As a child, learning to ride your bike without training wheels and being allowed to ride on your own was freedom. Throughout the beginning of the 20th century, cycling was one of North America’s most common pastimes, and world-renowned venues like Madison Square Garden were constructed to host races.
The importance of eco-friendly transit and health is bringing cycling back into the limelight. However, the laws of the road and designs of the bikes have also changed. Need a new bike? Start here.
Although many cyclists on the roads today do not wear a helmet or have reflectors or even lights, it is hard to deny that it is becoming more common to hear about terrible cycling accidents. Whether these are due to increased congestion on our roadways or the evolution of riskier cycling, there is a push to increase the percentage of people who wear helmets.
Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia all have mandatory helmet laws for riders under the age of 18. Although the law is meant to protect minors who may not have the judgment to make a decision themselves, there are a significant number of people who believe that helmet laws should be enforced for all riders.
For adults, bells, reflectors and obeying the rules of the road are all required by law, and violating them can lead to considerable fines (generally $85 per infraction). As far as we can tell, wearing a helmet is not an enforced law for adults in any of Canada’s provinces. However, you should consider what is at stake, and how many of the factors that cause an accident are completely out of your control. From a cost perspective, if you’re in an accident and hit your head without a helmet, how much would you pay to have been wearing one?
For an excellent aggregated list of Canada’s cycling laws, visit Biking Across Canada’s website.
Bicycle designs are evolving to meet a wide range of growing demands, and technology is quickly increasing what is possible. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast looking to burn calories, a two-wheeled daredevil interested in thrills, or someone who just enjoys pedaling, there is a design for you. Here are some of the more popular models from Canadian manufacturers.
Road bikes are designed for speed and efficiency, and have had one of the most consistent designs through the past century. Although there have been advancements in aerodynamic design and the weight of materials, the intended goals for the rider has remained consistent. If you want a bike meant for long-distance riding on smooth surfaces this may well be the ride for you.
Off-road-specific bikes began making appearances in the 60s, and became a separate category in the mid 70s. Mountain bikes are built with slightly smaller 26” wheels and stronger frames intended to handle the additional forces from off-road riding. Mountain bikes come with front-suspension and full-suspension designs intended to keep the rear wheel from skipping.
BMX (Bicycle motocross) bikes evolved when kids began racing their bicycles on dirt tracks in the 70s, trying to emulate their motocross racing predecessors. BMX bikes have a single speed and are built to be incredibly agile and durable. The compact frame and wheel size make them a natural choice for kids, though they are not intended to be kids’ bikes.
The hybrid bicycle is designed to give the rider the further upright riding position and increased visibility of a mountain bike, and the efficiency of a road bike. Hybrid designs range from road bike designs with flat bars to a mountain design with thinner wheels for increased efficiency. For an everyday all-terrain bicycle, this is the category to consider.
“29er” Mountain Bikes
In the 70s when mountain bikes became increasingly popular, there was a prominent group of designers who were proponents of a larger wheel size to increase efficiency when rolling over rocks and roots. “29ers” are growing in popularity again due to advancements in frame design, and these are an excellent choice for a taller off-road rider but can be tricky for those with a modest stature.
The cruiser bike predates most other models and had its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. However, in the past few decades the cruiser has seen a tremendous leap in popularity primarily because of its comfy upright sitting position and low stand-over height. If you want an easy bike to pedal around town, this is the option for you.
There are many different manufacturers that make bicycles in each of these categories so don’t be afraid to ask what sets a bike apart from the one next to it. Take each one you are interested in for a short ride and see which one feels right to you. Please ride safely, wear a helmet and obey the rules of the road.