling committee and put the plans into action.

If you’re disappointed in the current state of bicycle parking in your condo, then now is the time to do something about it.

Additional link: City of Toronto Guidelines for the Design and Management of Bicycle Parking Facilities

Photos via the BikingToronto Flickr Pool

Coaster Brake Love

Single speed Globe Live 1 with coaster brake

For some, it’s all about stopping power. Endos, skids, POWER! However, if you’re just taking your bicycle around town, running errands, getting to work, do you really need fancy expensive disc or super-powered v-brakes?

Nope.

The coaster brake is something you’ll find on bicycles for children and on many vintage city cruisers. This simple braking mechanism is gaining popularity again as upright city cruisers and daily use bicycles are becoming the bike of choice for many urbanites. My girlfriend’s Globe Live 1 has a rear coaster brake and she loves it. You simply pedal backwards and your rear hub becomes your brake. I don’t really understand the mechanism behind coaster brakes, but on a regularly maintained bicycle then can keep on slowing you down even when the roads get wet and the temperature drops (otherwise challenging conditions for low-end v-brakes).

There’s a fantastic post on Lovely Bicycle! with all the reasons to love coaster brakes:

Why I love coaster brakes:
. I find that coaster brakes deliver softer (no sudden jolts), smoother, and more consistent stopping power in city traffic
. I like to have one hand free in traffic, so that I can signal while braking
. I find it easier to modulate coaster brakes at finer increments without totally losing momentum
. I have problems with the nerves in my hands, and find it painful to use hand-operated brake levers frequently (like in stop-and-go traffic)
. I find coaster brakes intuitive and stress-free to use: it makes sense to both accelerate and slow down with my feet
. I like it that coaster brakes require virtually zero maintenance or adjustments

What about you? Do you have coaster brake love?

Read the full Lovely Bicycle! Coaster Brakes: Yay or Nay! post here.

“This is Amsterdam and this is my bike”

This is Amsterdam Screen Shot

Notice the theme throughout this video. Cycling is easy. This is something we forget in North America.

Via Bakfiets en Meer

Straight to kindergarten? On my bike, no way!

Fast

Amazing.

Via Fixed Xor Broken

Segway of Ontario Turns Rob Ford Hate into Marketing Opportunity

Oh those nutty “Fun Officers!” As the video states, mention that you saw their rebuttal to Rob Ford and get the first 2 hours of your bicycle rental for free before September 20th, 2010.

More information about Segway of Ontario bicycle rentals here.