Happy Valentine’s Day bike lovers!

Happy Valentine's Day bike lovers!

From the dandy archives: art work by Diana McNally. Diana drew this in 2009 for dandyhorse but we were unable to print it at the time. It seemed perfect for today.

It says:

When he left, I thought my heart was broken…I later realized it wasn't his love that set me free, rather it obscured the only thing that did: riding my bike on the open road.

Want more bike love?

Stay tuned to dandyhorsemagazine.com/winter2012 for our first winter issue, chock full of bike lovers from across Canada and more!


Diana McNally is a Toronto-based illustrator, graphic designer and joker-about-town. While nature gave her two legs, she'd gladly take two wheels any day. www.dianamcnally.com

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dandySHOPS: Cycle Couture on College

Cycle Couture College Street storefront on a sunny February day.

Sartorial cyclists set for all seasons with new shop Cycle Couture
Story by Heather Reid
Photos by Jamie Rosenthal

While Toronto city cyclists have become known for busting out their most bright and beautiful outfits on the first spring-like days, fashionable cyclists are a bit fewer and far between at this frostier time of year.

Cycle Couture is here to help you look dandy on your bike year-round. The boutique bike shop opened in April of 2011 at 926 College St., just east of Dovercourt, and brought with it a selection of international designers like Herskind + Herskind, Velorbis, Public Bicycles and Clarijs, Basil and Po Campo –some never sold in Toronto before. And, all bikes come with fenders and bike racks to weather any storm, plus sleek designs to suit any of Toronto’s many diverse expressions of bike style.

Public Bicycles line the centre of the shop.

Designer bicycle brands currently being carried at the shop have been selected for their quality, comfort, and utilitarian designs according to owner Jeff Scullion. “Many of our customers have a lot of personal style which can be seen in the bikes they ride and accessories that they use.”

“We have a wide customer base,” says Scullion. “Our customers appreciate excellent design, great quality and unique products. We strive to carry a variety of bikes and accessories that are highly focussed on stylish city cycling. We are the first retailers in Canada for of all of the bike brands that we sell as well as many of the bike accessories.”

The accessories and gear available at Cycle Couture blend statement-making style with practical function. Case in point: their Mission Workshop line of backpacks and other accessories like riding jackets from San Francisco.

Cycle Couture's uncluttered walls feature bike accessories like Mission Workshop backpacks.

The name Cycle Couture suggests the exclusivity of the fashion world, but the store’s manager Adam Freeman says they see bike style as something that everyone can make their own. The way to make cycling accessible to the broader spectrum of Toronto personalities is to make it fun: to play on the enthusiasm for personal style that a diverse city like Toronto already has.

Overall, it’s a bike shop that wants to make bicycling more fun and personal, and they want to encourage more people to try city cycling too.

I don’t think they are consumed with fashion at Cycle Couture, but rather believe that cycling is as much an extension of yourself as anything else you choose to do in and around your city. By transforming bikes for people into a playful expression of themselves, bicycling can become something all sorts of people simply want to do more and more.

Photo of store manager Adam Freeman by Heather Reid.

A selection of stylish bikes looking onto College Street.
Photo by Heather Reid

Cycle Couture
926 College Street
Toronto, ON
M6H 1A4


Although it’s all very good to think about keeping warm this winter, the growing numbers of Toronto cyclists with style are adding a bit more colour to our Toronto streets this winter. After our visit to the shop we went Bike Spotting on College and Dovercourt, asking how is fashion important to local riders.

Winter Issue - with lots more advice on what to wear for your College Street ride coming soon!

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Pushing the Envelope

This article originally appeared in dandyhorse magazine volume 3, issue 1. Order this issue here.

by Amy Packwood
photo by Dana Lacey

Reba Plummer joined the Toronto cycling community in the mid-80s after answering an ad in a newspaper. The seasoned wrench at Toronto’s Urbane Cyclist—and 2003 Cycle Messenger World Champion (cargo bike racing division)—likes to say that she went from hobby rider to urban bike courier in one phone call. The rest, she says, is history.

“As a courier I learned that I could bike every day, year-round, in any weather and [since then] I’ve just always been on the bike. I bike pretty much every day, commute to work, go out on Sunday rides, go on holidays with the bikes.”

Now a member of Urbane Cyclist’s worker-owned co-operative, Plummer caresses the championship prize: an electric green Bilenky. “I’ve had them add some extras,” she says, pointing out the neon green paint, chain guard, curvy tube and electric assist. She’s also attached a handmade rack woven out of inner tubes.

Plummer’s time on the road made her aware of a few gaps in the services offered to couriers. She and her partner opened The Bike Ranch in 1990, which catered to Toronto’s bike messenger community. In 1995, she began designing, sewing and selling her ideal bike messenger bags under her brand name, Push the Envelope.

In 1999, when faced with finding a new space for The Bike Ranch, Plummer instead decided to join forces with Urbane Cyclist. It was a good fit. The 13-year-old co-operative is the only business model of its kind in the Toronto bike community. It has nine members, and six staff as members-in-waiting. “Each worker member is part owner, and all major decisions are made in a collective, non-hierarchical process,” she says. Urbane’s site boasts that “Co-ops aim to serve the needs of a community with integrity and a vision towards social justice and genuine alternatives to corporate culture and values.” It also enjoys a friendly and solid reputation among couriers, commuters and even the Toronto Police, who patrol on Urbanite bikes.

Plummer has spread her love of bikes and self-reliance to the broader community. In 2002, she worked as the mechanic / teacher with Open Roads, the funded version of what became the popular volunteer-run Wenches with Wrenches through the Community Bicycle Network. Although she didn’t start the woman-led bike repair workshops, Plummer has been integral to the success of the program and continues to volunteer.

Cycling activism, cycling business, cycling lifestyle, cycling hobbies, cycling holidays...what else is Plummer into? “Bikes, bikes, bikes,” she insists “I love bikes!”

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Commuter cyclists can help keep recreational Trail Plan on track

Lack of winter maintenance on existing multi-use trails was one of the concerns expressed at the Trails Plan open house.
Photo of cyclists on the West Toronto Railpath by Martin Reis.

by Duncan Hurd

Update: Transportation Services Cycling Infrastructure and Programs staff have released the maps on display at this public meeting. The Proposed New Connections Map (PDF) and the Proposed Trail Upgrades and 2012 Trail Upgrades Map (PDF).

Approximately 100 people filtered through a meeting room door on the second floor of Northern District Public Library to have their say about the City of Toronto's updated Trails Plan on Monday, February 6, 2012.

Included as part the Mayor's Bike Plan, the Trails Plan aims to improve existing multi-use trails across the city as well as add 100 km of new off-road trails. About 30 km of new off-road multi-use trails are close to completion. These trails were approved in 2009, prior to the current mayor's election, and are funded as part of the Recreational Infrastructure Canada Program in Ontario (RInC). These trails include the Finch Hydro Corridor and CN Leaside trails (for a full list of RInC projects in Toronto see here).

Map of RInC trail projects.

At the Trails Plan open house, two large maps were spread out on tables dividing the proposed projects into two parts. One map featured the locations of state of good repair updates proposed for existing trails and a second map listed the 29 proposed new trail connections.

Transportation Services staff from the cycling infrastructure and programs unit circled about the room, encouraging participants to attach notes to the maps with their concerns, and answering questions about the plans. Many of the attendees presented very specific requests for upgrades and repairs such as improving access to the Don Trail and adding road markings where the Eglinton West trail crosses through intersections. From flooded trails to unclear wayfinding signs, the group that gathered around the state of good repair proposal map shared many stories about the frustration of navigating the current trail system by bicycle. But there was a decided emphasis on connectivity between off-road and on-street bike infrastructure overall.

At the proposed trail connections map, guests were encouraged to rank the importance of the proposed new connection projects. It was here that it became clear that many attendees were interested in the recreational trail projects that could also benefit bicycle commuters. The projects that quickly received stickers indicating top priority included the West Toronto Railpath extensions both north and south, a trail along the Ward 17 Hydro Corridor and connecting the Martin Goodman Trail along Queen's Quay.

Conversations around both maps continuously brought up the lack of connection between trails and on-street routes. Families wishing to cycle from their homes to the paths often must take convoluted side-street routes or face high-speed traffic on multi-lane roads. Many of the participants at this open house were there to strongly recommend that continuous routes be created that include both on-street lanes and off-road trails.

City staffer Jennifer Hyland explained that the Trail Plan is currently a "living document." Each proposed project is still in the early planning phase and the community and stakeholder input obtained at similar meetings will help shape the priorities and eventual outcome of the Trails Plan.

This meeting's comments collected by staff will be combined with those from previous consultations with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Hydro One, Toronto Water and a number of other stakeholders. The resulting report will include greater details about the proposed connections and current state of good repair recommendations for existing multi-use trails. The report will be made public upon release to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on March 21, 2012.

Make your voice heard: share your comments, concerns and suggestions for the Trails Plan by February 24, 2012 by writing to

Transportation Services
Cycling Infrastructure & Programs
100 Queen St W, City Hall,
22nd Floor East Tower
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
E-mail: bikeplan@toronto.ca
Fax: 416-392-4808

Be sure to also write your councillor to let them know you support off-road trails expansion and enhancement in your area but that you need to be able to get to them safely too!

dandyhorse will continue to follow the developments of the Trails Plan and will be looking in more detail at the current trails network over the next few months.

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Betty & Dash: New bike share at Vic College

Stephanie Fox and Esther MacKenzie named the Vic bike club at U of T after their own bikes, Betty & Dash Photo by Arturo Peguero

New bike share and repair hub at Vic College

By Leila Kent

It’s a Saturday morning at the picturesque Victoria College in downtown Toronto and a wintry wind is blowing, but rather than huddling in bed, some bleary eyed students  are hauling themselves out to fix up their bike share fleet. The bikes are part of a new college-funded program through which Vic students can borrow bikes and tools for free.

Betty & Dash” sounds more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a bike club, but maybe that’s appropriate. Founders Stephanie Fox and Esther MacKenzie envisioned a non-intimidating group that wouldn’t take itself too seriously, and naming it after their own bikes was just the start.  The club now lends bikes and tools to students, free of charge. 

What inspired them initially was their college community. Victoria University (Vic, for short) is perched at the eastern edge of the University of Toronto. To the frustration of pedestrians and cyclists alike, the ever-slippery Queen’s Park and the impenetrable traffic that zooms around it separate it from the rest of campus. Vic, for some reason, has also acquired a sizeable majority of female students in recent years.

Well-dressed Vic student Johanna Lewis with a MEC bike light compliments of Betty & Dash Photo by Stephanie Fox

“We realized that Victoria College is really girly, and we’re both really girly,” says Fox, who studies biological anthropology, plays varsity rugby, and did primate research in Ghana last summer. She and MacKenzie wanted to reach out to people at Vic who find city cycling intimidating and those like international students with short-term cycling needs.

Betty & Dash member Ashley Quan painting a bike Photo by Stephanie Fox

Fox’s personal relationship with cycling got off to a cartoonish start. ” When I moved downtown [from Oakville] in first year,” she recalls, “I had this vision of biking everywhere. I wanted to save money, avoid the TTC... be happy, healthy, quick and efficient. So I bought a bike on Craigslist - and within maybe two weeks of owning it, I accidentally ran it over with my car.”

Fox finds this hilarious in retrospect, but at the time it was decidedly unfunny. She Macgyvered the bike back into ride-ability, but  it was was never properly fixed.

Bikechain, University of Toronto’s D.I.Y. educational shop, offers a variety of services (which would have been great for freshman Fox). Unfortunately, it’s somewhat hampered by limited funding and a lack of visibility. “I didn’t know that Bikechain existed when I was in first year,” says Fox - a common complaint. The bigger problem is a busy shop. Space and hours are minuscule relative to the number of potential customers. Their rental program has 30 bikes for a campus of 50,000 students.

In the summer of 2010, Fox and MacKenzie started brainstorming. As Stephanie puts it, “Bikechain is a sweaty basement, usually full of guys. Not that it isn’t a friendly atmosphere - it is, but it needs a bridge from Victoria College.”

That bridge, they decided, could be built using a bike share program at Vic. With financial and administrative support from the Victoria University Students Administrative Council and expertise from mechanics at Bikechain, Fox, MacKenzie, and other curious Vic students put together the Betty & Dash fleet. When Mackenzie graduated last year, I took over as co-president of the club and we officially launched the bike share program in the fall of 2011.

Betty & Dash has also given bike riding lessons - an idea that some experienced cyclists scoffed at. “Doesn’t everyone know how to ride a bike?” they asked incredulously. It turns out that the answer is a resounding “No!”, but not being experts doesn’t make people any less capable of learning. (In the same situation? The City of Toronto offers info and lessons for all ages through CAN-BIKE.) Even for those who know how to ride, some tips can be helpful - especially when it comes to winter biking.

Despite her early set-backs, Stephanie Fox has since become a utilitarian, everyday city cyclist. “I’m chronically late, so biking saves my ass half the time. Plus, I can do twice as many things in one day!”

In future she hopes the club’s services will expand, especially by renting over the summer term and becoming better equipped: a kind of satellite bike hub on campus. For now, services are available by appointment.

And if you know anyone at Vic who wants to take advantage of the mild winter riding, let them know their steed is waiting in the stables.

Betty & Dash can be reached at bikes@vusac.ca

Betty & Dash member Jen Roberton and co-founder Esther MacKenzie Photo by Stephanie Fox

Stephanie Fox contemplates the future of the bike club Photo by Arturo Peguero

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