Cycling Health

Cycling Safely – Be Aware, Be Seen!

Here is an article from my latest book Best Bicycle Park & Rail Trails in Ontario – Volume 2

I was only going to post an excerpt but this is so important I am sharing the full length. With all this talk of bike safety and goals of zero fatalities (which is impossible), here are a few tips to keep you riding.

I bet you enjoy cycling a lot. How can I tell?…you are here on a bike site. And I’m sure you want to continue riding forever and have your future eBike buried with you when you go at age 110.

Life is full of risks and the consequences associated with them. We constantly work out the odds and make decisions, hoping they are good ones. Cycling for the most part is a safe sport but it can lead to mishaps and death. The likelihood is very low, but it does exist. Yet I see too many cyclists not considering the potential hazards on the trail and, even worse, on city streets.

Let me run through my observations and suggestions and then you can make your own decisions.

My goal is to ride another day.

I thoroughly enjoy cycling and want to continue doing it as long as I can. It is as simple as that.

So on the whole, I analyze what cycling is and the environment I do it in. What are the potential hazards that could cut short my fun in the saddle? Some I have no control over, but for the ones I do, I want the odds to be on my side. I stand a better chance to evade a mishap or at least suffer less if one does occur. Many of my actions are automatic, second nature, conditioning, like looking both ways when you cross.

BTW, I do not constantly think about these issues, nor worry about them. I simply am proactive and mindful of my ongoing situation as I pedal, enjoying the ride for what it is.

Be Aware

My first objective is to be aware of my surroundings as I ride. Who/what is coming at me, or may turn into my path? Could that blind corner or hillcrest ahead hold any surprises? Is there a potential hazard approaching from the rear?

To answer those questions, my senses need to be on standby. I do not wear earbuds playing loud music. I do not make phone calls or text while riding. These are distractions when I need to be able to hear what is quietly approaching from behind, the honk of a horn, or an ATV. (I have played music occasionally on a lonely singletrack trail, but never when it’s busy. And even then the volume is low, and I use just one earbud or the loose-fitting kind.)Cyclists wears earbuds

Even chatting over to your riding mates for too long, or daydreaming and not focusing on what is ahead can lead to mishaps. I have had it happen.

You have to look out for others not readily seen or who are unaware of your approach. Where are they and what sudden moves could they make that could jeopardize your pleasant day in the woods? What evasive action would you take if they dashed in front of you, and suddenly stopped?

For us trail riders, our surroundings can also involve wildlife encounters. I have seen a few snakes, deer, partridges, and turkeys cross my path. We both get startled, and they run off. No moose or bears yet, but up north it’s a possibility. A little chatter between cyclists or a bear bell will help to keep them away.

Being aware of traffic in cities is on another, even more heightened level. So much can happen on a busy road: cars pulling out in front of you, people walking out from between parked cars, doors opening, trucks turning, no shoulders, potholes…ya, it can get to be a bit of a gauntlet riding the road. Thankfully bike routes on this site have very little of that “excitement.”

visibility of cyclists at night

Be Seen

Colourful cycling jerseyWhen I am on the road I want cars and trucks (everyone!) to see me. Drivers are programmed to look out for large vehicles; a bike is a thin, small object that can be tough to see, and bicycle awareness is still not that common.

I recommend wearing something that is a bright shade (I like red, yellow, or orange), be it a jacket, a colourful jersey or helmet, maybe even your saddle bags or backpack. You don’t have to look like an orange traffic cone, lol. I might not be fashionable but there is a good chance I’ll get noticed. My cycling fashion can suffer as long as it helps keep me safe.

Here is a chart of how effectively different colours are seen and at what distance. You can see black gives you no edge: you are virtually invisible. This is why stop signs are red and warning markers are yellow while ninjas and cat burglars dress all in black.

I am disappointed in the cycling industry that pushes fashion over function. Even reflective safety marks on clothing have been reduced. The current trends of black and grey activewear and dull bike colours and accessories are not going to help you be seen. They actually do the opposite; they endanger your life! When I see black cycling club jerseys, I just can’t believe they are not thinking this through. Black is also hot to wear in the sun and attracts bugs.

I also wish cities would bring this to cyclists’ attention through public awareness campaigns, as most road riders seem to be oblivious to their lack of visibility.

So find some bright, fun colours that stand out and say,

“HEY There, I’m on this trail/road! Just so you know!”

At night, or even during the day, using these new LED bike lights is a wonderful idea. They’re cheap, small, and bright, with long-lasting charges or batteries, so there is no reason why you would not use them. And many of them can blink, too, as another way to say “Here I amtake notice!” Adding reflectors is another smart idea, if you wish.

One last item: pedestrians and others on the trail appreciate a bell. Bikes are pretty quiet and can sneak up on someone. If startled, someone may jump in front of you, or if they don’t hear you, the moment you try to pass they may cluelessly step into your path. A polite “ding ding” or a call of “on your left” before you pass on their left is the norm. A bell also helps the traffic (walkers with earbuds, kids, dogs) register that you are coming.

LED bike lights

Why Wear a Helmet?

Silly question, we all know why. And most of you do, but for those who still don’t… Here are my reasons why it’s a good idea and not a hassle to wear.

I have heard the arguments about why a helmet is not needed. It goes something like this: stats show how few get hurt, so the risk is low. People will state how many years they have ridden a bike and nothing has happened, so why worry?

Applying the same logic suggests that they do not wear seat belts in cars or planes. Again the odds of a crash are slim. But if there is one the probability of survival not strap in is, umm not good.

The thing is, stats and working the odds are not what you should use for reasoning.

It is the severity of the possible outcome,

if and when a crash does happen, that should be your gauge. You only have to fly off your bike one time for a disaster to happen. If you’re not wearing a helmet, what will help save you?

I also hear “Wearing a helmet makes you more confident, so you take more risks and your chance of injury will go up.” I don’t agree. Not once while mountain biking did I think “I got my trusty helmet on today, so let’s go fly off that jump.” Actually, in the world of mountain biking, everyone wears a helmet, everyone! Yet on the streets of any city in Ontario, so many road riders do not. And I consider that a way more dangerous cycling environment than a trail lined with trees.

I rode a bike for decades without a brain bucket. There was little public awareness back then and it just was not something you could buy. Times changed and I eventually joined a cycling club where you had to wear a helmet to ride. So I tried it and now if I were to ride without one, I would feel out of place, vulnerable. You get used to it.

Not convinced? Well, I won’t suggest you hit yourself on the head with a 2×4, but do you remember how it feels when you smack your noggin on an upper shelf? Not so pleasant an owie, eh? Now think about hitting it at 30 kilometres an hour.helmet dent

Helmets also reduce the amount of sun and bug bites you get. (I use a visor on my helmet regardless of what roadies think is not aerodynamic or fashionable currently. I’m practical.) And too much sun can later lead to skin cancer; my dad got it playing tennis. Use a sunblock lotion with a rating of SPF 30 or higher.

Parents, the Ontario law states your kids have to wear a helmet ’til they are eighteen, then it’s optional. You should show by example.

Another prudent good measure for your cycling well-being is wearing padded cycling gloves. Not only do they help with friction and vibrations from the handlebars, they will spare your palms from getting road rash when you crash and your hands instinctively reach out to break your fall.

I do not want to put fear into you. These measures should do the oppositegive you some sense of comfort and confidence. By following these proactive safety tips, you lower the odds of injury significantly (not entirely).

Riding Behaviour

What is left in your safety cycling equation is your cycling behaviour: how you manage and ride the terrain, deal with obstacles, descend hills, and so on …and how you share the path with others. Do you know the rules of the road and what the signs mean? Do you follow them?

Finally, ride within your means, stay in control, and don’t overdo it! Improving your skills will pay off when you need to take evasive action. Wear your helmet properly so it works. Charge your light batteries so they are ready. All the little safety things add up.

Now you can relax, knowing you are making a conscious effort to avoid injury, so you can continue to enjoy the sport you love ’til you hit your 110th birthday.

kids with helmets

PS – Has the world gone crazy with its love of black? You can now buy black camping tents. Oh that will be a hot snooze when the sun hits it.  Black speed boats, looking cool but hard to spot on the lake. And recently I saw black life jackets for sale! Seriously stupid, what are they thinking? This will not make it easy for emergency services to find you floating in the water, and at night forget it.

August 7, 2023No 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, , ,
Staying Cool Cycling in the Summer

Bicycling in the summer offers plenty of fun, it’s relaxing, and it gets you places. But sometimes the summer heat is a tad too intense for us Canadians.

Rather than hiding inside by the AC vent, take a spin on your bike, in comfort, by following these tips. With a little pre-planning, you can enjoy a bicycle ride even on the hottest days of summer.

My recent three-day ride to scout the K&P Rail Trail in HOT, humid weather reminded me how Ontario can get surprisingly uncomfortable if you are not ready for it.


Weather – First, check the weather forecast for the next few days. Today might be a scorcher, tomorrow not so, in which case, hold that urge to bolt out ’til it cools off. That could even be in a few hours if it clouds over, in the evening, or perhaps early the next morning. If you can be flexible and time your outdoor activity strategically, you’ll enjoy it more.

Food & Water – Water is the most important item to bring. Carry more water than you think you will drink. Be sure to drink before you are thirsty to avoid cramps. Heat exhaustion can be a real possibility when the temps get to 30°C. 

Map out optional places where you might find a water fountain or buy a bottle. Freeze the water bottles overnight, or throw in ice cubes before your ride.  And perhaps bring some for others who plan poorly (so you won’t have to conserve). 

Add an extra water bottle cage or two onto your bike frame to carry two, even three bottles! MEC sells water bottles.

woman cyclist resting
Rest and Relax

A sports backpack can carry a water bladder with a siphon hose that is easier to reach while riding. Find one that has an insulated hose and bag padding to keep the water as cool as possible, in spite of the heat from your body and the sun. The heat from your back will warm up your bladder otherwise, a bland, lukewarm drink is not refreshing. A selection of hydration packs at Chain Reaction Cycles or MEC.

Consider buying energy drinks (like Gatorade or Powerade), or add electrolyte tablets in your drinks to replenish the salts that you sweat out. This keeps your system in balance so you can go further. Order tablets and power bars from MEC, or Chain Reaction Cycles.

Whatever snacks you bring, be aware that the heat will melt any chocolate or sugars in your “power bars”. Choose wisely from the cupboard, as it could be a messy, sticky choice.

An ice cream stop is always a worthwhile destination, and a just reward for the efforts put in and can cool you down too. Yum!

Clothes – Aim for quick-dry, light-coloured fibres. Polyester bends are best and help wick sweat away if they are a tight fit. Shorts should breathe and not overheat an already steamy area.  But then you should not be working up a sweat in the first place, right?

Look for a cycling jersey with a long front zipper for venting and easy removal afterwards. Wearing blacks and other dark shades may be trendy, but are a poor colour choice: you will absorb the radiant heat of the sun, and you’re less visible to others. Find a selection of bike jerseys here at Pro Bike Kit or MEC or Chain Reaction Cycles.

Shoes –  If your plans are for a short trek, sandals might fare well. But for any long ride, you’d be wise to wear breathable running shoes or clipped-in bike shoes and a thin, polyblend pair of socks. There will be blisters without socks… eventually. Keen shoes and Nike Canada have many activewear designs.

Bike – Using a lightweight bicycle (and hauling less stuff) makes any hill less of an undertaking. Pump up the tire air to 50 – 60 psi and lube the chain. Less friction means less of a cranking effort for you.

Wind – Taking a bike path by a lake offers a cool breeze that is always a few degrees lower than kilometres inland. Wind at your back suits everybody, but once it is a headwind, it’s more friction to overcome. So pick your routes wisely, and don’t tackle any Rail Trails that cross open fields and wetlands, so you won’t have to dodge wind gusts and the baking sun.

shady boardwalk
A shady boardwalk

Route – Reduce your cycling exertion so you don’t overheat. Now is not the time to pick a trail that is too hilly. Stick to level river routes or lakeshore paths.  

You may fall into auto mode, pedalling as fast as usual, but try to mentally scale it back on a hot day. Lower your pedal cadence and try to cruise, meander, and not be in a sprint-to-get-there mindset. 

Find a path that has more shade than open areas. It will make a huge difference. Plan a shorter route, or take all day to get there. Take breaks, stop more often, plan a picnic, read a book on a bench, sleep under a tree, have a dip.

For Mountain Bike riders, reduce your intake of log hops, roots and rock gardens to clamber over.  Avoid loose gravel, mud and sand patches since crossing them makes you work harder. Think about opportunities to stiffen/lock your bike shocks when climbing hills and riding flat access roads, so you don’t waste energy compressing the shocks when cranking.

Last Tip – Have supplies stashed in the car when you return. Bring extra water that is cool and insulated from the cabin heat. Bring a change of loose clothing so you can get out of your sweaty garb and be comfortable and dry for the drive home or a lunch stop on the way. And try to park your vehicle in the shade if possible a place that will still be shady when you return.

I am encouraging you to venture out on toasty summer days, but don’t be foolish or a hero. Pick your time and plan well. Do less riding than usual and take longer. You should be fine and will enjoy some of the best cycling summer has to offer. And that won’t last long! Fall and then winter will be here sooner than you think.

bike hot silhouette

Avoid Heat Exhaustion

If you or others show signs of getting overwhelmed by the heat and humidity, take heed. At some point, the body will be struggling to keep you cool. Stop before this becomes a problem. Seek treatment and take evasive action.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – Signs and symptoms of heat illness

Heat Exhaustion

  • High body temperature
  • Confusion and lack of coordination
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dark urine and decreased urination

If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids; water is best.

Heat Stroke

  • High body temperature
  • Confusion and lack of coordination
  • Dizziness/Fainting
  • No sweating, but very hot, red skin

Heat stroke is a medical emergency! Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. While waiting for help, cool the person right away by:

  • moving them to a cool place, if you can
  • applying cold water to large areas of the skin
  • fanning the person as much as possible


Sourced from the Canadian Gov.

Heat illness
source- Manitoba Gov.

April 5, 20222 Comments, ,
Hazards on the Bike Trail

Be Aware and Ride a Lifetime

Before getting into any sport, it’s wise to know what you’re up against. I will quickly summarize some aspects of bike riding on trails in Ontario that everyone needs to be aware of.

My intention is to inform and warn everyone of the possible (yet unlikely) perils of trail riding. A little education will lessen the concerns of anyone apprehensive about riding.

I’m not trying to scare anyone away from bicycle riding; actually, I’d like to encourage people. Just be aware of your surroundings and what to expect so you can go out and enjoy the good times.

I have been bike riding for decades with next to no injuries to speak of. Was I lucky, prudent or both? Knowing what to expect on a ride and how to circumvent problems keeps me going injury-free every year.

A lot of these concerns are for MTB riders and Park forest rides. Doing an asphalt path in a city park is safe with few hazards. Just the usual park traffic to avoid hitting – other cyclists, walkers, dogs, strollers, kids…

Getting mugged or worse could happen, but thankfully here in Canada, a very rare occurrence.

So here is some basic information (with links at the bottom) on how cycling trails can be enjoyable with few real dangers.


Trees, and a few Nasty Plants

Objects to avoid hitting and plants that have thorns and toxic sap.

Obvious objects to avoid are trees. The woods have plenty of them and hitting one with your handlebar or shoulder tells you they are not moving. Firmly rooted, trees will not give, hence measure your ability to navigate around them wisely.

A fallen tree can be fun to hop over with a mountain bike when approached with enough speed and confidence. Otherwise, carry your bike over the log or ride around.

Thickets of Raspberry bushes close to a narrow trail can scratch and cut you with thorns on the larger canes. These plants often like to grow on the path if not cleared by trail maintenance crews. Plowing through an overgrown path slowly is possible, but if they are Blackberry bushes, stop! These plants have dreadful thorns that shred and entrap you.

The next category to avoid are plants that have toxic sap. Brushing against these plants, or touching the sap on broken branches could cause allergic reactions on your skin, blindness, or worse if eaten. Yikes!

Stick to the middle of the trail, or ride in early spring when the plants are low, or late fall when the frost has killed them off. To avoid skin contact, wear high socks or pants, long shirts, gloves and then contain and wash these clothes well afterwards if contaminated.

Avoid spreading these toxic oils around. Don’t scratch an itch or rub your eyes.  Handling your bike may lead to oils transferring from your tires. The sooner you wash with soap and cold water (not to open the pores) the better the chances of containing any stray residue. Perhaps the bike needs a scrub too. Jeez, this sounds like some kind of nuclear fallout. lol

Poison Ivy This plant is common in Ontario and grows in sandy soil on the side of paths. In the spring it starts small but can grow waist high by late summer. Easy enough to avoid at the beginning of the riding season, later it can fill in a path and be impossible to avoid.

The sap from these plants can cause an allergic reaction. Not to say you will have one, as my many encounters with this plant suggests I am not affected or just lucky. Not wanting to find out, I avoid close encounters.

I also heard recently that new strains of Poison Ivy are affecting many who had tolerance over the older strains.

Giant Hogweed, Wild Parsnip, Spotted Water Hemlock  All these plants are to be avoided, touched, eaten or fallen into, oh dear. Get to know what they look like. Not as common as Poison Ivy, yet more alarming as they are multiplying and spreading around in ditches, by roads, around moist thickets and giant they can become.

The last plant I’ll mention is Stinging Nettles. Not nearly as dangerous, but when you brush by a few bushes it gives you a short burning sensation. So do not fall into this either.

poison ivy
Poison Ivy

Hogweed in Toronto
Hogweed in Toronto

Stinging Nettles
Stinging Nettles

Biting Bugs & Bears – Beware

Lessen the typical party of mosquitoes, black flies and other insects wanting to dine on you by avoiding a few things. Late May through June into mid-July, the bugs are active, plentiful and hungry, so doing a forest ride then is sure to keep you busy. High humidity and high heat gets them frisky too.

Black flies are the first to breed in spring water runoff, then the mosquitoes move in where there is standing water.

Perhaps stick to a more tame city park or Rail trails at that time of year. The open areas with less water and more wind will likely reduce this problem. By the fall, the bugs are all gone, which is wonderful.

Wear loose clothing, avoid black and dark blues as those colours seem to attract their attention. Favour white, yellow, or orange colours. Outride them if you can and then use bug juice when it gets bad. I put Deet on my clothes rather than my skin, and sparingly.

I have encountered Fire ants in the Don Valley. Not native but there are pockets of these aggressive critters. So if you are standing around too long on their home turf and they bite, it burns.



Ticks are the new threat to our biking enjoyment. With warmer winters, ticks are moving north into Ontario. There are many species of ticks, the Deer tick is the one that can carry Lyme Disease. A nasty aliment that can debilitate you, in a few weeks or stay dormant for years until triggered.

This can be a serious condition that I have seen occur regrettably in friends. You do not want to get this.

Ticks take their time feeding on you. There is no stinging feeling like other biting insects. They say you have a day to find any on you before their saliva could infect you.

Avoid ticks, prevention is important.

So when riding, stick to the middle of the path. Avoid brushing up against tall grasses. Ticks wait there for a host to come by and latch on to. Check each other after a ride for the little beasties. They can be very tiny and work their way up your shirt sleeves, shorts or in your hair.

If you find a tick, you must remove it whole or you will leave the mouth part embedded in your skin. Squeezing it from the back will possibly transfer a nasty infection.

Other than pesky insects, there are no tigers or alligators to warn you of here in Ontario.

We do have a few bears and they do not like to be surprised. If you ride a remote forest trail, having a bear bell or chatting among other riders makes enough noise for bears to head the other way.

tick sizes
tick sizes

Deer and Wood Ticks
Deer and Wood Ticks

Ontario Lyme Risk map
Ontario Lyme Risk map

Terrain –

Watch where you are going.

Bicycle trails and paths vary greatly in Ontario. For some who cycle leisurely city parks their expectation of hazards is low, while a veteran mountain bike rider may want those “challenges” and tricky sections on their loops.

Everyone has to be aware that any bike trail can have hazards like rocks or tree roots. Riding a paved park trail certainly adds comfort in knowing the path is designed for easy, safe navigation. But here is where you may get too comfortable and drop your guard.

Any trail can have sudden surprises in the terrain caused by rain washouts, fallen trees, flooding, sinkholes and animal burrows. On any path that is new to you, watch for the unexpected.

Never assume anything!

That goes for finding some fun structures and just blindly flying

Stick jamb in derailer

Stick breaks derailer

off the end of a ramp, unaware of what comes next. When in doubt, scout your log jump, skinny bridge, or giant boulder drop on the first run. The next time around you are now aware of the thrills and consequences.

Of all the potential objects found on a path, my most troublesome is a fallen short branch around the thickness of a broom handle. When this stick is parallel to the path, your tires may suddenly roll sideways when you ride over it.  This could throw your weight and tip you over on a fast hill.

If this stick lays across the trail then what can happen is, your tire snaps it in two as you ride over it. The two ends may flip into your spokes and rip you derailer off. This now leaves you two options, walk the bike back or shorten the chain and ride out on one gear.

Weather –

On trails, recent weather conditions can give you surprises that you need to be mindful of.

Whatever makes the terrain slippery, you need to be conscious of any impending accidents it may produce. Water, snow, ice, mud, wet moss, algae and leaves all reduce traction and can cause a fall.

During and after rain or snow, you now have a lubricant between the rubber tires and the terrain. Certainly, knobby treads with save you from sliding out, but only to a point.

Testing those limits cautiously will give you a new reference for the day as to how much play you have in maneuvering. This a good thing to know in a pinch when you need to make a sudden move.

Avoid crossing patches of ice, and if you must, stay straight. After the length of your bike, there is no grit left between the ice and the tire. You can easily have the bike slide out from beneath you. Boom!

Rain can also bring with it trail washouts. Rivers can totally erode the banks of a path or wash sand and gravel onto asphalt routes. They can become a hazard to even unsuspecting regular riders.


Last bit of advice…

Plan to Fall –

At any given moment in the back of your mind have an exit plan. As the trail continually changes form a plan to exit a crash with the least amount of damage to you and your beloved velo. That plan should continually change in tandem with your surroundings.

Think over what may happen and where you would fall.

Try to dissipate the energy in a fall by rolling your body or walking off the momentum. Avoid straightening out your arms and legs to lessen breakage.

Eject the bike in the process. You do not want to fall on it, or it on you. Make sure if you use pedals that clip in, you can quickly detach. Or unclip your shoes at any precarious sections.


Wear Protection –

Enough of the perils of this bike riding gauntlet, let’s ride anyway.

Cracked helmet

Cracked helmet = non-cracked head

Though only kids and teens are required to wear a bicycle helmet in Ontario, you would be a fool not to. Your bike gives you lots of freedom, so wear a helmet, one day it may spare your life. Not convinced, imagine whacking yourself with a 2×4 in the head with and without a helmet.

I wear riding gloves (not only to look cool) but in case I fall and instinctively put my hand out. A sure road rash is lessened.

Forest trails can have a lot of pointy branches ready to jab your eyes. I wear on narrow trails clear sport/safety glasses. (Dark sunglasses in the woods would not be my first choice.)

Those mountain bike riders game to push boundaries and take on rocky terrain and wooden structures should wear armour. Wearing knee, shin and elbow pads is a good policy if your ride that day warrants it. The ladies can spare themselves leg bruises and odd looks at the office.

And let’s not forget getting too much sun has its risks. Lather on the sunblock before you need it.

Be Seen !!! –

My pet peeve these days is all the black clothes I see. Riders dressed in black on black bikes. Trendy yes, but just the worst colour to be seen by others. Being visible to other riders, hikers and cars, will avoid possible collision, injury, and deadly trauma. Why would you wish this? So why do I see even cycling club jerseys in black? Think this through everyone and...Be Seen!


You might think looking at this list that it’s scary to go on a bike ride and a sport to avoid. On the contrary, get off the couch and get in some fun!

Just know the facts and make good decisions. I leave to you to follow the links to sort it out and feel confident you can take on the wild kingdom safely.

June 8, 2019No 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
Send this to a friend
Hey, this may be interesting for you: Cycling Safely - Be Aware, Be Seen!!

This is the link:

Lets get together and do a ride soon.