Blog - Cycling Things

It's a Group Ride Not a Race

The Grumpy Grupetto Rider’s Public Service Announcement

Why You Shouldn’t Treat a Ride Like a Race

by Bart Egnal

Canadian Cycling Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 2, April & May 2017

Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, airlines were briefly grounded. For months after, scared travellers opted for the seeming safety of car trips. I say seeming because though air travel suddenly appeared more dangerous, car trips were and remain a much dangerous mode of transportation. Ten years after the attacks in the U.S., The Guardian reported on a study by Gerd Gigerenzer, a German professor who specializes in risk.  Gigerenzer found that in the 12 months following Sept. 11, 1595 more Americans died in motor-vehicle accidents.

Why am I sharing a story about the evils of cars in a bicycling magazine? Not for the usual reasons, but to highlight how poorly we miscalculate risk. We fear things that are statistically unlikely to happen to us (like lightning strikes or shark attacks), while participating in activities that are risky and dangerous (like text while driving).

The same applies to racing your bike in a sanctioned race and riding your bike in a club ride. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me they avoid pinning an umber on because of how dangerous racing is, and then cut the yellow line while they are on the limit of a morning club ride, putting themselves and their fellow club riders at ricks and making the experience less enjoyable for all.

Just this part year, I saw or heard of many risky behaviours on group “ride.” There were riders who “attacked” their group ride – which consisted of a few laps of a local circuit – and bragged about how they wanted to get rid of the pretenders in their group. There were riders, going hard on circuit, who passed a stopped car (waiting to turn left) by going into the lane of incoming traffic. The riders got hit when the oblivious driver turned left. A rider having moved up to Group A in our morning club ride was on his line on a descent that finished with a 90˚ right turn, The rider slid out, took out a friend of mine and was lucky there was no oncoming traffic to run him over. There were riders who didn’t want to wait to regroup 30 km into a ride after a sprint section. New members of the club were dropped and stranded in an industrial park. They had to find their way home – and presumably another club.

These are just a few examples of what happens  when you try to turn a group ride into a race. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t risk in racing –  just look at a sprint finish in a crit – but almost every race I did this past year had a lead car and a follow car, some or all closed roads,  a set finish line and a sense of structure that ensured people understood how the group would behave. When these conditions exist, the risks are contained and mitigated.

Sketchy riding in a group is not only dangerous, but it make the ride unenjoyable for those who aren’t racers. Racers who aren’t out for a race that day won’t like it either. WhenI do these group “races”, it’s rarely the high-level masters of Cat.1s who behave badly. Instead, I find it’s the Type A riders who skip racing, but ride 15 000 km on Strava. IO have a few close friends who are pros, ex-pros and national team members. They aren’t the ones trying to drop me 6km into a 120 km route while we are still in the city. It’s neither safe not enjoyable (for me at least) to do a group ride with a group of people who want to attack each other constantly. Of course, I’m al for hammering on the climbs or having a go at safe sprint points. But a group ride is supposed to be just that – a ride.

I fell in love with this sport when I got in the draft and discovered how much more enjoyable – and efficient – it is to ride with a well-collaborating group . So as you enter your spring season, chill out and ride hard with good people on bikes. If you  have that urge to drop someone, there’s a full race calendar coming up. Just remember: If there’s no number on your back, it’s not a race. Handle yourself accordingly.

Bike License in Toronto II

Toronto should kill the idea of bike licenses once and for all: Editorial

The last think the city should be doing is discouraging cyclists with a pointless licensing scheme.

Toronto Star, Sunday, July 10, 2016

  It’s the policy proposal that just won’t die. The idea of bicycle licensing, though derided by experts, repeatedly rejected by city staff and shunned by municipalities around the world, has nevertheless been resurrected once again in Toronto.

  The practice, which the city dropped in 1957, is occasionally dusted off as an option by councillors who wrongly claim it will improve enforcement of road rules or raise extra revenues. Three times in recent decades the city looked into the idea and each time it threw it out as unnecessary, impractical and costly.

  But apparently those appraisals don’t satisfy Councillor Stephen Holyday, who has submitted a motion asking transportation staff to consider the idea yet again.

  You would be forgiven for wondering why. As Holyday acknowledged to the Star last week, police already have the tools they need to deal with cyclists breaking the law; the Highway Traffic Act gives them the power to ticket bad-acting bike-riders.

  Nor would the program be the money-maker its supporters sometimes suggest. The bureaucratic costs of processing licenses, and keeping an up-to-date database of all bicycles in the city, would almost certainly eclipse revenues. As Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, the city’s manager of cycling programs, points out, no comparable jurisdiction has a licensing system where the fees cover even the administrative costs. No way would the program fund the building of new infrastructure, as Holyday claims.

  Yet, despite its well-established folly, the idea seemingly can’t be killed. In fact, it has persistent and substantial popular support. A recent Forum Research poll found 56 per cent of respondents are in favour of bicycle licensing. That’s likely in part because the policy is seen as a way to punish the city’s cyclists, who remain unpopular in many quarters. As Holyday told the Star, there is a perception that “if cyclists have exclusive use of infrastructure, they should also have to shoulder the cost of that.”

  But the premise that only cyclists benefit from cycling infrastructure is faulty. Bike lanes make the roads safer for motorists and bike-riders alike. And safer roads encourage more people to cycle, which in turn creates a healthier population, eases gridlock and reduces carbon emissions.

  For the most part, council seems to understand this. Last month the city pledged about $150 million toward cycling infrastructure over the next 10 years. Clearly it shouldn’t undermine this wise investment by discouraging people from cycling with a pointless licensing scheme. It’s time to bury this bad idea once and for all.

Winter Cycling

Your Guide to Winter Cycling

Do you long for the warm summer days when you could just jump on your bike and go for a ride? Do not stop there. It is still possible even in the dead of winter.

While you should never ride under icy conditions, here are some tips to continue the cycle, and put the pedal to the metal this winter safely, warmly and efficiently...
Read More 


Keep them clear

Keep Bike Lanes Clear of Parked Cars: Editorial 

New provincially granted power to mail tickets to offenders should help parking enforcement officers make clear that it’s not OK to stop your car in bike lanes.

Published on Tue Dec 29 2015

New provincially granted authority should help Toronto parking enforcement officers keep bikes lanes clear of cars.

Life in the fast lane. That’s the promise Toronto’s growing network of “cycle tracks” holds out for bikers.

Sadly, the reality is far from that. Lanes that should provide safe passage for cyclists are turned into obstacle courses as unaware or insensitive drivers pull their vehicles over for quick stops. Meanwhile, everyone from couriers to construction truck drivers to mobile document shredders simply use the lanes as parking spaces.

When any of that happens, cyclists must navigate around the cars and trucks, moving unexpectedly into busy traffic, endangering themselves and slowing down cars in the regular lanes.

That’s problematic for cyclists, drivers and even pedestrians who might get caught in the middle.

How to stop it? Ticketing will get out the message. But using fines as a deterrent to keep cyclists safe and traffic flowing smoothly isn’t easy. Drivers can take off before parking enforcement officers have a chance to drop a ticket on their windshield.

That’s why a new provincially granted power for parking enforcement officers to mail tickets to offenders after simply recording their license plate number and other details is such a welcome initiative.

Brian Moniz, a Toronto parking enforcement supervisor, told the Star’s David Rider he’s confident the new system, scheduled to start in the new year, will get results. If drivers knew that even parking in the bike lanes momentarily could result in a $150 ticket, “people would get the message.”

It’s not that parking enforcement officers aren’t already trying to keep the lanes clear. Even without the new system they managed to issue 6,500 tickets for $150 apiece this year. 

Still, the new system can’t come soon enough to keep bike lanes clear, cyclists safe and traffic moving speedily

"STOP SIGNS Are for Stopping!"

 Hello All,

If you have not heard yet, the entire group was pulled over by a York Region Traffic Cop Just past the Petro Canada gas station on Crestwood ( Yonge & Steels ) for failing to stop at the first stop sign. 

He stopped at 8 tickets before letting us go on our way thanks to Mark Crawford.

He said he was waiting for us to come by because there had been complaints and he would be back next week.  

So please be aware, when we get to that area we will stop at the sign as a group and roll through as a group (like a big truck ) most importantly the four way stop after the right hand turn on to Hilda we will do the same.   

What's two more stops in a ride peppered with lights?

Through some phone calls the word is this is coming from York Region command down not just an edgy cop out to thwart cyclists fun.

Its up to us to keep our ride ours. 

At traffic lights that are red when we roll up to them please as a group stay behind any cars that may be there in front of us all ready and keep control of the lane we occupy.

When we move over to the right to slip past cars we are conceding the lane to them.   So we should not expect them to make room for us while trying to cut in front of them, we wouldn't do this at the check out line with our grocery shopping cart, please don't do this on the bike.

Part of the comfort, ease and enjoyment of The Donut Ride is often the unspoken reality of our high visibility as a group and the safety it provides us individually to pursue our passion of riding.

There is no 'One Face' or voice of the ride so we can't let uneducated drivers or riders actions become it by default.

Here's to thousands of more safe and enjoyable Km's in the new year.

- Kevin Lehman

"Just do it!”

Why I started mountain bike racing at age 42 


Melanie was never an athlete in school, but cycling was always a constant. At 42, she felt ready, writes Melanie Chambers. But that didn’t diminish the fear. 

By: Melanie Chambers , Toronto Star, September 11, 2015

“You looked shell-shocked at the start line,” says my boyfriend. Poised to push off the pedal, all I could think: “What am I doing here?” Never an athlete in school, why did I decide to start mountain bike racing at 42? And while my fellow, more-experienced, riders said they felt the same way, I wanted to bolt home. 

Countdown begins. Ten. Heart is pounding. Nine. Wow, that woman’s legs look strong. Eight. Friends think you can do this. Seven. I’m old. Six. Can I puke now? Five. Four. ThreeTwo. Pedal! 

We’re on a dirt road in Uxbridge, the site of the first Ontario Cup race of the summer series I’ve committed to racing.

After 90 minutes of breathlessness, climbing hills too steep to walk comfortably and pinballing between trees on a narrow dirt trail (singletrack), I land in second place. Dancing and giggling, this exhilaration is new to me. “I didn’t want to tell you before because I was afraid it would psych you out, but I knew you could make podium,”my boyfriend saysWow, and after only one race, I’m starting to believe it. Six more to go.

Growing up, I wasn’t into sports; I didn’t have athletic heroes. I’ve never trained, or competed, but cycling and fitness have been a constant in my life: in 1996, biking from Amsterdam to Spain seemed like the most natural way to experience Europe for the first time. 

So when a new boyfriend, a former Ontario mountain bike champion, suggested I race, and I wasn’t committed to a writing job overseas — the first time in 13 years — the timing was perfect. Friends agreed: “Melanie, you’ve been training all your life for this.”

Weeks before the race, I bought a lightweight road bike for multi-hour rides, and the occasional days of quad-burning hill sprints. Sprinkle this with more mountain biking and advice from boyfriend Paul, “light on the bars in the climbs,” and my favourite, “suffer well,” I didn't know my potential, yet.

And at the most technical race of the season, the sixth of seven, I would need courage. At 42, I feel ready. But that didn’t diminish the fear. 

My friend called from the hospital after a practise ride on the legendary “Buck”  in Bracebridge. She launched over the handlebars, got stuck between two rocks and sprained her wrist. 

Cycling Buck is like riding a series of whale backs — only whale backs made of Canadian Shield granite. On the morning of the race, after a spotty sleep, I’m back in the dreaded corral. 

“Ten seconds … go!” Starting on a rooty dirt road, I’m near the front until the trail funnels into singletrack (a narrow mountain biking trail so narrow that riders must ride single file). A woman in front hits a tree and flies off her bike forcing me to a stop. The pack is gone. 

Panic grabs my chest: a boulder ahead. I can, I can. Jerking the bike up, the front tire grabs the rock; a couple strong pedal strokes and I’m on top. I’m amazing. Excitement lasts seconds. 

Gripping the bars over a network of jagged tree roots, I’m too slow and hit the wrong angle; the bike bounces off a root and knocks me off to the side. Steadying my shaking leg back into the pedal clip, I push off but the bike is motionless: the chain is off. 

Calm down. In seconds it’s on again. 

Teetering on the ridge of another whale back, then swooping down into a sharp banked corner, the bike goes horizontal, effortlessly swooping into figure eights. Fear is replaced with confidence. And joy!

“How did you do?” asks my friend, who skipped this race. 

“Fifth out of seven.”

“But you finished,” my friend says. 

It was the toughest race in the series. And I did it.

SOURCE: Toronto Star, September 11, 2015

Milton Velodrome Offers Public Exhilarating Experience

By:  News Reporter, Toronto Star,  Sep 07, 2015

Steve Bauer is a Canadian cycling legend. He has raced in the Tour de France 11 times and he’s the first Canadian to take home an Olympic cycling medal. In a career spanning nearly two decades, the 56-year-old has received more decorations than my mother’s living room — but now, as the head coach of the Milton Cycling Academy, he faces his biggest challenge yet: teaching a clumsy Toronto Star journalist how to conquer the new Milton velodrome. 

On Tuesday, when the Mattamy National Cycling Centre opens to the public, you’ll be able to try it, too. 


You have to see the velodrome to appreciate the insanity of it: a 250-metre-long, oval track of untreated spruce with 13-degree banked straights and steep 42-degree bends. Standing at the top of one of those precipitous turns, I gasp. 

“The steepness is no different at the top,” Bauer says to reassure me. “You just have to push a little bit harder to climb the banking.”

Easy for you to say, Steve.



Milton, Canada - September, 1 2015 - The Mattamy National Cycling Centre (velodrome) is set to open to the public on September 8. The velodrome was built for the Pan Am Games. Toronto Star reporter Daniel Otis gives it a try. September 1, 2015 Richard Lautens/Toronto Star

After I change into borrowed bicycle shorts and a jersey, Bauer takes me to the velodrome’s rental room. I’m paired up with a lithe black machine. I look it over.

“Where are the brakes?”


Like all track bikes, this is a fixed-gear bicycle — that means no coasting and no changing gears. Need to stop? You have to freeze your legs and hope for the best. 

“Typically, on a track, you never want to be braking,” Bauer says. “Just relax and let the bike wind down.”


After I fail to get my toes in the pedal straps, Bauer helps me get started from a standing position. 

“Never try to freewheel,” he warns as I roll away. “You just have to constantly pedal.”

In the middle of the track, a bicycle trade show is in progress. Grinning merchants watch me wobble. Grimacing, I focus on the ground in front of me. 


To get used to the bike, Bauer has me do several laps on the flat inner track before getting me to ride on a slightly sloped blue band called the “côte d’azur.” When he feels I’ve grown comfortable with the motions of the bike, he tells me to ride between the black and red lines at the bottom of the track during the straights. That’s an angle of 13 degrees.

“Look far ahead to the banking,” Bauer says as I pedal past him. “The farther ahead you look, the more stable you are.” 

I do this for several laps, moving back to the côte d’azur before the bends. Bauer watches intently.

“Ok! Try the bend!”


Speeding into my first 180-degree turn, I feel the centrifugal force and gravity tilt my bike so it’s almost perpendicular to the 42-degree riding surface. 

“Oh s---,” I mouth. I’m terrified of falling. The bike trembles. I take the second bend, still riddled with anxiety. 

“Relax your back!” Bauer shouts as I ride past him. I do. Suddenly, everything becomes more fluid: my movement, the steering, the tilting, the bends. The bike begins following the trajectory of the course. On the third bend, fear gives way to exhilaration. 


“How high can I go?” I shout as I zip by. I must be grinning. 

“As high as you can! Just keep up your speed!”

I dare to near the blue line, which is halfway up the track. Bauer’s right — it’s just as easy to ride up here as it is at the bottom. I let the momentum of coming off a bend power me into a straight. On the next bend, I rise above the blue line.

Zipping around the track is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The momentum makes me feel like a satellite locked into a tight, unbreaking orbit. I pedal as fast as my legs will let me. The world becomes a whir. 


After several laps, my legs ache and my lungs burn. I come off the bend and do another lap on the flat part of the track, trying to slow down. I push back with my legs to brake, which only sort of works. As I near Bauer, I reach down to undo the toe straps on the pedals. I lose balance. Another, “Oh s---.” But Bauer’s right behind me, catching me in a bear hug as I tumble. 

“I knew that was going to happen as soon as you turned your bars” he says with a smile. 

Embarrassed, I free my sneakers from the pedals.

“You did great.”

Source: Toronto Star, September 7, 2015

Wireless Debate Rages On

By: Julien Papon Special to the Toronto Star,  Fri Aug 07 2015

Did you know that in the final stretch of a Tour de France stage, sprinters often reach speeds in excess of 70 kilometres per hour to get on that day’s podium? At that speed and after close to 200 km of exhausting bike racing, any moment of inattention or bike problem is devastating; any missed or unintended gear change leads to a most certain crash.

So, reading about the recent troubles of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made me fear the worst for those pro cyclists. Let me explain.

It was recently reported that two hackers were able to wirelessly take control of a Jeep Cherokee through its Uconnect system and crash it into a ditch by deactivating its brakes. While most of us would have experienced getting a patch from Microsoft or Apple to fix some type of system vulnerability at one time or another, wireless connectivity on four wheels takes the concept of Hack & Crash to an entirely different level. And if the security protocols are not nailed down right in the first place, it’s a sure recipe for disaster — “Sorry, you should have downloaded the latest update” just will not do it. Worse, one can easily argue that hackers are there to prove that system vulnerability is an inherent part of technology. The higher the stakes, the more resources will be put to work to find a way around the firewalls.

So, when you think that some of the bikes on the Tour de France have started to use wireless electronic gear-shifting mechanisms, it makes you wonder when the first stage win will have more to do with security patch downloads than leg power. I am not suggesting that a fellow sprinter would intentionally change gears on behalf of his competitor by the switch of a hidden button on his handlebar, but if a hacking job can happen to a Jeep, it can probably happen to a Focus — which are the bikes that used the pre-production SRAM wireless system at this year’s Tour de France.

It is one thing to have wireless devices on the bike gathering data, such as cadence, speed, heart rate, power, etc., that communicate back to a computer head to help the rider perform better. It is an entirely different thing to use wireless communication to actually control safety-critical power-train modules such as the bike’s gear-changing system.

Electronic shifting on road bikes is nothing new; I have been an early adopter and swear by it. But so far, the technology had been restricted to hard-wired systems. I wonder how quickly people will convert to wireless. Of course, most of us are no Tour de France sprinters, but the last thing one would want is to end up in the ditch because a software engineer forgot to ask to download the latest security patch.

It will be interesting to see if and how the hard learning of FCA will impact the commercialization of this new wireless bike gear control system.

Julien Papon is the president and founder of Vitess Bicycle Corporation. His column appears every two weeks during the summer.

Alaska - High Adrenalin Training

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.14.42 PM

Close Call Makes Dad See Red

I was nearly hit by a car biking home from work two weeks ago.

If I had not slammed on my brakes, a car crossing the Martin Goodman Trail would have run into me and likely knocked me into traffic on Lake Shore Blvd. W.

I saw the car leaving the Boulevard Club parking lot as I cruised down the hill. I slowed down, as I always do when I see a car, to make sure it stopped before crossing the trail. The car stopped. I kept slowing down as I tried to make eye contact with the driver, as I always do, but the windshield reflected clouds.

All seemed well, so I sped up. Then the car accelerated forward. My brakes screeched and my front tire stopped about a foot from the car.

I paused for a second, perfectly balanced on two wheels, but both my feet were clipped into my pedals. I tried to twist my right foot but couldn’t clip out before gravity took over. I crashed onto the sidewalk as cars sped past a few feet away.

Then I lost it.

It is not a moment I am proud of. I can’t remember when I have been so furious. Enraged, actually. A torrent of profanity flew from my mouth at the middle-aged male driver before I pulled myself off the concrete. He got out of his car and I pointed my finger in his face and yelled and screamed and swore. I didn’t even give him a chance to apologize. I felt more anger boiling up inside me as he talked and I knew I had to get out of there or I might actually punch the guy.

He said he didn’t see me. He was sorry. I didn’t care. It was still daylight and he nearly ran me over.

What fuelled my rage is that I bike to work year-round and I am as careful and conscientious a bike rider as you will find. I do everything I can to not be hit by a car.

I don’t bike particularly fast. I wear a white helmet and bright “yelling yellow” jacket in the winter months, with flashing lights on the front and back of my bike. I stop at red lights. I often use hand signals, I ring my silly little bell when I pass joggers and roller bladers and slower cyclists — I even ring at the geese and seagulls on the path.

I bought clip-in shoes and pedals last fall because I frequently face strong headwinds when I bike home and they give me more power.

I unclip my right foot ahead of any anticipated need to stop. I unclip both feet as I navigate the construction zone that is now Queens Quay.

About 12 kilometres of my 14-kilometre bike ride is on the new Linear Park path in Etobicoke or the Martin Goodman Trail. It’s a safe commute and I’m a safe cyclist.

I have to be because I’m also a dad of 1-year-old twins. I can’t afford to have an accident. My children can’t afford to lose their father and my wife can’t afford to lose her husband. I can’t afford serious injuries and long-term rehabilitation.

If you see me pedalling along the lake, know that I’m not just a guy on a bike.

I’m a father of twins going to work to earn a living so I can raise my family, or I’m biking home to see my beautiful babies before they are fed and put to bed.

I choose to bike to work because, where I live, the TTC is not The Better Way. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to work on the 501 streetcar that rumbles by my house. It takes even longer to get home.

The GO Train also takes me about an hour, including the 25-minute walk to Mimico Station.

Biking takes me about 45 minutes and saves me a lot in commuting costs. Right now, it’s also the only way I can stay in shape. I’m 47 years old and I need to stay fit and healthy if I want to be around long enough to raise my children into adulthood.

I should be able to bike safely to and from work. But all it takes is one person not paying attention, even when I’m on the bike path, and suddenly my children don’t have a father.

Please think of that when you get behind the wheel.

SOURCE: Scott Colby, Toronto StarMay 27, 2013

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