Cruisers, Cargo bikes, Handmades and More – The Toronto International Bicycle Show

On Sunday, March 7, 2010 I took a bike ride down to the Toronto International Bicycle Show held in the Better Living Centre on the CNE grounds.

For the most part this show is a spectacle of the latest road racing, BMX, trials and mountain biking products and accessories. Major Toronto and GTA retailers set up shop here to blow out last year’s inventory and highlight the latest designs from top brands.

While I recently started mountain biking again (I know, an oxymoron in Toronto) I was looking for the day to day cycling options at the show. Road bikes made of carbon composites and mountain bikes equipped with long-travel suspension are impressive, but I wouldn’t give them more than 20 minutes locked up to a post and ring downtown Toronto. And I think rear racks would look a little out of place on the back of a Trek Madone.

Much to my delight there were plenty of exhibitors who understand that cycling isn’t just about sport. Although, looking back of some of my morning commutes, I’d say a trip to work on Toronto’s busier streets can be a sport itself. Here are photos by Huy Le with a few words about what I discovered at the Toronto International Bicycle Show.

Until Sunday I had never straddled an electic-assist bicycle. The Sanyo Eneloop Bike looks like a regular step-through commuter with a battery pack tucked nicely behind the seat tube. And that’s the point. This is a bicycle first and foremost yet it also provides battery assistance to help commuters take on challenging hills and headwinds.

The battery connects to a surprisingly powerful front hub-motor as well as both front and rear lights. I took the bike for a quick spin around the carpeted test area at the show. As I lined up to head out I had the battery on and after a half pedal forward the motor kicked in and I thought the bike was going to take off on it’s own. Applying the brakes quickly kept me from taking an embarassing flat land spill. The reps from Sanyo suggested waiting until I was in motion to turn on the battery, and I recommend it.

Actually riding the bicycle was a pleasure. The motor is on the front wheel hub, so after a few pedals the electric-assist starts up and you feel a gentle pull forward. The first couple of boosts were a little terrifying on the short test track, but I quickly learned when to anticipate them and use them to my advantage for building up speed with little extra effort on my part.

In the manufacturer’s showcase Opus brand bicycles from Quebec had their commuter rides on display. If you speak/read French then be sure to check out their Urbanista Blog.

For cyclists with kids and basically anything else they need to haul around, WIKE from Guelph, ON had their line of trailers on display.

Around the corner and also from Guelph, True North Cycles had several handmade touring and cargo bikes on display.

v

Trek had some bright and shiny Madones on site… but the multi-thousand dollar price tag makes for expensive roadie dreams. On a more affordable note Trek also had their Eco steel bikes on display.

As part of the Globe blogger team I was hoping to see a few models at the show. Unfortunately all I found was this Globe Roll.

Sweet Pete’s had up on high, overlooking their booth, their Kona collaboration bicycle, the “Door Prize.” With tongue planted firmly in cheek this bike is named after the unique to Toronto term for colliding with a car door is outfitted with city riding essentials and is priced under $600.

On to accessories. Zef Kraiker (not pictured) was at the Urbane Cyclist booth with plenty of WIPT (Wear It Proud Toronto) cycling caps and Push The Envelope bags for sale.

Energetic reps introduced me to the iBert safe-T-seat that allows you to carry small children up front, improving rider stability and giving your child a view of more than just your back. The seat can be removed quickly and easily when not in use and is made of 10% recycled materials.

Introducing his alternative to panniers, Winnipeg year-round cyclist (you read that right!) Aphirath Vongnaraj had his Hybrid Backpack on display. He demonstrated the pack’s ability to secure all sorts of items to a rear bike rack. The unique “velcro” locking system ensures that what you want to carry stays with you for your whole journey.

I was pleasantly surprised to see so many commuter cycling options on display at this year’s Toronto International Bicycle Show. Of course, there was much more to be seen, but I’ll save that for another post.

What are your 2010 Toronto bike commuting goals?

Going past

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.

Photo via sevenman in BikingToronto’s Flickr Pool

Tell the World, "I Bike T.O."

I Bike T.O. T-shirt
Do you commute daily to work by bicycle in Toronto? Do you ride the Don Valley trails with your family on the weekends? Do you love your bicycle and biking the streets of Toronto? And, are you looking for a way to support cycling initiatives in Toronto?

ibikeTO.org is the charitable arm of BikingToronto, founded by Joe Travers. 100% of the proceeds from t-shirt and button sales, as well as a portion of the advertising revenue generated on BikingToronto.com, are donated to cycling-related charities in Toronto through the BikingToronto Fund.

Charities benefitting from the BikingToronto Fund are:

* Bikes without Borders
Bikes Without Borders serves marginalized communities in both the developing and developed worlds where bikes and bike-related solutions can have a significant, positive impact on community development.

* Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation
The Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) was formed in 2006 to give a unified voice to the many groups working for a better cycling and pedestrian environment in Toronto. The TCAT plan for active transportation emerged out of consultation with environmental, health and transportation groups from across Toronto. The result is a practical yet visionary plan for how Toronto City Council can make active transportation a central part of transportation planning.

* TrailBlazers Tandem Cycling Club
The TrailBlazers Tandem Cycling Club provides people who have limited or no vision the opportunity to experience cycling with our sighted volunteers, using tandems.

I Bike T.O. Buttons

How We Carry Stuff on Our Bikes in Toronto

trip #1

Before I gave up my car I can remember thinking to myself, “Without a car, how will I carry things?”

How would I carry a 24 case of water home?
How would I carry all of my groceries home?
How would I carry my latest IKEA purchases home?

I soon discovered the answers…

Don’t buy water in bottles, you’ve got a tap.
Don’t buy all of your groceries at once, and stop buying heavy frozen junk.
Don’t buy more stuff from IKEA, unless you’re with a friend with a car.

Just because a bicycle doesn’t come with trunk space it doesn’t mean that we, as Torontonians, are left unable to take anything with us when we ride. Here then are some of the ways we carry stuff by bicycle in Toronto.

Sometimes we like to keep an eye on our stuff and use a basket mounted up front:

Basket Bike

Sometimes we want to see the potholes ahead of us and mount a basket on the back:

Basket Mobile

Sometimes we like to carry more stuff, and have baskets both front and rear:

Petal power

There are times where we like to improvise the type of baskets we use:

Yellow Bike Basket

And then sometimes we fill our baskets with keytars in Accordion City:

The Scorpion King!

To keep our stuff dry we sometimes use panniers that match our helmets:

Newbikebags3_110606

Sometimes we rent trailers to carry even more stuff:

bike trailer

Sometimes we carry other people on our bikes:

EcoCab

Sometimes we improvise how we carry people on our bikes:

Improvised Tricycle Pedicab

And then we sometimes like to carry our children on our bicycles:

Group Commute

Or we take the whole family on a four-wheeled bike while visiting Toronto Island:

Bicycle Built for Four

And then sometimes we have a really big family, but we still travel by bike (click for larger version):

Awesome 7 person bike I spotted.#bikeTO on Twitpic

How do you carry your stuff on a bicycle in Toronto?

Photos via the Biking Toronto Flickr Pool and photographers in Toronto on Flickr