SERIES: Emily and Tammy bike to work, week one (by Emily)

SERIES: Emily and Tammy's great commute

Riding to work with Brodie bikes

by Emily Giles

I have always wanted to be a biker. But I’ll admit it, I’ve been scared. I had a really bad car accident when I was in my 20’s, and ever since then have played anything to do with cars and traffic really safe. So although I am a conservationist and have always applauded the bike community for their contributions in reducing our collective greenhouse gas emissions, I haven’t owned a bike since I was a teenager. Up until now I’ve just been too intimidated by the cars and traffic of Toronto to face my fears.

Recently my colleague Tammy proposed the perfect opportunity to give bike riding a chance: test riding a brand new Brodie bike and blogging about my experience as a new cyclist in the city. Even better – Tammy lives around the corner from me, and would show me her biking route and teach me the rules of the road so that we could safely bike to work together every day until I was comfortable. I liked the idea, but still wasn’t 100% convinced…

Shortly after Tammy proposed this idea, I had a visit from my Grandpa who lives in Calgary. I told Grandpa and his old pal Andy about this idea over dinner one evening, and they agreed that I should absolutely go for it. Both Andy and Grandpa are avid cyclists and believe that cycling is the secret to staying young – both mentally and physically. I figured I should take any advice from Andy and Grandpa seriously considering that they are 95 and 96 years old, respectively, and in incredible shape!

Andy grew up in Toronto and shared with me some amazing stories over dinner about what it was like to ride his bike around the city in the 1930’s (there weren’t many traffic lights back then), before he was sent off to England during the war, where he continued to enjoy biking all over a new country!

Andy and my Grandpa Al – my inspiration for getting started on a bike!

These two friends both still ride their bikes everywhere – from doctor’s appointments to picking up groceries! In fact, Andy recently got the green light from his doctor to get back on his bike after suffering a mild stroke this winter. Andy loves riding his bike at the velodrome in London, ON, and told me he can’t wait to get back at it (did I mention that Andy is 95?!). After chatting with these two I was sold! If that isn’t inspiration to get off your butt and get active then I don’t know what is.

Tammy and I picked up the Brodie bikes (I got the Romulus and Tammy is riding the Argus), and we tested out our route to work on a Saturday afternoon when there was less traffic and we weren’t on a timeline so that I would know what I was doing come Monday morning’s busy commute.

My sweet new ride for the next month! A gorgeous Brodie Romulus.

We reviewed the route first on a map so that I would know where I was going. We start in the Annex and have to travel north to Mount Pleasant and Eglinton Ave. Upon reviewing the route, I was disappointed (though not surprised) that there aren’t too many separated bike paths for us to travel along. But I was happy to learn that it is a well-traveled route by many cyclists, and that we have a bike path for at least the uphill section along Poplar Plains.

I felt comfortable and safe right away on my new Brodie bike. It is easy to handle, and I felt like it was a great, high quality bike to get started on. Tammy was also a great guide, and made me feel like I didn’t have to rush or do anything that I wasn’t comfortable with on the road.

Testing the route out on a Saturday was the perfect way to start. We could take our time and stop along the way so that I could ask questions, and not have to worry about showing up late for work. We even could stop and check out the books in the mini-library in Oriole Park!

The test ride in was calm and stress free – and in fact, much easier than I had anticipated! After this I felt ready to face the Monday morning traffic.

We tried to leave on Monday morning a little bit after rush hour, and departed around 9 am. All in all, the first day biking in was fantastic! The best part about it was arriving at my office, and being greeted by all of my colleagues who were super stoked that I was now part of the biking community. I work for an environmental NGO, so we probably have more cyclists in our office than most, and they’re all thrilled to have a new cycling convert in their midst. We’re already planning a few group trips so that I can try out some new routes around the city.

Bumping into my colleague, Jessica, on our way home from work one evening! There are many cyclists in my office, and I already feel like I’m part of the club.

We have a shower in our office, which I’ve realized is necessary when you’re biking in on a hot summer’s day. There is only one shower which means that everyone has to wait their turn, but we’ve got a great system in place where you write your name & phone extension on a list on a white board outside the shower room door, and you get a call when it’s your turn to go in.

I love how energized and happy I feel all throughout the day after biking in. I’m not a morning person, but feel much better equipped to handle the mornings now after riding in. Our IT guy, Mark, always rides his bike no matter the season or weather conditions, and I have yet to see Mark in a bad mood. I have finally discovered why – it’s because of the biking! It really makes a difference to your day. Seeing lots of green space along the way and avoiding the TTC crowds sure doesn’t hurt either.

All in all my first week on the bike was a huge success. I feel great, and love coming home to my favourite cold and well-deserved beer after a hot (although admittedly all downhill) cycle home!

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