Category Archives: cycling

Bikaramba builds cadence for Canadian cycle tours

Bikaramba and I (@autom8) started following each other on Twitter soon after I started writing about cycling in Toronto (thanks @blogTO!) And thank you, Twitter. You have proven time and again that you are seriously the iconic face of social media.  No one messes with how exceptional you are at connecting people, places and things.

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source: bikaramba.com

Bikaramba’s mission is to “make the amazing experience of discovering Canada by bicycle more accessible to others – both new and more seasoned riders.” Cycling from Toronto to Montreal (their ‘Classic Canadian Tour’) is in fact a brilliant experience. I have done this route myself in 2000 during the early days of Friends For Life Bike Rally (second annual).  And in 2002, I also did a week long cycling tour of Provence in the south of France—so yes, I know exactly what the bike touring experience is like. And I think everyone should do it.

Scenic adventure, peace of mind
Active travel naturally attracts participants who are adventurous and enthusiastic, so our participants enjoy the trips and are thrilled to have the opportunity to explore Canada by bike,” notes Dorothea one of Bikaramba’s partners.

Those experienced with bike tours know the score: it’s not Tour de France. Racing to the next destination misses the point of savouring the landscape, including some of eastern Ontario’s picturesque countryside, serene lake shore vistas and the gradual but distinct transformation in flora as you follow the St. Lawrence river towards Montreal.

“For our rides, this is a great opportunity to spend time with family members and friends, or meet like-minded travelers who are excited to tour at their own pace, while we take care of all the arrangements – hotels, maps, road support, a tour guide and camaraderie on the road.”

An experience that offers the freedom of the road with peace of mind, as Dorothea puts it, is indeed what you should expect when embarking on a guided bike tour. “Biking long distances without having to carry all your luggage on your bike is pretty great!”

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source: bikaramba.com

And Bikaramba has had very positive feedback from their participants. One cyclist said,”The level of support and the doable length of the routes are what it took to get me to do this, but I might be looking for ways to increase the challenge. Thanks so much for everything!”

Exploring the true north, strong and free
I am always curious about the initial departing and final arrival points of a tour. To this effect, Dorothea explains that the starting point for the Toronto tours is the hotel where riders stay the night before the start of the trip.

“We hold a Meet ‘n Greet/Orientation session the night before our departure day to talk about the trip and make sure everyone is fully prepared. In the morning, riders have breakfast (which is included) and everyone leaves and rides at their own pace. We always aim to book quality accommodation where riders can feel comfortable and relaxed. We also focus on variety, to create an experience that is diverse and interesting.”

Dorothea also notes that they haven’t had requests to provide return transport, as people usually like to spend additional time in Montreal, fly back to their hometown directly or take the train.

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source: bikaramba.com

“It is very easy to travel with bikes nowadays and we provide people with information and help on how to pack and transport their bikes. Our goal is to attract visitors from around Canada but also from around the world.”

Bikaramba’s tours tend to be in the summer/fall months but depending on demand they are always flexible in terms of adding more dates.

“We are working on adding more tours and are planning on eventually expanding throughout the country. We are looking to add a new trip from Quebec City along the coast to Bathurst in New Brunswick. There is also some preliminary planning around trips in Alberta and BC.”

 

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ezriders ‘sing the bike electric’ on the Danforth

2014-08-06 12.18.43ezriders is located on the north side of the Danforth in the middle of Greenwood and Coxwell. And while the Walt Whitman reference may be completely lost on your average urban cyclist, they’d certainly be thrilled knowing there’s a cool shop in the east end that specializes in electric bikes of all shapes and sizes!

“I definitely agree. Toronto is a booming cycling town , and compared to other major cities like Vancouver and Montreal, the city’s geography is a lot more bike-friendly,” notes Greg Moore, owner of ezrider. “There is a growing market for ebikes globally although the uptake in usage in town hasn’t been as obvious.”

image (2)Indeed, ebikes are ideal, alternative commuter vehicles that rival the efficiency of non-electric bikes, scooters and motorbikes, and it only costs about a quarter to charge its lithium batteries (the way you’d charge a smartphone).

ezriders carries a series of ebike brand names including Pedego (California), Stromer (Switzerland), Currie (California) and Easymotion of BH (Spain) as well as their own line of ebikes like EZcargo and EZfolder. And although they are slowly moving away from showcasing this model, they also have the odd e-scooter.

Scooters here range from $800 up to $2300 and bikes can start from $900 up to $4300. They currently have a special running for cargo bikes at $2500 (orig. $2800). I noticed a handsome,  black matte Ford (Pedego) cruiser, which prompted Greg to segue into a funny story familiar to many, but made me forget to ask him what the black beauty was going for.

image (1)“When we were on Queen, we had our share of challenges and successes with having the commuting public understand and appreciate ebikes .  But now as gas prices never seem to stop climbing, people are becoming more aware of greener alternatives, and looking for equally efficient ways of getting around town.”

ezriders don’t just do ebikes. They also service non-electric bikes and offer a basic tune up for $40.

CycleTO’s Tuesday Tune-ups

Saw the tweet. Retweeted. And bolted right over to the parkette at Bloor and Castle Frank, along with a stream of cyclists eastbound flocking to the tune up tent.

CycleTO has been hosting Tune-Up Tuesdays all spring and summer. Today’s 3-hour event (5-8pm) had two bike technicians courtesy of Sweet Pete’s.  You get a free basic tune up, which includes air, oil and safety check,  as well as the chance to chat with the volunteers about what matters to cycling life in the city.

“We had great turn out at Poplar Plains last time with Bateman’s partnering with us,” says Rachel, one of the volunteers.  The volunteer team  on hand were welcoming and informative about CycleTO’s many engaging campaigns, including #minimumgrid.

“Oh but you should check out one of our Bike Valet stations in an upcoming event,” beams Kyla. “It’s always an awesome turn out! You sign in your bikes, we hand you a ticket and off you go. ” Next one I think is at Echo Beach for Molson Ampitheatre gigs.

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Timbuk2 on Queen West

photo 3San Francisco messenger bag company, Timbuk2, opened its doors in Toronto last Wednesday and already it’s hopping. The steady influx of foot traffic on Queen West makes the intrepid shop an ideal stop for cyclists, urban commuters, tourists and shoppers of all interest and intent.

“We have a friend who’s going back to Australia, and we’re looking for something that would remind him of Canada,” asked two ladies rushing in on a mission. Incidentally, Timbuk2 produced a limited edition Toronto Messenger Classic blag bearing the city’s flag. Mission accomplished. “Wow, I think they got the first one!” says Vanessa Christie, retail marketing lead at Timbuk2, who’s overseeing the launch.

The Medium
Whether or not you’re familiar with the Timbuk2 brand, you’ll know off the bat that it’s all about bags for urban life and lifestyles. Bags are a key accessory. And choice luggage is both useful and appealing. Otherwise, it’s just baggage.

An island table at the front of the shop features the ‘Distill’ series: tastefully styled business casual bags for the fastidious professional. “We’re also expanding our line dedicated for women,” notes Christie as she demo’s the classy n clever handbag with hideable pannier hooks, thank you very much. Popular among cyclists is the Medio backpack with multiple features including ‘incognito’ reflective panels and expandable compartment for stashing a helmet. Oh and, for the fitness oriented urban professional, she or he would really dig the ‘Raid Pack’. This backpack is compact and whams you with cool features like a shirt board, hanger and shoe pouches: perfect for that pre-9 am workout.

The Messenger
photo 2Of course, fans will definitely want to check out the classic messenger bag and its various iterations. Currently, the most popular picks are among the ‘Command’ series: a line that accommodates life on the go with laptop and tablet. I also noticed a few bags designed with cloth-like materials like wool and tweed. Apparently, the next generation of bags will have more of these.

At the back of the store is a Custom Design studio where you can pick and choose from a wide selection of fabrics. mix and match on a touch screen and have an order placed and processed. In 3-7 business days, your custom bag will be ready for free shipping to the store or to your address for an $8 fee.

As expected of a company rooted in the bike messenger ethos, Timbuk2’s product aesthetic is refreshingly pragmatic, understated and enduring. Indeed, the messenger bag continues to transform with the frenetic pace of urban living.

The Message
“Our fabric and liner materials are thoroughly tested for durability and made of 100% recycled yarn from plastic bottles,” says Christie. I can attest to how these bags are built to last with my own classic bag from the late 90’s.

photo 1Eco-conscious messaging is part what’s always remained true of Timbuk2 as the brand matures steadily from its humble beginnings in a garage where Rob Honeycutt hand-sewed bags to its present North American expansion (#timbuk2takeover).

“We value community involvement. It just comes naturally when creating sustainable options for many types of urban lifestyles on the move,” reflects Christie.

“We’re also quite excited to connect with some of Toronto’s active cycling groups like CycleTO. We look forward to collaborating with organizations that help enhance cycling culture in the city.”