Across the table, Jamie is looking patient, so I apologize and come back to the present.
“If a bike reflects its rider’s style, then what kind of riders have we got here in Toronto?” I ask him.
Jamie has seen two kinds of cyclists: the functional riders and those who really love riding. Functional riders just get on the bike and go. These are the more European style of riders, who only want a working machine to get them from point A to point B.
The second kind of cyclists, the majority of cyclists in Toronto, in my experience, make regular maintenance adjustments to their bikes. And Jamie has noticed that these riders tend to make aesthetic changes that reflect their personality. He points to the different handlebar and seat styles. The modest rider will want a flat bar and a comfortable seat; the aggressive rider will want drop bars and a narrow seat; the nervous rider will have an upright bar and a big seat. Casual dressers tend to ride plain bikes, while men in suits tend to want a Brooks saddle. Women who ride in skirts are more likely to add streamers or flowers, or beads on their spokes. In essence, they’re dressing up their bike.
In this city, our bike stores must (and do) reflect these philosophies. You can get anything here, from a bike in pristine condition to a totally unridable beater. Some shops care a great deal about safety—like the Bike Joint and Sweet Pete’s, both of whom get absolutely involved with the community, but quietly and honestly—while others show no moral compass at all. I’ve spoken with people from the first variety. The owners demonstrate the same personality traits I’ve come to admire in the cyclists I’ve met—generous, not driven by gain or politics but eager to involve more people in something they love and believe in. Many people here ride for reasons we think are important, and I believe that the serious bike shops in town—those owned and run by actual cyclists—are listening to that.
And then there’s the tomboy who rides around the Greater Toronto Area in a plain white shirt, on an unassuming white bike, madly in love with the whole Toronto bike experience.