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Gear up for spring with our cycling safety checklist from the Gateway Bicycle Hub

Spring is the perfect time to connect with nature on two wheels — learn about the ABC checks before you head out on the trail. 

Ed Mark with cyclists for Spring Biking story
Top image caption: Ed Mark, manager of the Gateway Bicycle Hub, says the ravines feel like an escape from the city.

Published on May 25, 2022

Cycling isn’t just a convenient way to get around, it’s also a great opportunity to explore the city’s natural public spaces and connect with nature. 

Toronto’s ravine system — of the world’s largest — spans more than 11,000 hectares, providing recreational opportunities in a unique natural landscape. 

“For me, it’s a big escape,” says Ed Mark, Evergreen program coordinator and manager of Toronto’s Gateway Bicycle Hub, a community project that encourages the repair and repurposing of bicycles. “When you go to the Brick Works and you can get a view of downtown, it feels surreal in some ways. It feels like you’re outside the city but you’re in the heart of it.”

Cyclists ride by on ravine path

Mark says cyclists who visit Toronto are amazed with the amount of trails so close to downtown. 

“It’s very rare for a city to have that kind of network. It’s such a unique thing for Toronto to have such good biking close to downtown Toronto.”

Whether you’ve been riding through the winter or you’re dusting off your bike for the first time this year, now is the perfect time for a spring checkup. 

In the bike workshops at the Gateway Bicycle Hub — an initiative in partnership with The Neighbourhood Organization, Flemingdon Health Centre, and Evergreen — Mark says the first thing they teach is the ABC check. 

Here are a few easy checks to help you prepare for a season of cycling.

Ed Mark works on bicycle

A is for air 

It’s important to ensure your tires are properly inflated, so you’ll need access to a pump that has a pressure gauge. On the sidewall of the tire, you can find the recommended pressure, indicated in PSI.

“Both overinflated and underinflated tires can lead to issues,” Mark says. “It can lead to flats, blowouts, less comfortable riding and extra wear on the tire.” 

B is for brakes 

When cycling on trails, it’s important to occasionally stop and smell the roses — so your brakes better be working. First, take a look at your brakes and cables to make sure they aren’t worn down. “Most bikes have a right and left handbrake — one is for the front and the other for the rear,” Mark says. “Make sure they are equally firm and that you can squeeze them both comfortably.” 

While squeezing the brakes, push forward on your bike; if your wheel still turns, you should have your brakes repaired before heading out on the trails.  

Man holds bicycle chain upclose dirty hands and chain

C is for chain 

The chain is the heart of the bicycle, Mark says. “It’s really important that your chain is clean and lubricated with some kind of bicycle-specific oil. We’ve had people using food oils and it’s just not a good idea. It doesn’t stay on metal very well.”

Rusty, worn out chains will feel sluggish, jump gears or simply break entirely.  

Bonus: D is for drop test 

The last thing on the ABC safety check is the drop test. Pick your bike up a few inches and drop it on its wheels, Mark suggests. Watch and listen for anything unusual, such as rattling or moving parts that need to be secured.   

Bike Hub manager Ed Mark helps cyclist with helmet

Equipment check 

Whether commuting to the office or cycling on a trail, helmets are critical. Most bike stores should be able to help you fit your helmet. In addition to proper fitting, you can choose features like additional ventilation or a sun-shielding visor.

You’ll also need a bike light in case you're cycling after the sun goes down. Lights are rated in lumens, with a range of 300-500 lumens recommended for cycling. 

The other key areas are your points of contact with your bike: your butt, hands and feet. Mark says some people wear padded bike shorts to be more comfortable on those long rides. He also recommends gloves in case you fall, especially on trails. 

“It’s also super important to have good shoes,” he says. “Most people wear running shoes, but a stiffer sole shoe is usually recommended because it creates less fatigue on your feet, especially if you’re going up and down hills.” 

Connect to the ravine trails 

Learn more about the Hub on its project page or by visiting gatewaybikehub.org for more information on the latest events. 

You can also learn more about Evergreen’s work with the ravine system, including the Loop Trail, a collaboration between Evergreen, City of Toronto, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, and other partners, that looks to enhance trail connectivity throughout the city by creating a continuous 65-kilometre multi-use trail circuit.