At any age, commuting by bicycle is the best!
By the spring of 2009 I had given up my car and believed that it was simply going to take me 2 hours, each way, to get to work and back by transit. To me, there was no other way.
When I purchased a Marin Hamilton 29er I thought I’d found a simple, sturdy bike that would take me to and from my girlfriend’s apartment on the other side of town. After spending 4 hours of my day on transit, taking another trip by subway and streetcar was of no interest to me, so why not bike I said. Turns out the answer to that question would open up a much larger world for me. I found an escape from the restricting timetable of transit and I found a new obsession.
After many thousand kilometres the easy-going singlespeed setup of my Marin took me to work and back and recently, on 100+ km rides to my hometown. Now that I work from home my commute needs have changed. My Marin is now my one and only piece of exercise equipment (but you’re more than a ThighMaster to me, bike). My commute is as long as I want it to be as I search for new mobile offices around Toronto, hopefully spending part of my day in a warm space with tasty espresso and wifi. You see, I simply couldn’t give up commuting, that’s how much I loved my morning and evening rides to and from the office.
As I started to venture further and further from the city on my weekend rides I began to feel limited by a singlespeed. Just one more gear option could come in handy on longer climbs or descents. So I began searching for options and with 70+ bicycle shops in Toronto, well the options were plenty.
I test rode touring bikes, road bikes, cyclocrossers and everything in between. I tried out every frame material I could and started to enjoy the feel of drop bars. There are hundreds of beautiful, functional and simply awesome bicycles to be found here in town. Of course, many of the bikes that offered a better frame and components than my existing bicycle cost $1,000+, which when you’re looking for quality is certainly reasonable, but when you’re working on a budget like mine, well, they quickly become out of reach.
Knowing that I really enjoy the ride and position of the Marin Hamilton 29er I started looking at conversion options. With horizontal, rear-facing dropouts the Marin frame would make adding a derailleur challenging (though not impossible) so I began reading about internally geared hubs and the leading manufacturers; Sturmey Archer, Rohloff and Shimano.
With horizontal dropouts, accommodating one of these hubs on the Marin would be relatively simple. So I decided upon the Shimano Nexus Redline 8-speed hub due to the positive reviews online and middle of the road pricing. I paired the hub with a Mavic A 319 rim and chose a Shimano twist shifter.
After one week and a couple hundred kilometres I’m really enjoying the gearing options of the 8-speed hub. Being so used to a singlespeed I find myself sticking to just a few of the gearings, often forgetting that I can switch to higher or lower gears. However, when I do remember the options make the few hills on my daily rides far more enjoyable, both riding up and down.
I took the Marin out for a 35 km rain ride recently and the hub performed flawlessly. Once dry there was no change in performance as well. The hub does add around 3 lbs of weight to the rear of the bike. It is noticeable but doesn’t affect the ride.
I offer many thanks to Martin at Hoopdriver who helped me decide on what parts I’d get and for doing a great job on the installation.
You can learn more about Shimano Nexus parts here.
Be sure to visit the Hoopdriver web site or stop by the shop on College just east of Dufferin.
At the current exchange rate, that’s $175 million CDN spent on cycling infrastructure in one year. Improving road conditions, creating a bicycle sharing program, increasing bicycle parking facilities and building “Barclays Cycle Superhighways” represent how you implement cycling infrastructure by tackling all aspects at once.
This video explains it all:
Now, you may be thinking, “But everything in England is on a much smaller scale, this could never work over the greater distances in Toronto.” And if you are thinking this, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.
Consider the first route mentioned, running from outer London to inner London, 8.5 miles or just shy of 14 kms. In Toronto, you could start at Union Station and reach Bluffer’s Park in Scarborough by traveling just one more kilometre. Head in the opposite direction and 14 kms takes you to the 427.
While the current rail corridor development in Toronto is a step in the right direction, these cycling routes fall quite short of actually delivering cyclists into the areas of the city with the highest concentration of employment.
Video via EcoVelo
While I no longer bike to work, (I actually roll and then step to work in my home office) I still wanted free breakfast pancakes and chose to join the hundreds of Torontonians in the Bike Month Group Commute.
A whole lot of cyclists on the same route sure slows things down, but unlike when this happens with cars (every day), you can chit chat with your neighbour, sing a song or two and simply enjoy the fresh morning air.
Every day should be bike to work day for you. If it isn’t, ask yourself why? What is keeping you from biking to work? Is it because you feel you live too far? Is it because you don’t want to get sweaty? Is it because you don’t have a bike?
Remember, there are no good REASONS for not cycling to work, there are only EXCUSES.
The guy to the right swears he’s not nuts. He’s one of the 10% of Toronto cyclists who ride all year round. Sure, that number may be larger this year since it hasn’t been much of a winter… but that doesn’t make him (and us) any less proud.
Marcus Gee, we salute you!
From the Globe and Mail:
Folks, a rusty steed is a friend indeed – even in winter
It’s liberating at any time of year to avoid the restrictions of driving or public transit and set out on your own, a free agent of the street. In winter, with the sharp, fresh air on your face, it’s exhilarating. You begin and end your day with a little adventure. As the winter cycling website icebike.com puts it, with perhaps a trace of irony, “You arrive feeling very alive, refreshed and with the aura of a cycling god.”
The cold is no big deal. Your body heats up fast when you’re pedalling. I get by nicely with a waterproof Gore-Tex windbreaker with office clothes (and, okay, long underwear) beneath. I wear a thin wool tuque under my helmet. When it’s really cold – say, minus 10 or worse – I add a polyester balaclava that covers everything but my eyes.
For the hands, I have a pair of those lobster-claw gloves with two fingers instead of four and a fleece strip on the thumb for nose wiping, a bonus in the eye-watering cold. On my feet, I wear thick wool socks under pull-on Blundstone boots.
If it’s slushy or rainy, I complete the ensemble with a pair of canary-yellow rain pants. With front and rear helmet lights flashing after dark, I look like a safety-conscious ninja assassin, but most of the time I’m perfectly warm. If you ski or skate in the cold, why not bike?
Photo via Globe and Mail
I’ll admit that I got a late start to bike commuting. It took me more than 3 years of city living to finally give it a try. In June 2009, on a bit of a whim, I took my new bike on a 25 km journey to my office in the outer reaches of Toronto (so far in fact that it’s not even in Toronto).
At first, I’d bike just twice a week as I needed the next day to recover. If it looked like rain, I jumped on the subway (then bus, then another bus and sometimes yet another bus).
All it took was one rainfall that I didn’t see coming and I lost the fear of getting wet. I was already soaked with sweat, so it made little difference, and rain actually feels good in the heat and humidity of a Toronto summer.
By the end of 2009 I had bought cycling shorts, tights, a shirt or two and a waterproof jacket. I now have a sturdy lock (and back-up lock for paranoia), panniers, two pumps, various lights and more cycling goodies than I can even remember.
So, what can I do more in 2010? Well, there’s been one big change for me. My commute, which was recently shortened to just 20 km each way has been drastically cut. I’ve joined the ranks of the work-from-home brigades, no commuting necessary. At least not daily.
This opens new doors for me. I get the chance to take morning or noon rides on trails I previously never would have seen on weekdays. I get to ride for pleasure, and if my route starts to wear on me, I get to change it. Lucky me, I know.
Yet, working from home also provides the opportunity to become lazy. I worked so hard getting comfortable as a bicycle commuter that it’s hard to give it up cold turkey. So, I’m going to make my morning rides my own sort of commute. It will be the longest distance between my bedroom and my home office possible, much more than a few shuffle-steps.
Over on Commute by Bike, Bike Shop Girl has compiled a list of 2010 bike commuter goals. Here are her 8 goals with my comments:
1. Learn how to properly lock your bike
There are a lot of different places to lock your bike in Toronto. It took me some time and practice to find the “sweet spots” for locking to post and rings and other spots. I find that a sturdy u-lock through the frame and front wheel is best for eliminating vulnerable gaps between lock, bike and rack. This also helps keep your bike upright as other people use the rack.
2. Start a Commuter Challenge
I’ve personally resisted getting a cycling computer. I’m a little too competitive and really want to keep my eyes on the road. But, if you find your commute getting stale, then why not strive to make the best time possible or work out how to catch every green light?
3. Motivate a co-worker to commute by bike
You could start by taking them with you on a ride one weekend. Show them your route when the roads are less busy. Unfortunately, no one at my office joined me last year… but walking in all sweaty with a bike in tow certainly got us talking about something new.
4. Join your local advocacy group
In Toronto you can start by joining the Toronto Cyclist Union. Joining is a great start, but getting active and participating in events or volunteering is even better. My goal is to do more with the Union now that I’m a proud member.
5. Take photos to inspire others and yourself
There are more than 2,000 photos in the BikingToronto Flickr Pool… why not help us reach 3,000? Edit: As mentioned in the comment below, the pool is now approaching 4,000!
6. Setup a commuter zone
My bike accessories once filled a small tupperware container. Now, I have a dedicated shelf near the door where I keep bungees, gloves, lights, the odd tool and helmets. Making space for your bike stuff, and making it accessible, are a great way to remind yourself that it’s better by bike.
7. Practice preventative maintenance
Not sure what to do with those tools a family member gave you over the holidays? Make a visit to Bike Pirates or the Community Bicycle Network and learn how to fix your own bike before it decides it no longer wants to go. If you live in Toronto’s East end, why not get involved in starting a DIY shop as well?
8. Invest in your gear
It’s certainly not necessary to have a full cycling wardrobe. But, adding pieces like waterproof gloves, a waterproof jacket or even shoes can help make your commute more enjoyable no matter what the weather is like.
That’s all 8… but I’m certain there are many more. What are your 2010 cycling/commuting/living goals? Share yours in the comments below.