Urban bike adventures, Part 1, in which Sam and Sarah carry their bikes through the mud and live to tell about it

Sam’s story:

Where I am not this week: South Carolina for bike training camp (See my blog post about camp last year.)


Where I am this week: In Ontario

But, the good news. Spring arrived early. And I’m riding outside. Since I didn’t abandon everyone to go off riding for ten days, I decided it was okay to go off riding for a weekend with Sarah. And while Toronto isn’t South Carolina I decided it was time I got used to riding there since I’m leading training rides for the Friends for Life Bike Rally this spring and summer.

Urban adventure, Part 1

You can see our route here. The plan had been to do the Friends for Life Bike Rally’s Rouge Valley route. I was a bit anxious to try out these routes in advance of a group ride. While I’ve got good group riding skills and I’m happy to lead,  it’s been a few years since I’ve ridden in an urban environment.

How do London and Toronto compare for riding? Well, on the commuting side I envy Torontonians. There are just more cyclists and more bikes lanes. Also city traffic means you’re often keeping pace with the cars. I like that. It’s mostly easier to get in and out of traffic. No one is moving very fast. I like that too. But on the distance riding side, wow, London wins hands down. Just five or ten minutes and we’re out on deserted country roads. They go on for miles.

Our first urban ride got off to a rocky start.

The ride was supposed to start from Warden Station but since Sarah lives in the east end we were just 10 km away. Seemed a shame to ride the subway with our bikes for that kind of distance. And there was even a bike path to take us there that ends right at the station. Perfect!

Or so we thought. Little did we know that the bike path is under some serious construction. Gravel turned to mud and then serious mud and gravel. The kind of mud that you sink into while trying to carry your road bike. The kind of mud that oozes through cycling shoes into your socks. The kind of mud that contains leaves that gum up your cleats and your pedals and possibly your brakes and your rear derailleur. We started talking about bike washing at about the halfway point.

Well, after the point of no return we saw two people headed towards us on mountain bikes. They asked if the trail was passable. For you, yes!

We stopped and washed shoes and pedals and got leaves out from under our brakes at the river but even that wasn’t enough. We had to stop and get water at a gas station to really finish the job.


“Ew. My white bike shoes are getting dirty!” says Samantha. Sarah, “But look the sun! It’s a gorgeous day.”


Washing bikes off in the stream.
Obligatory ‘smiling in the face of adversity’ selfie

Okay, that was the muddy start.

But once we had rinsed the bikes and cleats we had a great ride through Scarborough along the bluffs overlooking the lake and along the Martin Goodman Trail through the Beach neighbourhood to home.

Cycle route 4 was well marked and had some great rolling hills and scenic vistas. (That’s a bit of a bike rally in-joke. Sorry. We made up some new hand signals when I did the rally a couple of years ago including one for “scenic vista.” Hi Jenn! Hi Stpehanie!)

I rode slowly back along the multi-use pathway. Long boards, kids, and dogs scare me on my road bike. Luckily that left me lots of energy for my first Toronto QOM! Thanks Strava. Boultbee is mine! (For now.)

Now here’s Sarah’s story:

I grew up cycling in Toronto, both for fun and to commute to various summer jobs. I know that riding on the streets of the Big Smoke can be … intense … so I wanted to ease into things by introducing Samantha some of the hidden treasure of Toronto’s cycling infrastructure, the informal network of multi-use trails that thread their way through the city’s many ravines.

I’m glad that the plan for the day was for a low-key adventurous ride to check out one of the bike rally training routes, because Samantha wasn’t kidding about the serious construction part. It turns out that our path through Warden Woods to the station was … well … gone. Victim of a “Section Restoration”, which is part of the never-ending task of maintaining city’s watershed, stabilizing and naturalizing the river banks to improve aquatic habitat and reduce flood risk : Necessary and noble work, sure, but I do wish they’d have posted a sign! We could have turned around and gone the long way instead of wading through mud from one patch of gravel road to the next until we ended up in a giant mud puddle with a large backhoe in the middle of it. Yikes!

Samantha was remarkably patient and good natured about wading into frigid Taylor Massey Creek to wash enough mud off our bikes and shoes to make it safe to continue. I may have bought some apology chocolate along with water to fill our bottles which we’d emptied washing the last of the gravel / concrete out of our cleats. We improvised the rest of the ride, eventually finding a great new route that bypasses an unpleasantly scary section of suburban Kingston Road.
It wasn’t the day that we’d imagined, but once we threw our plans to the wind, we managed a beautiful ride nonetheless. That said, now that I have been reminded the hard way of the importance of checking routes out before taking a group on them, I’m eager to go back and recce the Rouge Valley route sometime very soon!

How about you? Have you had any bike trips that didn’t go exactly as planned? Any urban adventures you want to share?

2 thoughts on “Urban bike adventures, Part 1, in which Sam and Sarah carry their bikes through the mud and live to tell about it

  1. I lived in Toronto for over 20 yrs. with last 14 years in Scarborough, across from Victoria Park subway station. I have been car-free, and even when living in Toronto So lucky me, had choice of 2 bike routes when I worked in downtown Toronto (lst job was in East York). For my daily bike commute is was simply going through Taylor Creek Park, westward into the pathway ravine interconnected parks system near Don River (under Don Valley Parkway. Give some markers to the Canadians who have stereotyped ideas about Toronto as simply highrises Nope, narrow view.).

    Or I cycled south along Victoria Park Rd. south to Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail going west to downtown. All of this was 31 km. round trip…which took almost 1 hr. 1-way..Subway ride with transfer (in winter) would take 50 min. 1 way in lighter commuter rush hr.

    I would start cycling off to work, shortly after 6:30 am.

    We have cycled the whole of Waterfront Trail several times for different trips… to Niagara on the Lake or Hamilton Botanical Gardens. East we have cycled to Cornwall, Ontario. That was the furthest east along Thousand Island Parkway where there is a path. (Other times he has done Quebec City).

    Bluffs area is lovely. There is a an art retreat, Fools’ Paradise , formerly home of Doris McCarthy, a long-time artist …I wish I did go there when she was alive during annual Open Doors Toronto event.

    I don’t know what more to say!! But *I do miss Toronto for its dynamic, multi-creative and multi-viewed/diverse drive. We have done a number of bike trips. My suggestions: You can ride 100 km. round trip from Victoria Park station around to McMichael Art Gallery, north in Kleinberg to see the Group of 7 paintings.

    We have cycled north to Orillia for few days.

    My partner was a cycling advocate in Toronto for several years and hence, he knew how to piece together routes on several path routes across several interconnected parks..with less on busy roads.

    I believe Victoria Park subway station, has an indoor bike parking corral area.

    I still visit Toronto since I have family and gave away my oldest bike to a sister (who lives in Runnymede-High Park, another bikeable lovely area near Waterfront Trail). So I “borrow” the bike whenever I visit.

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