You know, all these bike stories are amazing, but this week’s interviews demonstrated a heightened level of WOW factor. For one thing, I happened to trip over a couple of really neat bike products being developed right here in Toronto. If you’ve been following this blog, you know I don’t endorse particular brands or bike products. On the other hand, finding something neat makes me feel I should share the love. Then, I witnessed a child discovering the freedom of her first training wheel-less ride. I dare you not to giggle while you read this chapter! Next, I went to BAM Land and BIXI Land, which is right up there with Graceland. And the most exciting challenge of my week was to accompany someone on a night ride.
On Monday, I met with Marta Staniszewski, the Director of Operations for Maya Cycle. The Maya Cycle is a single-wheel bike trailer that is designed specifically for the urban commuter. It has two interesting claims to fame: the Maya Cycle is the only single-wheel trailer with a kickstand, and it can be converted into a wheelbarrow. Marta has customers who take their trailer into the grocery store with them and then once home, they wheel it straight into the kitchen. I found Marta and her Maya Cycle at the Wychwood Barns Farmer’s Market, but I expect you will see the two of them cycling around the city regularly, too. They have become steadfast Toronto commuters.
For more information, visit http://www.mayacycle.com/
On Tuesday, I went to BAM land. Then, I went to BIXI land. And yes, they were as amazing as you’d expect. Darren Duke (of Duke’s Cycle fame) leads a remarkable team of people to keep these two lands operational. BAM land (Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance) is the home of a new BTAC-certified 8-week course, where bike mechanics are trained and then assisted into our burgeoning job market.
I met two of these lucky people as they repaired and maintained the Toronto fleet in BIXI land. They love what they do (and I love them that they do it!) The facility, part of the Learning Enrichment Foundation, is organized, efficient, optimistic. They are understandably proud of the services they offer our community. And I came away with the t-shirt.
For more information on these programs, visit http://www.lefca.org/lef_family/news.shtml
On Saturday afternoon, I rode over to Dufferin Grove Park, where I met a father and his 5 year-old daughter. The child begged her dad to remove the single training wheel she’d been using that week (a little like pulling out that wobbly baby tooth!) and she just took off.
The child’s confidence was tangible. And then, she rode off to play with a friend at the park. Her bike was already a transportation option in her world. When I shared this moment with an interviewee yesterday, they described it as “the rite of passage”, one of those select stories that resonates with all cyclists.
Check out the video below, where she walks you through a short trip with her cycling skills! This young gal certainly has presence of mind.
Sunday dinnertime found me at the Beaches, where I met with Arne Pelkonen. Arne has a lifelong dream of building what he describes as a “lean steering tricycle”. I met Arne at the Blackout Party on his tricycle, and was excited to try it for myself on Sunday. His bike is called the EcoCycle X1 Vector, and the beauty of this steering axis is that it allows both stability and maneuverability. It’s responsive, a little like a horse, which may explain why I took to it at once.
You lean into a turn and the bike just follows. The only thing I personally wanted the side handgrips for was braking. Pretty cool. For more information on the “human powered vehicle”, visit www.ecocycle.ca.
After a short nap, I headed up to North York. My 58 year-old companion is a big fan of night riding, and I decided to try this myself before writing about it. We explored her favourite Willowdale haunts from 12:30AM – 4:30 AM, and the reduction in traffic, pollution and noise made an astounding difference to the cycling experience.
Yes, my sentences are a little jumbled and I’ve met a few walls I didn’t know existed in my home, but the ride was worth it.
Finally, I want to thank one of my young interviewees for treating me to an unexpected birthday ride this week. He took me on a breath-taking, four-hour adventure through Wilson Heights, into the Downsview Dells and all through Northwood Park. Our ride broke on the York University campus for a picnic lunch. We explored a lot of the dreams and heartbreak of his early years through these destinations. He also described, and sometimes demonstrated, cycling patterns and challenges that held meaning for him. You cannot underestimate the value of a community in such moments. I am honoured that he shared with me: it was an unintended but absolutely ideal birthday gift for this year.
Young man, your future is the better for what has come before.