Bike Gear

Winter Fatbike Riding in Ontario

winter 2022 update

When winter comes around in Ontario most of us fair weather riders put our bikes away.

But Fatbikes (or is it Fat Bikes?) are a new design of mountain bike that enables riders keen on riding year round to get out of the spin classes and do real riding.

This new trend evolves our bike sport to new possibilities and one day I see it in the winter Olympics.

These new bicycles are a hybrid of the MTB concept.

The obvious difference you can see is the fat tires that help you “float” over loose, soft terrain, be it snow, sand or soggy soil. A base on regular MTB tires to have an easier and more enjoyable ride.

What also has changed is one crank gear up front, fewer speeds to change and a lower gear ratio. These bikes are not made for speed or big hills as there is plenty of friction at work as the fat tires plow through the snow.

Fat bikes come with wide handlebars, disc brakes on a wide fork frame, but few have shocks. You just don’t need them on the soft stuff. Tires may have studs for ice and tire pressure is a low 10 psi or less.

With the fat soft tires and wide handlebar stance, riders have firm control and keep moving beyond what a typical MTB could handle.

There is a limit naturally, traveling through half a metre of powder is going to be tough. Ice is more manageable but still treated with caution as any rubber bike tire can slip from under you in a blink.

Metal studded tires come to the rescue giving a rider firm traction maneuvering on precarious icy patches.

In a way riding on snow would give you a soft landing when a fall comes. Still wear a helmet over a thin toque cause those trees are not moving.

Keeping warm is an issue and requires a change in tactics. How to keep your feet, fingers and drinking water from freezing is a concern. You may opt for flat pedals and winter boots, or covers for riding shoes and your bar handles. Lots of accessories are coming out to fill this niche.

If you cross country ski you know all about the balance between staying warm but not sweating too much, as this moisture will chill you out eventually.

One has to dress in layers and peel before overheating. Remember that the days are short and be certain not to get lost. That’s definitely more of a problem than in the summer.

So with that short intro where can you ride your Fat Bike in Ontario? The simple answer is everywhere you could with your summer bike. Well almost… there are exceptions to this new sport.

Many summer ride locations on this site’s map pages are Nordic ski locations in the winter. Be sure you are welcome and give lots of space to skiers as you have better braking and turning than they do. And never ride over the ski tracks set in the snow, that’s just bad etiquette.

Most MTB, forest parks and rail trails on this site have easy routes to try. Also up north snowmobile trails are a possibility with hundreds of kilometres to ride if you find a quiet side loop. Use caution as these snow machines need as much respect as cars.

Below is a list of links to get you on your way. Rent first then buy into it later.

Check the Weather and Snow Depth, before you Go

Where to Ride a Fatbike in the Winter:

First, try my Fatbike Tag on this site for ideas…

 

My close to Toronto favorites – free, few hills, no crowds:

Whitchurch – flat, easy, just north of Toronto

Bendor  – easy rolling hills

Long Sault – hilly, small fee north of Bowmanville

Eldred King – gentle grades, sandy too

Palgrave – north of Albion Hills and similar

Durham Forest – free, groomed loops!

Glen Major – beside Durham for more action

 

Farther away from Toronto

Northumberland – free, hills, large area north of Cobourg

Dufferin Forest – south of Collingwood, some grooming

Hydrocut – Waterloo

Guelph Lake – Guelph,

The Pines – Woodstock, some grooming

Turkey Point – on Lake Erie, snow depth could thin

Ottawa – river park trail

Forest Lea –  Pembroke

Limerick Forest – N of Prescot

Larose Forest – south of Ottawa

Kivi Park – Sudbury

Torrance Barrens – Bala

Algonquin Park – Minnesing,  Rail Trail

BRMC – Bracebridge

Shuniah Mines – Thunderbay

The author of this site, Dan Roitner has recently published a new Mountain Bike trail guide. This book is full of ideas on where to ride your Fat Bike this winter.

Buy it for cheap from this site, as an eBook or Paperback

mtb trail guide

+ Groomed with Trail Fees $

Why would you pay when you can ride for free? Well, a few times the snow base is ideal for Fatbike riding. There may be too much snow and you are getting nowhere fast burning up energy. Or it could be icy and lumpy, no fun either.

A groomed path sets up the snow base to roll easier with better traction. Climbing and zipping down winding tracks become manageable and fun too. Your regular MTB  with not-so-fat tires can take on these trails too if permitted. Check first.

 

Albion Hills –  Black Trail only

Horseshoe – 9 km on snowshoe trail and beyond into Copland forest

Hardwood – Barrie lots to ride

Highlands Nordic – Collingwood – New trail 

Georgian – Parry Sound

Walden – Sudbury

Hiawatha – Sault Ste. Marie

Gatineau – Ottawa area

…more details and maps on this new postGroomed Fat Bike Trails in Ontario

 

Rail Trails – And then there are many Rail Trails in Ontario that one could Fatbike on. Granted they are flat and straight, but if you want to put in some mileage they go on forever.

Most Rail Trails allow snowmobiles on parts of or the full length of the route. Some are popular snowmobile highways and likely not a good experience (or safe). Lesser traveled routes may be found and other Rail Trails, where sleds are banned, you will have no one but only the odd Nordic skier or hiker in sight.

Where to Rent a Fat Bike:

Approximate full day bike rental rates are below, some shops do half-day and hourly rentals. Also, the price gets better if you rent for additional days. Call ahead to be sure they have them as some locations have very few.

Horseshoe – $38 for 2 hours

Hardwood  – $ 50

Albion Hills – $56 (8 bikes, different sizes) no reservations

Algonquin Outfitters – Huntsville $45

Parry Sound Bikes – $50

Try Sports – Parry Sound  $48

Liv Outside – in Bracebridge ~$42

Kamikaze Bikes – Collingwood $50

Friday Harbour  – Lake Simcoe  $25 for 2 hours

Adventure 360 – Sudbury $65

Velorution – Sault Ste. Maire  $50

 

Here are a few websites for more info:

Wikipedia – Fatbike

Bike Cottage Country

Northern Ontario Travel

Fat Bike.com

Now get out there and have some fun, you crazy kids!



December 5, 20237 Comments, Bike Rentals | City Paths | Fatbike
How to Dress for Cold Weather Cycling

When the warm summer winds fade, many of us hang up our bicycles in the garage, never to be used again till next spring. And so goes the lifestyle of the fair-weather pedaler.

Well, let me warm you up to the idea that you can bike ride all year round.

The notion that it is too chilly to continue riding into the fall certainly seems insane by the time winter arrives. If nothing else, you can extend your cycling season by several months just by having the right clothing.

 

The old adage “dress for the weather” is so true. Those who are already cold-weather riding are not crazy (MTB riders excepted, lol)—we just have the right gear to make it fun.

Using the proper attire on the trails is important. I am going to explain the rationale and some of the physics involved to be comfortable as the temps drop.

 

Dress for Success

A common beginner mistake is wearing your street clothes for cycling. If you are a slow, leisurely cruising Park or Rail Trail rider, facing no hillsor if you’re only going for a short hop on your bike then this is probably fine. 

If you’re going to do this, pick street clothes that give you enough movement so you do not rip or split your garments. (Tight jeans or baggy, flappy pant legs are not good choices.)

And if you are planning to pedal for hours, you will need to rethink your cycling attire and get some proper technical (sport specific) clothing.

The other newbie mistake is overdressing. It will take some trial and error to find the right balance between how much heat you produce and how much heat loss your experience. You should actually start your day on the ride a little chilled and aim to get to a comfortable temperature within 15 to 20 minutes (A few hill climbs will do it, lol.)

If you’re overdressed, problems start when you begin to sweat. In cooler climates, this perspiration can get trapped in your clothing. If you cannot regulate the evaporation, your clothing gets damp, and moisture that does not migrate well away from your body will be uncomfortable and have a chilling effect.

2 women on bikes

Wear the Right Material

If you are wearing cotton shirts, underwear, or socks, these materials feel heavy and cold once you begin to sweat. Not good, when you’re trying to stay warm! Better to wear polyester and wool blends.

These materials are light, perform well, retain heat and wick moisture. Wool actually still feels warm after it gets wetamazing! A merino wool base layer is fine for low activity, but it’s better to pick polyesters for more vigorous outings.

 

Retain the Heat, Lose the Moisture in 3 Layers 

Dressing in layers is the best method to regulate your body’s heat and moisture. Layers help you build a barrier to the outside, blocking the cold winds and trapping warm air in the weaves and fluffy fleece material inside, to keep you insulated.

These layers of material are very effective at keeping you comfortable, as long as you choose the right fabric, construction and fit: too loose and you lose heat, too tight and you restrict movement.

1 Base Layer – Underwear layer against your skin to wick moisture

2 Insulating Layer – Warming mid-layer of fleece

3 Shell Layer  – Outer wind-breaking thin jacket layer

The base layer should be tight fitting and move sweat away from your body. It will continue to feel warm when moist thanks to the wool or polyester it’s made of, and it might have insulating properties when it gets colder.

The middle layer insulates and should have zippers to vent. The colder it is outside, the thicker the fleece material should be.

Your outer layer needs to block chilly winds from penetrating your garments and cooling you down.  This shell/windbreaker jacket should block most of the wind pressure, yet breathe when you sweat.

Some riders may wish for a jacket that is waterproof if it rains, say, while they’re on a long Rail Trail outing with not a shelter in sight. You might be able to find a water-resistant jacket that works and still breathes.

But a true waterproof shell may not breathe well, creating a sauna effect. To make a garment that can do everything and do it well is tricky and expensive. Better to have a separate plastic raincoat packed when you need it.

On that point, my thoughts are: If the forecast looks iffy, plan on doing mountain biking loops near your car, and you don’t need to bother with a water-resistant/proof jacket at all. The moment it starts to rain, you can beeline it back. Just be smart enough to pack a change of clothes.



What to Wear Cycling

In the dead of winter, there is a lot to wear to stay happy and warm. Finding suitable activewear without all the bulk is the goal. 

These are very general guidelines as to what to consider wearing as it gets colder. It depends on your health, age, endurance, cardio output and the weather and windchill during your ride.

15 to 10C zone

As the temperature dips into the low teens, start wearing a light windbreaker shell over your long-sleeved shirt (or at least bring it with you). If the sun is shining, you might still be comfortable in shorts, or you may want to bring along slip-on, full-length tights and put those on at some point.

10 to OC zone

An inner fleece jacket is requiredperhaps a sleeveless one if you are moving fastover a long-sleeve undershirt. Tight medium-weight jogging-type pants with full-length cycling gloves and thicker socks need to be employed. It’s a good idea to wear a skull cap or ear warmers under your helmet.

Below OC zone

Now you’ll need to add more or thicker layers without getting too bulky. It’s a real trick to finding that comfort zone. Looking at what Nordic skiers wear will clue you in to how being active in the winter can be comfortable. 

 

(I am going to save my other comments for a future article on gear for
hardcore winter riders and those who love Fatbiking in a blizzard.)

2 rides on path
winter cycling


Shopping Tips:

Pockets – You can never have enough pockets. Look for deep pockets that zip closed. Velcro is OK, but only takes one time to have a spill and lose stuff (in the snow) to know that securing valuables in a zippered area will save you much grief.

Vents – Look for jackets that have zippered vents under the armpits. Undershirts and fleece tops should open up completely or at the very least have a zipper that comes down halfway. 

Noisy vs. silent clothes – The quiet solitude of a lonely path can make noisy clothing, with its rubbing and crinkling sounds, annoying to some. Test that aspect in the store.

 

Cycling Shopping List:

If you’re going to ride in cooler weather, you should have the following items as part of your cycling wardrobe. Depending on the day, you may be dressing for a leisurely cruise on paved paths in cooler weather, or a sweaty MTB ride where you’re cranking hard on the climbs. Tailor your activewear choices accordingly.

Hat – a skull cap, bandana under your helmet.

Neck warmer/gaiter – great on a frosty day; pull it over your mouth and nose to warm your breath.

Gloves – full-finger gloves with palms that grip the bars work down to a certain temperature. If you’ll be riding when it’s below 0C, consider bar mitts, which are sleeves into which you insert your hand. (Actual mitts will not enable you to change gears.)

Undershirt – a tight, long-sleeved polyester shirt with a soft, non-itch feel inside.

Underwear – tight polyester underwear with long underwear on top. You should have two kinds: thin leggings and a thicker fleece blend for frosty mornings.

Pants/tights – a tight fit down to the ankles (please, not flared out—they might get caught in your chain). Colder weather may need you to combine two layers: shell pants with fleece underpants. 

Fleece top – have both a thin and thick version depending on how cold it is, and maybe a third sleeveless one for milder days. 

Shell jacket, waist length – some are cut for cycling. It should be wind/water resistant with zippered vents (if you can find them). If it has a hood, can you roll it up and hide it in the collar? Otherwise, it’s a drag chute.

Socks – I recommend thicker polyester, with a wool blend as it gets cooler.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) – durable cycling activewear

Chain Reaction Cycles – large selection of clothing and shoes

Pro Bike Kit – cycling jerseys, jackets, tights, shoes

Under Armour – outerwear, underwear, shoes

Running Room – shoes, clothing

Patagonia – MTB clothing

Keen – hiking shoes and boots

fall trail ride

Final Tips:

> Cycling exposes you to the elements, a great feeling when the weather behaves but can surprise you when it changes suddenly. Use a few weather services to get an average sense of what the day might be like. And have a backup plan if things go awry.

> Unsure what to wear? Pack extra stuff in a backpack or saddlebag. That way, if you feel underdressed or overdressed, you’ll have options. But keep it to a minimum. 

> Definitely leave a change of clothes back at the car to avoid a chill driving home. Maybe bring extra shoes/boots and a fresh pair of socks to keep the toes happy.

> Consider packing a raincoat, as it seems to rain more in the spring and fall than in the summer. Getting wet in the summer is OK, but no fun on a cooler-temperature ride when you’ve still got an hour to go.

> Finally, refrain from wearing blacks, greys and dull colours. There are many overcast days through the winter months. You want to be seen by cars and other traffic to avoid fatalities. (It’s also hunting season in the fall.)

 

Where to Look:

If you jog or Nordic ski in the winter, then you already have activewear that can be used while cycling—you’re set. But if you need more/better gear, shop around.

Cycling and running are very similar activities. Shop in those departments (online or in the aisles of sports stores) to find suitable activewear. By mid-summer, new gear comes out in the stores, and by spring, you can look for clearance sales.

Also, check used-clothing stores for garments that will work on the trail. Or try bike/gear swaps at cycling club events.

I have included some links on this page to sites that I believe offer good quality apparel. There is an eco-friendly movement recently to recycle old fibres to make into new garments.  Patagonia is a leader in this cause and sensitive about its carbon footprint.

I may get a small referral fee at no extra cost to you, if you shop at these suppliers using my links. It supports the cost of this free site.

Some items get expensive, I know. Think of the cost as an investment in comfort and longevity to manage chillier climes in Canada. Also, consider the expense as insurance that these garments will perform well, keeping you happy when the going gets tough.

 


Those are my best tips on dressing for the weatheror is it better said, against the weather? Regardless, follow these and you likely won’t have to end your day rides early, and you probably won’t catch a cold or get frostbite.

One of the great things about cycling is that you can ride all year if you want. Other sports that need snow or water have their seasons, but we two-wheelers can crank it year-round. OH, JOY!

 

Play safe, stay warm – Dan Roitner

 

PS – I wrote this article from 35 years of experiences cycling. I made many newbie mistakes, learned a few lessons along the way and customized my activewear. I still never know exactly what to put on before I head out as the weather is unpredictable at times.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) – durable cycling activewear

Chain Reaction Cycles – large selection of clothing and shoes

Pro Bike Kit – cycling jerseys, jackets, tights, shoes

Under Armour – outerwear, underwear, shoes

Running Room – shoes, clothing

Patagonia – MTB clothing

Keen – hiking shoes and boots

2 rides in forest


 

November 10, 2023No comments,
eBikes Part 2: How Do They Work?

In eBikes Part 1: Should I Buy One? I talked about what an eBike is and if you should consider buying one. I gave reasons why you might favour getting an electric bicycle, the benefits, and any shortcomings.

Here in Part 2, I get into the different designs, types of motors, battery power and options that exist. My first comment is that there are a lot of choices.

Technology is rapidly changing and what you see today will likely evolve greatly in the next decade. Exciting stuff!

There has been a lot of change in the design and efficiency of electric-powered bicycles. Only now after years of existing on the fringe as a concept that had weak motors and large, heavy batteries, things have improved immensely.

Prices have come down (though they’re still not cheap) and eBikes have become more reliable. It seems now everyone is making them. So this is a good time for me and maybe you to start paying attention to what is out there.

eBikes are electric motor-assisted bicycles. These are two- or three-wheeled vehicles that have pedals and are built on a bicycle frame. Batteries add weight and more hauling power so eBike frames are thicker (and their tires wider) than those of most traditional bikes.

 

Two Types of Electric Motors

There are two popular ways of propelling these bikes. One is a hub drive; the other is called a mid-drive. You can also retrofit your existing bike, typically done with a front hub motor. It’s a cheaper way to go electric, but it’s not ideal, so I will leave that method for another article. And In Ontario, an electric motor can not exceed 500 watts.

Let’s focus on bikes that are built to be electric. Beyond where the motor is placed, there are many variations in design. Where is the gearing (if at all): at the crank, on a rear wheel cassette, or in an internal hub? How many gears does it have? What’s the span of gearing from small to large? How smoothly does it shift? Does it have a chain or a belt drive? (Bike chains have been known to snap from high torque from the motor. Some bikes have rubber belt drives that perform better and weigh less.)

 

rear hub gear motor
rear hub gear motor

rear hub motor
rear hub motor

Hub Drive Motors

Let’s first look at the cheaper design to build, a rear hub drive. The electric motor is located in the rear wheel hub, which adds more weight to the rear. There will be a throttle on the handlebar to vary the motor speed. You can add your pedalling to the mix or not. As you shift your bike gears and pedal the motor works independently and does not benefit from what gear you are in.

The riding experience is hard to explain. When you turn up the speed the motor/rear wheel pushes you. Some bikes can lurch you forward with a lot of zip and you can coast along without pedaling at all. This of course eats into your battery life. And for some, this may feel unnatural compared to the cycling you know and not intuitive to get used to.

There are two types. The first is a gearless direct drive motor. Electric motors like to spin fast; with no gears they turn slower, at the rate your tire turns. These are larger, heavy units. On hills, they work hard and do not fare well if there are many climbs; they could overheat and burn out. On the plus side, no gearing makes them quiet and expensive models come with regenerative braking so they can charge the battery going down hills a little bit.  

The second kind of hub motor has internal gearing. Smaller in size and lighter, it can spin faster, putting out more power as the gearing ratio reduces the revolution speed to match tire rotation.  These are better suited for low speed, hills, and cargo. Most have a freewheel so you can pedal without the motor relatively easily. They are cheaper to build, but the moving gears will wear out in time. Low-quality gearing may only get you a few thousand kilometres before needing servicing. 



mid drive motor
mid drive motor

Mid Drive Motors

These electric motors are housed down in the pedal crank area, a more balanced, central location. This is a pedal-assisted design: when the rider pedals, the motor turns on and adds extra power to the pedal stroke. Because it’s connected directly to the drivetrain chain and rear gearing cassette, you can shift gears to improve the motor’s efficiency.

The rider can also control the motor output level by pushing a button on the handlebar: a popular Bosch system has Eco, Tourist, Sport, and Turbo. You can also ride with the motor off and only use it when you see a hill or get tired.

Because mid-drives are lighter, have more power (torque), and use battery energy more efficiently, they are better for longer distances and hill climbs.  

The ride feels more natural, with an added push, similar to the way you ride your regular bike, but with the extra bulk.

Mountain bikes have mid-drives to take on steep hills and keep the weight down, which is important for proper balance in the saddle while manoeuvring obstacles. If you’re looking for an e-MTB, compare the torque output of motors, battery demands and weight, since hill climbing is a big part of the ride, and the bike must perform well in tough conditions. 

Road race bikes use small mid-drives to stay light and integrated with the bike’s appearance. Some motors only add a small extra kick to your pedalling and cannot take on big hills by themselves.

 

removable battery
removable battery

Batteries

Rated in watt hours (wh) 500 wh is plenty of juice to get around. You will need more for aggressive MTB riding.  These lithium cell packs are expensive, well over a thousand dollars for larger ones. The bigger the pack, the more reserve power you have for quick bursts and longer distances. It’s all proportional and depends on the way you ride and the terrain you ride over and how much you depend on the electric motor. 

Batteries are still heavy, and where they are mounted will alter the balance and feel of your ride. Most are either attached to the rear rack or mounted on the frame down tube.

Using the right gearing, as you do on a regular bike, will help greatly. Shift down when you meet a hill, and shift up as you go faster – this puts less strain on your bike parts and battery life. I recommend downshifting before stopping to make it easier when you start again. Even though you can go without pedalling from a standing stop with a hub drive, it is wiser to pedal initially to get you going and not stress out the motor.

As with cell phones, the lithium batteries in bikes can catch fire if they overheat or malfunction. So buy a good product that has been lab tested and keep an eye on it when it’s charging.

With most bikes, you can detach and take the battery with you (that’s a good thing). There may be an option to add an extra battery to the frame to extend your range to over 100 km a day of pedal-assist riding.



MTB eBike controls
MTB eBike controls

Extra Options

With good design (which can be more expensive) comes electronic onboard to sense your cadence and torque or throttle control to help you manage the efficiency of the ride. Good mid drive motors will pause for a moment every time you shift so as not to stress out the drive train. 

Controls can be as simple as two buttons or a leveller to change your speed or as fancy as a coloured screen full of data and settings. Displays are mounted on the handle bar and/or crossbar of the bike.

The electronics on your bike can tell you how much reserve power you have and calculate by the way you ride how far you can go. They can be your personal trainer and can track your distance, speed, average them out, and connect with your cell phone app. On some bikes, you can lock the motor with your cell phone and track the bike if it gets stolen. Walking mode enables the bike motor to roll slowly as you walk beside it.

Front and rear lights often come with the bike. Racks seem to come with commuter bikes half the time as they may already be housing the battery. Tire fenders and shocks on the front forks and seat post are also a common add-on.

All eBikes appear to have disk brakes, as they do need them to slow down that extra weight. With the added motor power, some designs seem to not care how much extra steel they use. This in turn has the bike fitted with fatter tires, something you may not care for.

ABS brakes (anti-lock braking system) as you have in your car, are new feature in high end mountain bikes. The industry claims it is a game changer, do we really need this?

Rad Mission
Rad Mission

cannondales eBike
Cannondales eBike

RadRunner 2
Rad Runner 2

Rad Mini 4 folding bike
Rad Mini 4 folding bike

So what will work for you?

Well, it depends. A geared motor will keep things relatively lightweight and can be fit into a bike frame to not look so “electric” and be stealthy, with proper shifting you can increase your range. 

If you want to ride more on motor power alone, at a faster speed on fewer hills, then a hefty, well-made hub direct drive motor might be what to look for. 

If you are just doing short pleasure cruises on flat routes or hauling cargo then the larger frames, tires and added weight that comes at a lower cost may be fine with you. But for more distance, a lighter, more nimble frame and/or a more stylish look, expect to pay more.

Truly, if you’re unsure you need to visit a bike shop, ride a few types, and compare to see what feels good for you and meets your cycling needs.

I had my first experience riding on a commuter eBike in Holland this spring. Since then, I have demoed a few here in Toronto and my wife Teresa just bought a blue Trek +3 Verve Lowstep. Does she love it? When I see her biking to work on a cloudy day, I know she does. Because if she did ride at all before, the weather had to be perfect, lol.

There are so many choices, from folding bikes to kid carriers to $10k MTBs that can take on anything. Whatever kind you’re wishing for, I hope this sorts out some of the mysteries of buying an eBike.

 

May your future be electrifying – Dan Roitner

 

Have your read eBikes Part 1:  Should I Buy One?

new ebike
Teresa’s new set of wheels

cargo bike

The Future of Electric Drivetrain Tech

Hub vs Mid Drive Motors

How Does a Electric MTB Work

Things Every eBike Rider Should Know



some photos courtesy Bosh & Rad Bikes

Some links on this page take you to other sites that I believe offer good quality products. I may get a small referral fee if you buy items at these suppliers using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

October 7, 2022No comments,
eBikes Part 1: Should I Buy One?

In the last few years, you can’t help noticing that eBikes have arrived in Canada and the numbers are growing. Most of us have wondered what the difference is and if we should buy an eBike one day.

Europeans adopted them sooner than we did, using them as an efficient, low-cost way to do many things a car didoften faster, and with less effort and cost. All sorts of eBike designs enable riders to carry packages, groceries, and children about town and into the countryside.

Delivery services in Ontario have been quick to see the benefits of eBikes; maybe you will see reasons for yourself and make a purchase. They offer a great alternative to the classic bicycle experience and actually are attracting new riders and extending the years seniors can enjoy this pastime. 

I have been following my partner Teresa’s quest to find a new electric-powered bike; she rented one on our Holland cycling tour last May and loved it. Currently, we are looking at websites, visiting bike shops, and testing out eBikes of all sorts of designs, sizes and prices.

It does get overwhelming. Let me help you sort out this fascinating new means of bike riding, from the leisure-wheelers crowd to MTB “commandos.”

city eBike cruiser
city eBike cruiser

What is an eBike?

In Ontario, as defined by the Ontario Gov., an eBike (E-bike, ebike) must have pedals that move the bike with leg power. It is not an electric scooter, moped or motorcycle. The motor has a max speed of 32km/h and no more than 500 watts of output. There are limits for wheel sizes, weight… you get the basic idea. 

An eBike is a power-assisted bicycle. The concept is that cyclists pedal as they would on a regular bike and the motor engages when needed. Electronics in the bike sense the pedalling activity (and braking) and aid with turning the wheels. Using a handlebar-mounted control, the rider chooses how much extra power (torque) they wish to add to their pedalling: more on an uphill or to speed away, less or none on a downhill or flat stretch. 

Some designs let you coast and throttle the motor speed without pedalling. This makes the going easy, but will seriously limit your range and could cook your motor if used often or inappropriately.

There are many reasons cyclists are buying eBikes and a few reasons you might not. Let’s assess if an eBike could be a consideration in your life. Then I will get into specific bike designs and the difference between a rear-hub and a mid-drive motor in my next article.

eBike on trail
woman with eBike


Reasons to Buy (or Maybe Not)

 

1 Fitness It might seem like a cheat to use a motor, but studies have found that riders are staying fit using eBikes. The perception is that you are not pedalling as hard and this is true, but you will be exercising and often in the end almost as much.

It seems eBike owners like their bikes and want to get their money’s worth. So they tend to go farther and ride more often. 

If you pedal faster or zoom down a hill more than the maximum 32km/h the motor cuts out and it’s all leg power. Now you’re putting in all the effort and getting the exercise.

Mountain bike riders can keep their efforts at a more steady rate cranking on the trail. This reduces moments when they may overdo it. Or they may wish to push harder and go faster with the added help of a motor.

 

2 Less Strain – Motor assistance helps reduce strain on muscles, joints, and your heart. If you are new to cycling, the first few rides will not wear you out. Less recovery time is neededif at alluntil the next outing.

Hills will be easier to climb, so you may do steeper, higher, or more hills than before.

If you ride to work, eBikes get you there faster and not all hot and sweaty.

If you have saddlebags or haul a trailer, some of the load is offset by the motor. You now can carry more.

As we age, eBikes have extended the age one can continue to cycle and give those with reduced mobility a new means of travel.

If you ride too far, get hurt, get lost, are running late or you are bonking out after a long day, just give it some “electric gas” to get you back.

For most MTB riders steep uphills are no fun. We do them, but in your senior years your knees and back will thank you for that extra push.

Those MTB riders who love Downhill runs can benefit from an eBike to get them back up the hill without getting winded.

MTB eBike
MTB eBike

3 Go Farther, Faster – Though there is a speed limit on an eBike, your combined pedal+motor average speed will likely be faster. Hence you get around in less time or go farther afield. Errands, deliveries, shopping, picking up the kids all get easier. 

Long Rail Trails become more manageable. Bikepacking adventures cover more terrain and/or become grander. You will see more sights on your rides and discover new routes and places, and will start planning future rides with a wider scope in mind.

Also, if the weather turns sour, an eBike can get you back to a shelter or homebase sooner.

 

4 Keeping Up – Your husband or cycling mates may be outriding you these days. An eBike can help you stay with the group to enjoy their company and not have them wait for you. Now everyone is happy. 

And if you have given up catching up with the pack, an eBike can bring you back into the fold.

 

5 Weight When you add a motor and a big battery, eBikes start to get heavy and they need a more robust frame, larger wheels. It all starts to grow proportionally. No problems when the motor runs, but if the battery dies, you will definitely feel it climbing.

There are lighter, sleek sporty road race eBikes that try to keep the weight down. But most models I have ridden are the city upright style and feel more clunky and not as nimble to manoeuvre as what you have been used to. That weight does keep them firmly planted on the ground.

Also, consider lifting your new eBike on a rack, into the car trunk, or up the stairs into your home. Will this be an issue?

cargo eBike
cargo eBike



6 Cost They’re cheaper than a car, but at the same time more expensive than many regular bicycles. A decent eBike is $3000 or more to own. Better ones with larger batteries to ride farther or haul cargo can be double that price.

An added cost is a good lock, for your shiny new toy. Bring the bike inside, sleep with it, just don’t let thieves nab it.

On the other hand, the cost per kilometre is small compared to a car when you consider the cost of purchase, repairs, gas, insurance and parking. Urban trips are often faster to travel in this eco-friendly way. (It also removes one more car from our congested roadway.)

As the cycling industry evolves and the public is more accepting of this new-fangled electric two-wheeled mode of transport, eBikes can only get better, and more reliable.

They’re not a new conceptthere have been electric bicycles out there for decades. But with the advent of lighter, more powerful batteries and motors, things are moving along (pardon the pun).

Electronic integration with your pedalling cadence that ties in with your smartphone can give you stats and custom settings to enhance your rides more than ever. Amazing!

Prices have come down with more brand choices. It now seems everyone is making them. Do your research, visit bike shops, and do some demo rides.

With that said, bike stores tell me they are still experiencing a supply shortage, so not all models and sizes are out there. You may have to order one and wait.

Still, these are exciting times in Bikeland! Consider your reasons to buy or not and I’ll let you know more in part II about the types of bike designs, motors and options available in the eBike world. 

 

Starting looking around – Dan Roitner

 

Now read eBikes Part 2: How Do They Work?

 

And many thanks to the staff at Gears, Amego and Sweet Pete’s bike shops in Toronto for their help and the opportunity to test a few eBikes. 

eBike on country road


September 20, 20227 Comments,
Where to Safely Take Kids Cycling?

My nephew Anthony recently asked me for advice on where he could take his son cycling. Having gone through many years of biking with my son Trevor in tow, I know that kids can get bored easily and parents can get concerned about road safety. I gave it some thought, then sent him a shortlist of suggestions.

Then the wheels in my head kept turning (MTB wheels, lol) and I realized that other parents have the same dilemma every weekend: Where can I take my kids outside to get away from their screens, video games, and electronics? 

I feel your concerns. So let me come to the rescue with some excellent kid-friendly bike rides around Ontario that the whole family can enjoy. 

Are you a parent who needs to feel your children are able to exercise in a safe environment? You have come to the right place: this website features only off-road, car-free bike trails. Most of these routes are entirely on trails and paths, with at most 15% requiring you to veer off occasionally onto a side-road bypass. You can’t get better than that.

For your sanity and everyone’s better health, read on! You can scroll down to jump straight to the trail recommendations, but I advise you to read this whole post, since it’s got some great info.

father with bike trailer
boy learns to ride

Basically, kid-friendly bike routes have all of these four things:

  • They’re safe – Look for off-road, car-free routes with minimal hazards and street crossings with lights
  • They’re easy to cycle – You want paved, level, wide paths and small, gentle hills
  • They have amenities – Playgrounds, washrooms, picnic areas, food/drink close by
  • They are interesting – Winding, varied paths, bridges, boardwalks, tunnels and water features

 

There are a few stages you will go through as a parent with children and a fondness for cycling. 

The first thing is: don’t let the arrival of a newborn end your cycling days. Sure, it’s going to be a lot of work at first and a big change. Just adapt to the circumstances and keep cranking. 

Once your son or daughter is ready to be introduced to your world of cyclingprobably not before their first birthdayyou have a few ways to start.

Long before your child is able to propel themself, you can transporting them in a child seat on the bike or in a trailer you tow. Chain Reaction Cycles has baby seats.

No matter which option you choose, always make them wear a helmet (like you do) and strap them in!

You can balance better without another little person on board, so I went with the trailer and bought one with a ski attachment so I could take Junior cross-country skiing in winter. Double trailers can seat two little ones.  MEC sells a few versions of bike trailers.

When they get to be three to four years old, they get restless and heavy to tow. Now it’s time for you proud parents to buy them their first bike with training wheels. (Those training wheels won’t stay on for long.) 

Another step up for toddlers are push bikes that help the little ones work on their balance. These can eliminate the need for training wheels when they grow into a bigger bike. MEC sells push bikes.

Keep raising their seats and handlebars and replacing their bikes with larger models as the years pass. Chain Reaction Cycles has kids bikes for all ages.

As I pulled together this list, I kept in mind (and you should, too) a few things specific to riding with kids. Kids have short legs and short attention spans. They are little monkeys and need to burn energy.

Every year you can ride farther and faster—but at their pace, not yours. You need to be a patient parent to deal with all the delays, drama, and spills. Depending on your children’s energy level and desire to cycle (or not), you may only get in a few kilometres for the first few years.

bike trailer
family bike ride

Keep the ride short. (Well, at least shorter than what you may wish for until they are teens, then you may suddenly have trouble keeping up, lol.)

Always turn back sooner than you want to. Don’t wait till they complain and bonk out. 

Stop often. Especially if your child is not actually engaged in pedalling and is just looking out from the trailer.

Make it fun for them. Some kids will need to check out every set of monkey bars they see. Give them opportunities to run about. Bring a ball or frisbee. 

Make sure there is ever-changing scenery. I’ve found this is the most important way to keep kids on their bikes. Trails with lots of twists and turns in the path, and/or bridges, boardwalks, and tunnels are winners. Rivers, creeks, and ponds add interest, and the possibility of wildlife sightings, to keep kids moving. 

Bring snacks. Juice boxes, water sippy cups, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts. Bring nothing messy like melting chocolate.



With all these points in mind here is what I recommend. Since most of these trails run flat along creeks and rivers, none of the locations I list has any large hills to climb, nor fast descents that can stress out your kids (or you, when you’re watching them!). There will still be a few short climbs, trail intersections, and street crossings you need to supervise.

 

Here are my Top Kid-friendly Cycling Paths:

Park Trails

Rouge Valley – Park Trail  – twisty, ever changing, loads of bridges and boardwalks, greese

Oshawa Creek – Park Trail  – winding, tons of bridges and tunnels, beach & playset at lake

Highland Creek – Park Trail  – bridges, winding creek

Toronto Islands – Park Trail ferry ride, scenic, plenty of playgrounds and beaches

Ajax Waterfront – Park Trail scenic, bridges, beaches

Nokiidaa – Park Trailchanging scenery, playgrounds, ponds, old Newmarket

Rouge Waterfront – Park Trail water, beaches, large bridges

Humber River – Park Trail playsets, bridges, flower garden

Island Lake – Park Trail – long bridges and boardwalks

Taylor Creek + Warden – Park Trail – ponds, 3 water creek crossings 

Beaches Boardwalk – Park Trail – beachcomb the peninsula, sailboats, swimming

Upper Etobicoke – Park Trail – playsets, bridges

Rideau Canal – Park Trail – boats, locks, falls, gardens

Upper Ottawa R. – Park Trail – views of the river, play areas, beach

Grand River – Park Trail – playgrounds, old bridges, falls

Welland Canal – Park Trail – kids love big boats, and locks

Thames Valley – Park Trail – London has lots of playgrounds + Storybook Gardens

 

Rail Trails

Riding a Rail Trail with kids is a little more challenging. While these former railway beds offer an easy, largely flat ride, most are not interesting enough for younger kids, nor are there many or any amenities or playgrounds to stop at. Still, here are a few that could work out nicely with older kids.

Thornton Cookstown – Rail Trailbridges, a creek, and nearby ice cream, in Simcoe County

Tay Shore – Rail Trail – paved, lakeside location on Georgian Bay 

Brock – Rail / Park Trail – walk through a train tunnel

Greenway – Park / Rail Trail – bridges, dams and falls

 

(I will post a list of kid-friendly Mountain Bike locations in another article soon.)

kid bike splash

My last thoughts:

Kids get hungry and thirsty, and they need bathrooms often. I wish I could say that Ontario city parks have an abundance of toilets and snack bars; they do not. So use ’em when you see ’em and pack your own extra nibbles or it will be hell. 

Planning a picnic stop halfway is also a chance to break up the outing and get a bit more riding out of your child later. Give them a riding goal. Promise and ice cream once they get to a certain point. And bring napkins when it gets messy, as it usually does.

The last issue: Keep an eye on them. Once you give them wheels, you’ve given them freedom, and they may dash off. Stay in range and have other adults along to help watch over larger groups. Assign a lead bike and a spotter at the back. And while you are at it, work in some basic riding skills and safety and biking etiquette, and now everyone’s having a good time.

With that sensation of freedom on two wheels, you will have hooked them for life on cycling. Awesome job, Mom & Dad!

fully loaded bike trip


April 9, 2022No comments, , ,
10 Reasons to Buy an Expensive Bike

I was flipping thru a Canadian Tire flyer today and came across an ad for a $99 bicycle. Sounds like a great deal doesn’t it? Full 18-speed, knobby tires and a nice colour. It has two wheels, a handlebar, seat and pedals, what else could I want?

But a bike is not a bike by a parts list alone. A person new to bike riding would think the savings would put them way ahead of any benefits an expensive $1000+ bike could. Here is why that is foolish reasoning and why you should save your coin for a better set of wheels.

1 – Good Experience – Top of the list is a better all around riding experience. It will encourage you to ride again. If you don’t like getting on your bike for reasons below, it will sit in the garage and you will sit on the couch.

2 – Dependable – Nothing worse than a sudden mechanical failure in the middle of nowhere. All bikes can break, but typically more of this ($$$) equals less grief.

3 – Weight – Cheap bikes have a lot of iron. Just a few good hills will convince you that lighter is always a better buy.

4 – Longevity – Expensive bikes last longer, with the cost over the lifetime being cheaper.

5 – Safety – You can depend on a good bike to stay together and not endanger your life.

6 – Quality – Expensive bikes operate better, have smoother shifting and better braking. Good bike ergonomic design helps your posture and reduces sore backs, and limbs.

7 – Repairs – A good bike is worth fixing. Mechanics will know your brand and parts will be available.



8 – Maintenance – Bicycles are mechanical and wear out.  Cheap bikes have soft, thin metal, poor part tolerances and design. Again, a quality bike lasts longer with few problems.

9 – Ride Better – A well designed bike with quality components enables you to push yourself, knowing the bike will take you there. Gears, brakes and shocks perform better giving you confidence and enjoyment.

10 – Cool Factor – Hey, it has to be mentioned that if you think you’re on a killer bike then maybe your friends will give you some respect. (The rest you earn on the ride.)

So what should you spend for a good ride? I’ll save that question for another post …but briefly you need to ask yourself how often you plan to ride and where. These days a bicycle comes in many flavours.

Do you want to just putt around city parks on a hybrid or bomb down ski hills? Here is a very general list of minimum price points. And watch out, bikes can also be overpriced. Way over priced…got 10 grand $$.

Minimum price for a quality bike:

Kids bike $400
Hybrid bike $ 500

Mountain bike, front shock $ 700
Mountain bike, full suspension $ 1100
Downhill MTB $ 1500

happy hunting – Dan

 

May 1, 20174 Comments,
Fall Bike Riding Tips

So you had a good summer of riding and you’re not ready to put the bike away. And why should you? Fall bike riding can be some of the best touring ever. Sure it’s a bit cooler and wet but with proper planning who cares.

Fall riding is different on a few fronts. You have to dress differently, days get shorter and the terrain can get slippery. The best part is beautiful fall colours, no crowds and no bugs!

Sunny days will tend to have cooler clear skies.Just like with spring here in Ontario we can get more rain but those cloudy days may be more mild and it most often does not rain.

After checking your weather forecast pack a rain jacket if you think it may open up on the ride. Or tough it out and have a change of clothing in the car. I have yet to find a riding jacket that both blocks the rain and breaths. Find one with vents if you can.

As always wear layers but don’t wear too many. Start your ride a little chilled as the workout should warm you up. The trick has always been, if you need to peel a layer off, how do you carry it?

Tying a jacket around your waist is awkward and could be dangerous if it slips into your spokes. A pannier or backpack would be a better place. Consider full fingered gloves, wool socks and some kinda head/ear warmer when is a chilly morning start.

As for food, you will likely need a little less water but more power bars on the ride to help fuel you on cold days. Keep the heavy food like fruit in your car upon your return.

Terrain changes in the fall and generally gets slippery.



As long as you compensate for the wet rock, clay or leaves all should be fine. Slow down, watch your turns, test the range of your bicycle’s and tires’ ability to manage the path. It’s a time for tires with knobby tread if you wish to switch.

I also have found a lot of leaves on the ground can hide the trail, soften it and suck up a lot of your energy. Leaves can also hide things, so watch out for wheel ruts and loose rocks when bombing down a hill.

The weather is always more sunny than you think north of Toronto. In all my years of riding, I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked out my window in the morning here in Toronto, thinking maybe I should stay home.

Only to find later on my ride north of the city that the weather was awesome. (except for that hail one time – lol)

Don’t hesitate, just do it. You will likely be glad you did.

 

September 7, 2016No comments, , Family Ride
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Hey, this may be interesting for you: Winter Fatbike Riding in Ontario!

This is the link: https://ontariobiketrails.com/ride-fat-bikes-ontario/

Lets get together and do a ride soon.