cycling · fitness

Big Island Bike Ride

We celebrated Canada Day at Sarah’s family farm in Prince Edward County. There’s so much to love about Canada and also so much work to be done in terms of justice for indigenous persons. As a result, I’ve got mixed emotions about Canada Day. Yet this year I’m also feeling teary and proud of how much we’ve done in Canada to cope with the corona virus pandemic.

This is a good place to be reminded that we are settlers on this land. We’re across the Bay of Quinte from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. There are signs here in Kanien’kéha, the language of the Mohawk people. My favorite are the turtle crossing signs.

We’re staying here with Sarah’s sister and her family and of course, Cheddar the dog. Once we got Cheddar settled in we went out for a quick bike ride around Big Island. It’s a cute island about 8 km long and 3 km wide in the Bay of Quinte. It is accessed by a fixed causeway which connects Big Island to the remainder of Prince Edward County.

Strava map of our ride

There were almost no cars and just a few other bikes on the island. We had all the weather: sunshine, wind, and rain on our 25 km ride, over to and around the island. A joy of riding in quiet places is sprinting along the nice pavement bits without worrying about traffic and nearly getting some QOMs. I love the “worldwide” bit when I think that only a few dozen people with Strava have ridden on Big Island.

Big Island is a sleepy place and I’ve been pining a bit for international travel. Facebook memories keeps reminding me of summers past in Spain, France, Scotland, Sweden, and Germany. I’ve got environmental worries about travel but I also miss it a lot and so I’m both missing it and feeling about torn about it all.

It’s all mixed emotions around here. First, Canada Day and indigenous justice and second, international travel and carbon emissions.

That said, this little island ride reminded me a bit of one the most luxurious bike rides I’ve done, around Bora Bora with Susan. I’ve got a soft spot for small bike friendly islands.

We didn’t get to go to the beach after riding, unlike in Bora Bora, but we did get to splash in the pool with the 6 year old nephew. Earlier in the morning he and I had been racing laps in the pool. Later there were veggie burgers, cauliflower wings, and pineapple upside upside down cake. Yum. Thanks Victoria, for both the yummy food and watching Cheddar while we rode our bikes

We’re here for a few more days. The university was closed for the Canada Day holiday and is also providing an extended holiday on July 2 and 3 for some faculty and staff, including me.

We’ll be back again during the summer including for the Pedal for Parkinson’s charity bike ride.

boats · cycling · fitness

Bikes and Boats: The 2020 Weekend Edition

This weekend was Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere–the longest days of the year. After long indoor days of working from home, videoconferencing all day long, and working into the evenings, Sarah and I were ready for a break and the great outdoors. The timing was good too. Ontario has been opening up as the pandemic eases (for now).

We set out for her family farm in Prince Edward County and then made it to Gananoque to visit Jeff on the boat and ride our bikes.

Success! I finally felt comfortable recreationally riding away from home.

In May I was mostly riding indoors. In June, I ventured outside but stayed close to home.

This was my first time riding my bike beyond the boundaries of Guelph. It felt like a holiday. It helped that we were riding on the bike path that runs alongside the Thousand Island Parkway. It’s separate from traffic which is less scary. The odds of needing to call for help were pretty low. I recommend this path for nervous cyclists who can ride some distance but who hate riding near cars. It’s one of my favourite sections of road on the Friends for Life Bike Rally. We didn’t even see many other bikes, just one pair of Brompton riders early on. We only passed one lone jogger.

While friends were posting on Facebook about the days being shorter from here on in, I resisted the urge to give in to anticipatory sadness. We’re out and about now, riding our bikes, and eating lunch on patios with long days of sunshine. I don’t expect this degree of openness to persist through the fall. I know the sun won’t last. But I intend on enjoying the sun, the outdoors, and meals on patios while they’re here.

We’ve been doing the “bikes and boats” thing for awhile. We have a routine. Drop stuff off on the boat with Jeff. Ride our bikes and then meet at spot down river (canal, or whatever). This time we met up at Gananoque and then again at Rockport. We got back on the boat with our bike at Rockport and toured around the islands. They’re so cool.

They also give you an idea of how porous the border is between the two countries. On our left, American islands. On our right, Canadian islands.

I’ve had friends in Ontario wondering what to do about holidays. Let me recommend houseboat rentals. It’s not cheap but for those who usually fly for vacation, it’s affordable by comparison. It’s beautiful out there and easy to keep distance from other households.

Enjoy the photos!

You can read about earlier versions of bikes and boats here and here.

You can also check out Jeff’s boating blog here and follow his adventures.

Jeff’s boat, Mazurka, at the wall in Gananoque.
cycling · fitness

Missing my pack (guest post)

(Michele A is a fitness and nature enthusiast. She likes dirt, most things with fur and feathers, and tasty plant-based food. In her free time, you’d most likely find her playing outside or in her kitchen. This is her debut blog post for Fit is a Feminist Issue. Let her know what you think about her love story about a cyclist and some goats.)

It’s never lost on me how fortunate I am to have my own pack. They consist of a group of women ranging from their early 30s to mid-60s who are almost always willing to partake in local adventures. I can send a group text or email asking if anyone wants to join me for a particular activity that following weekend and am almost always met with a positive response. 50-mile road ride followed by mocha lattes? “Sure!” 65-mile gravel ride in the hills of northern New England? “I’m there!” Nighttime trails on a chilly autumn evening under a full moon with post-ride ice-cream? “Absolutely!” Snowshoe trek on a single digit day in February? “Wouldn’t miss it!” Some version of this happens at least a couple of times during an average week, and I’m always in great company. These women have as much appreciation as I do for getting outdoors on bikes, and occasionally by foot. It may mean something a bit different for each of our minds, bodies and spirits, but I don’t think there’s one of us who could go long without being out there.

Being out there often affords us with other, sometimes unexpected, soul-lifting experiences. One example is meeting a local herd of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. I first interacted with them a few years ago while riding trails in a nearby town. Over time, I learned more about my ruminant friends. They live in the backyard of a house in the center of town, but get out for walks most days year round, so they too, can get some exercise, and also have access to a variety of grass, moss, bark and other vegetation to supplement their basic diet.

Each time I see them, I feel a twinge of excitement, and stop to say “hello”. As it turns out, I found another reason to be grateful for my riding partners because they are just as happy to stop for a visit with the ladies. The herd is also made up of all women, now spanning five generations with their most recent births.

In these last few months, the goats have taken on larger significance. These days, I’m doing only solo rides until it’s safe to ride in groups again, which may be a while. I’m sticking close to home and staying on terrain I’m familiar with. When I happen upon the goats, I linger for longer than usual. I live alone and have had very little in-person interaction with other humans. The goats used to be a fun sighting during a ride, an adorable pit stop in the midst of a multi-hour social excursion. Now, they are a meaningful source of comfort and joy. They are the main event, not just the popcorn while watching the feature film. They don’t know it, but they made quarantining and social distancing more tolerable for me.

When I see them, I stop and have various kinds of interactions:

Sit and pet:  Sometimes I find a cozy spot to sit in the tall grass or along a rock wall. The goats do things on their terms. If one wants some attention, she will come over and plant herself sturdily next to me, and then I will rub her ears and stroke her head and sides. This is most often Mei Mei. She is the most equanimous of the bunch. Usually once she has gotten my full attention for several minutes, either Eia or Luna will follow and try to intervene. I often end up petting two goats at once, which is like brushing your hair and your teeth at the same time. It takes coordination, and I am getting better at it!

Discreet goat petting.
Discreet goat petting.

Foraging:  Other times, I search for things they like to eat. I have learned what they deem as the perfect acorn and how to prepare it for them, by cracking off their shells and removing the meat. I find a large flat rock to spread out the acorns, and another hand-sized rock to crack them. Sometimes I have an audience while I do this. I often feed these to Lycian. She is the great-great-grandmother and is now in her 80s in people years. Getting the acorns out of the shell on her own has become difficult for her.

Cuddling:  In the last month, my heart has been completely taken by Lydia. She is one of the two kids born to Lyra. When she is in the mood, I can pick her up or she’ll come sit in my lap. She will settle in and enjoy the attention. Sometimes she nibbles my shoulder, shirt, pants or wrist with her tiny mouth, mimicking the eating of the adult goats while she is still mostly drinking her mother’s milk. From her tiny mouth also comes the littlest bleats when she is chasing after the herd, reminding them of her presence. When she plays, she hops erratically about and returns head butts to her sister, Lyla.

These are all-absorbing and satisfying activities which allow me to forget life beyond the pasture. For the time that I am with them, I am immersed in their world and focused on their needs and behaviors. There is nothing but the goats.

Whether or not you have your own pack or flock or covey of companions that you’re missing terribly, it’s likely that your activities and routines today are different than they used to be, and you’re feeling unsettled or yearning for aspects of your former life at times.  Comfort and joy can come in many forms. It doesn’t have to be goats. Finding your own special Red Beech tree to sit under its canopy, leaning on its enormous, smooth trunk can be grounding. Perching on a bridge overlooking a creek where you can toss in sticks and watch them float downstream can feel serene. Walking the same path regularly to watch it change throughout the weeks can remind you that life is going on all around you. Identifying the birds outside your window and watching them go about their eating and gathering can be calming. I’d love to hear examples of how the outdoor world has brought you peace.

Idyllic still life with goat and bike.
Idyllic still life with goat and bike.
cycling · fitness · racing

Women’s Tour de France on Zwift


The Tour de France is happening on Zwift.

“It has been rescheduled to run from August 29-September 20. For the virtual Tour de France, Zwift is set to build new race routes, including one in Nice for the opening stage and another in Paris to mimic the traditional finale of the Tour de France on the cobbled circuit of the Champs Elysées,” according to Cycling News. For more details see here.

And double wow, there’s also a women’s tour.

There are no details yet except that there will be both a men’s and a women’s race.

Regular blog readers know that the absence of a women’s tour has been bothering me for many years. In my optimistic moods I hope the Zwift race goes so well that we have an in real life version next year. In my grumpier moods I think that it’s only now that the Tour has been moved to the virtual world that there’s room for women. Like many of us, in these strange times, I’m moving pretty quickly between hope and optimism and grumpiness and despair for all things. I guess this is no different.

Here’s some of my past thoughts on the need for the Tour de France to include women riders:

From 2016: The Tour de France and “Where are the women?”

Also from 2016: The Tour de France or the Men’s Tour

The question is also frequently raised in the cycling press.

See Why Is There No Women’s Tour de France? and

Tour de France organisers ‘seriously working on’ women’s stage race

Here’s one campaign to get a women’s tour:

The Tour de France is one of the world’s biggest sporting events, alongside the football World Cup and Wimbledon. But so far, it’s only open to men. A group of female cyclists in France wants to change this.

Okay. Back to this year, to racing in the middle of a global pandemic. That’s only going to happen on Zwift.

What’s racing look like on Zwift? Here’s some footage from the Tour for All.

And the Zwift Classics:

Zwift Classics Innusbruck Women’s Race
covid19 · cycling

Ten ways cycling IRL is different than Zwift

I started out the pandemic riding inside, a lot, on Zwift. What’s a lot? I rode enough that I got my unemployed badge for 14 days in a row. It’s now changed on Zwift, thanks to the pandemic, to the “working from home” badge. What’s that in distance? More than 500 km a month. So far this year I’ve ridden nearly 2000 km (not including fat bike riding or commuting.) I’ll be curious to see how far I ride this year. I used to aim for 5000 km. See here and here for discussions of cycling distance goals.

Why inside? See Why Sam is still riding inside even though the sun is shining . But also, I’ve really been enjoying racing in Zwift.

This month, with the #VirtualRideForHeart I started riding outside again.

How’d it feel?

Well, good but weird. Like lots of things these days. We packed supplies. We did all the right things. We brought our own stuff–food, drink, and things to fix flats. We were not reckless speed demons. I gave several QOM attempts a miss. We had someone at home to call for a ride in case something worse than a flat befell our bikes. We brought masks in case something unexpected happened.

All of that stuff is pandemic related. But it also felt weird because it wasn’t Zwift! Along the way, in my head, I started compiling a list of the ways in which cycling in the real world was different than virtual cycling.

1. Cars: In the real world, you share the road with cars and trucks. In Zwift, it’s all bikes and runners. Since cars and trucks can kill you this is an important difference.

2. Animals: There are critters in Zwift, some real and some magical, but they don’t run out in front of your bike. Unlike chipmunks and squirrels which here in Guelph so make the occasional dash.

3. Traffic lights and stop signs: My average speed is higher in Zwift and in part that’s because there is never any reason to stop. There are no stop signs and no traffic lights.

4. Downhill: In Zwift I never brake downhill. I’ve got some amazing top speeds. There’s no way to crash so need to worry. Just zoom! You can super tuck in Zwift to recover on long descents but that’s for race strategy reasons, not safety. You still go very fast. Here’s a how to descend guide for Zwift. No braking involved.

Someone, not Sam, doing a super tuck in Zwift.

5. Wind: OMG. I’d almost forgotten about wind. There’s a draft advantage in Zwift that’s a big deal but you don’t feel the wind in your face the way you do in real life cycling. The Zwift wind is also the same everywhere. There’s no headwind on the way out, tailwind on the way home. There’s also no good and bad wind days.

6. Cornering: There’s no skill in cornering in Zwift. You hit a corner at speed and the bike takes the corner. In the real world, that’s something you learn how to do as a cyclist. I have memories of crit racing and the turn we called “collarbone corner” for a reason. Sunday Sarah sprinted for a light and then realized at the last minute she had to turn right and the bike wouldn’t just do it. Braking and turning was required.

7. Speed versus Power: On my road bike while Zwifting the number I care about is watts or watts per kg. Rides aren’t announced with speeds. They’re announced with watts per kg. I know my cruising pace in watts per kg. I know my time trial pace in watts per kg. But in Zwift I don’t pay attention to km/hr. In the real world, I don’t have a power meter and I don’t know my watts. My Garmin tells me my speed and average speed, distance and heart rate, but not watts.

8. Brakes: There’s a lot of braking in the real world. None in Zwift. Except when the ride is over.

9. Uphill: I’m better uphill on Zwift. I can spin slowly. In the real world, I rarely do that. I’m not that comfortable shifting to a spinny gear and going slow. I think I worry about falling. In Zwift, up Alpe due Zwift, speedy runners pass me.

10. You’ve got to make it home to stop: When you’ve had enough on Zwift you just stop. That’s it you’re done. Sadly in the real world you can’t stop until you make it back home.

Bonus: I’m ageless in Zwift. The avatars all the look the same not matter what your age. Some people have their ages in brackets so you know. (J.Smith 12 YEARS OLD) or (B. Anthony 70+). I’m never quite sure why people do that. Only at the extremes which is interesting. And related to age, in Zwift you never get a sunburn. No sunscreen needed.

covid19 · cycling · fitness · health · running · walking

Multi-use pathway: tough to navigate at the best of times

In my little city of London, Ontario we have a fantastic system of pathways–The Thames Valley Parkway– that run mostly along the river, through parks and wooded areas. It’s long and lovely, covering over 40 km of ground.

Image description: Map of London, Ontario’s pathways and bike routes. A yellow line snaking alongside the river indicates the Thames Valley Parkway.

Not surprisingly people use it a lot, not just for leisure but also for commuting from one end/side of the city to the other, for walking their dogs, for exercise. But that’s not the sense in which it’s “multi-use.” That refers to the modes of moving along the path — people walk, run, ride their bikes, travel on their inline skates and skateboards and non-motorized scooters, and in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The posted speed limit is 20 kilometres per hour. At the moment, there are signs asking people to respect the covid-19 physical distancing guidelines to remain at least 2m apart.

Our local CBC asked the following question recently: “Between cyclists and pedestrians on the Thames Valley District Parkway, who gets the right of way?” They posted the same question on their FB page. As someone who has been using the pathway for a long time, not just during the pandemic, I wasn’t surprised that most replies didn’t even mention the pandemic.

Yes, the physical distancing guidelines raise a whole new set of issues about giving others their space. And (apparently), COVID-19 restrictions have increased the use of the pathway system because our other options, like gyms and yoga studios, are all closed. Plus, kids are home and many adults are either working from home (giving them in some cases more flex in their schedules) or not working. With outdoor exercise being touted (rightly) as an effective way to nurture your mental and physical health at the same time, health experts have emphasized its importance for us during the isolation of the pandemic.

Most people who commented in the thread said that the usual rules of the road should apply, not just during the pandemic, but all the time (how it should be “all the time” was a recurring theme). That would mean pedestrians have the right of way. But not all agreed. Some thought, for example, that since pedestrians can more easily duck out of the way, cyclists should have the right of way. The fact is, the TVP is not a road and the city has not spelled out any guidelines for its use other than “share the path.” The convention is that on the two-lane pathway, pedestrians and cyclists alike use the right-hand lane.

The CBC London comment thread had the usual complaints about cyclists from pedestrians — they don’t ring their bell or say anything to let you know they’re approaching, they pass too closely, they go too fast, they ride in packs (or side-by-side). And there were the usual complaints about pedestrians from cyclists — they take up too much space instead of keeping to the right, they are wearing earbuds so they don’t hear you when you call out, they are sometimes erratic.

The path itself is anywhere from 2.4 to 4 metres wide. That makes it logistically impossible to maintain a two metre distance from everyone you might encounter, whether you’re on foot or on a bicycle, regardless of how much you’d like to keep a safe distance at all times.

Remember too that not everyone on foot is walking. I use the path as both a walker and a runner, and have also used it a lot as a cyclist. My view of what’s irritating, because in general that is how I would describe my reaction when other people’s use of the path creates friction for my use of it, depends a lot on what “mode” I’m in. As one person said to the CBC, “When you’re a pedestrian, you want to think the faster people should get out of your way, but now that I’ve been biking a bit more, I realize I have the opposite mindset when I’m on a bike.” Similarly, when I’m riding my bicycle (or even when I’m running), I get grumpy when people are walking together and taking up the whole lane. But of course, walking in the park together is a thing. An enjoyable thing. And now that we are physical distancing, walking with a friend required that you be further apart than usual.

The other morning when I was out running, I kept as far to the right as possible (I always do that for my own sense of safety from the fast cyclists). Most cyclists who needed to go around me gave a wide berth, but not 2m. I had the easiest time with the people who were running or walking in the other direction because I could (and did) just step a few feet onto the grass as I passed them. Indeed, when possible, I enjoy running on the softer edges beside the paved part, but it’s not always flat enough to do that without risk of turning onto an ankle. The most challenging obstacle I faced was the group of four people walking their large dogs. Between the people and the dogs on leashes, they were literally spread out over both sides of the path, creating a real blockade for cyclists. I did my usual thing and ran off the pathway to navigate around them, but I was annoyed.

I think the worst thing cyclists do besides passing too closely happens when there are pedestrians or runners coming towards me in the other lane and a cyclist approaching them from behind who wants to pass them. It has never been clear to me why it makes more sense from the cyclist’s point of view to ride straight into the path of a pedestrian or runner (me!) in the other lane instead of waiting for a clear passing opportunity. It would be as if you were driving on a two-lane highway and you just kept going at speed, passing cars in front of you without any regard for whether there was on-coming traffic. It wouldn’t even occur to you but quite honestly, 9/10 cyclists do this as if it’s the most reasonable choice in the world.

I’m sensitive too to the issue raised about being in the “slipstream” of a runner or cyclist who passes me (or vice versa if I pass someone). I don’t really know what to do about that, so I just hope for the best. Did that slipstream thing get debunked or at least, did someone say it was overly simplistic? Regardless, it’s hard not to think about mini-droplets hanging in the air and how long they may linger there. Sometimes I try to hold my breath but I have considered that possibly that makes me then gasp for air with an extra deep inhale at exactly the wrong moment. On a related note: I have noticed that some people sort of turn their head away and fewer people say “hello” (we live in a city where the norm is to say hello to others on the path). Thankfully some data show that being outside reduces transmission risk a lot.

I am sort of onside with the view that there is no clear right-of-way rule that can easily apply in every case when it comes to the pathway. This is unfortunate because clear rules would be helpful. But I am aware that just because something annoys me doesn’t make it wrong. For example, I have been the cyclist too, and if there are lots of people walking it is exhausting to continually ring your bell or say “on your left.” Indeed, “on your left” can sometimes confuse people or startle them (though typically they will thank you for letting them know).

On the water, when boating, there are clear rules about sail boats having the right of way over power boats. But there is also a sort of convention that the boat who can easily maneuver out of the way should do so if it would be more difficult for the other boat (that’s the reasoning behind why a boat under sail typically has the right of way), even if the other boat technically has the right of way. And really, from the safety point of view, you need to be sensible — if you’ve technically got the right of way but holding your ground might mean you’re going to get run over (like if you’re sailing and a freighter is coming up behind you at twice your speed), then you get out of the way.

I operate kind of like that on the pathway. And most others do too. And as several people on the CBC London Facebook thread said, usually it goes pretty smoothly. And that is amazing considering how busy the TVP can be at times. But I have also taken to going as early in the morning as possible if I’m going to be on the path. And sometimes I don’t have the energy to put up with the added stress, so I just avoid the pathway altogether. I’ve adopted a general policy, that I expect I will maintain for as long as the physical distancing guidelines are required (read: until there is a vaccine and most people have been inoculated): I run alone.

I am still experimenting with physical-distanced walking with friends and I have to say I don’t love it. I need and like to connect in-person with a friend from time to time. But it’s hard to keep proper distance (some people disagree and say it’s easy — that’s not been my experience) and I feel like a jerk if I keep dwelling on it. It also proliferates the navigational challenges of encountering other pairs or larger groups of people walking, running, or cycling together. So, personally I have found it stressful, especially on the pathway. To be quite honest, my preferred way of doing physical-distanced visits with friends is to each bring our own chair and set them up at least six feet apart whether at the park or in someone’s yard. No navigating required. Public health recommendations uncompromisingly followed.

What’s obvious is that in the absence of totally separate pathways, like on the Vancouver seawall where the walking path is distinct from the cycling path, we will need to find a safe way to enjoy these spaces together. The safety and health issues of physical distancing are just one more thing to add to the mix this year. If we’re mostly out there to improve our sense of well-being, and we are truly all in this together, then the both the individual and public health benefits are best achieved by being chill instead of annoyed.

covid19 · cycling · fitness

Ride like you belong to a community – really belong

It’s week BLECH!!!!! of quarantine/lockdown/the thing we are experiencing together, but there’s movement afoot. In different spaces around Canada life is returning to something approximating some kind of “normal”: from my perch on the western end of the Greater Toronto Area I can now purchase a donut I did NOT pre-order, walk my dog in the conservation areas near me, and go to the escarpment stairs for exercise. At that last one, I tell you, I am truly overjoyed.

Image of steel stairs (descending) flanked by high summery greenery, sunshine in the distance. My beloved escarpment stairs are back in business!

I know I should be feeling happy/good/relieved/something positive about all of this, but I’m not. I’m actually strangely anxious. And I don’t think it’s anxiety about catching The Big C-19; I think it’s anxiety about… trying to go home again.

If these last few months have revealed anything, it’s that what we were doing before was not actually working for most of us. It ABSOLUTELY was not working for racialized people, people living and/or working in poverty, and people who otherwise found themselves on the margins of our perennially harried, 24/7 world. Many of those people are suffering very badly right now – but something has shifted. That’s our shared awareness of this suffering, along with a growing recognition that it constitutes a grievous, violent unfairness that we must do something, collectively, about, and soon.

I’ve been thinking recently about what happens when “the normal” returns, if it returns. What lessons will I take with me from this strange, scary, valuable time into the future? Well there are plenty, to be sure, but since this is a blog about fitness, let me speculate here about something I hope I can do (better) in our as-yet unknown future, as an amateur athlete.

I’m one of the cyclists on the blog who has been riding, outside, the whole time. I carry spares with me and I know how to fix a tire; I have a phone, and I have a mask, and I’m not squeamish about getting into a cab if absolutely desperate. I figured, It Will Be Fine. And besides: I need riding.

Sam recently posted this gif of Miss Piggy and Kermie riding their bikes along a park path. I’m re-using it because the Muppets RULE, and also because Kermit’s delight is my delight. My bike lets me feel joy when nothing else can.

It’s one of my few happy places. It was something keeping me grounded, keeping me okay, in those early days when nothing looked familiar. When I was terrified for my elderly parents. When my partner had no idea how long he’d be stuck abroad, where he was when things shut down. When my work changed gears completely, and Zoom ate my brain.

Not riding was not an option. My mental health is fragile at the best of times; now is not the best of times.

Then a thing happened that pulled me up short. Early in April, near to dusk, I was descending a familiar slope about 7km from my house. At the bottom there was a crash: four cyclists were out together and two collided on the descent. One broke his back. There were two ambulances on the scene, and one of the paramedics was directing traffic around the crash site. I was actually embarrassed to make eye contact with him; I suddenly felt seen and judged for my choice to ride, exposed in what suddenly seemed terribly reckless to me. (The import of his glance may well have all been in my head, but I think it’s telling either way.)

The next day I dropped my bike for a routine tune-up and my mechanic discovered there was a crack in my carbon fork. He was blunt: this needed replacing. It was lucky I hadn’t already crashed, and crashed badly.

The rider with the broken back could have been me.

Freddie, my beloved road bike, in the Yorkshire Dales, 2017. That was at least one carbon fork ago.

Now, I know that anytime I ride I take a risk.

Road cycling is a risky activity and I do all I can to minimize my own risk because I’m a sensible person. (I get regular tune-ups for exactly the reason above; I don’t ever hammer descents because I’ve crashed in the mountains before and do not ever want to experience that again; I avoid main roads or take the lane if I need to use one briefly so I can be super visible.)

But right now? Health care workers are under strain, and those in hospital with COVID-19 are people among us who are especially vulnerable, including people of colour and elderly people.

Those resources? They aren’t for me.

So if I break my back in The Regular Times, it sucks for me but I made a measured choice. The health care workers attending to me are geared up for accidents, as much as usual; there are beds available and they have proper PPE and are experiencing normal (for them) levels of stress.

If I break my back right now? I’m potentially draining resources that are needed by people less privileged than me. I’m potentially exposing a whole bunch of people to a virus that may affect them badly. Which means I’m not thinking about my whole community when I make my cycling choices.

This doesn’t mean I’m not riding. I am still riding (see above re mental health). But now, I’m doing my best to ride with careful consideration. I ask myself:

Where am I going? Do I know this route, the road conditions, the tricky spots? Can I avoid those? I draw and redraw the map.

Where along this route could I safely seek assistance if needed? I make mental notes.

What can I do to minimize my chances of an accident, either on my own or with a car? Yes, but what ELSE can I do to ensure I’m riding as safely as possible?

Do I have enough food with me? Enough water? For the WHOLE ride?

Is my phone fully charged? Are charge-draining apps turned off?

Do I have enough gear with me to fix chain or tube problems, multiple times if needed?

If I need to call for help, who will I call, and how will I protect them while they are assisting me?

So I make a plan, a much, much more intricate one than “normal”. That plan tries to factor in the whole community of people I might brush up against on my ride. I recognize that at the end of the day I’m responsible for but also to my seemingly simple choice to ride my bike a significant distance – because that choice is actually me exercising my privilege as a white, able-bodied person with a road bike.

Yes, the current situation is weird and unusual. But my responsibility, my accountability, and my privilege as a community member will not change when COVID goes away. Arguably, I should always be planning my bicycle rides with this level of care.

I hope (and plan) to hold myself accountable, now but also in the future.

Cyclist readers, I’d love to hear from you. Are you riding, and if so how are you planning? What if anything is out of bounds for you right now, and why? Are you comfortable on your bike right now or not? If not, could you share some reasons why? 


charity · cycling · fitness

Sam’s summer schedule of charity bike rides

Ride for Heart

What it was: I signed up for the June 7th, 75 km, ride in Toronto. A highlight is Don Valley Parkway closed to traffic. Riding with Sarah and Joh.

What it was given covid-19?: Sarah and I rode on our own and posted photos, #virtualrideforheart

Sam and Sarah stopped beside the road

How to sponsor me: Here

Manulife Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart

Tour de Guelph

What it was: I was going to do the 100 km route, touring Guelph countryside with food and road support.

What is now?: You choose your route and ride either alone or with someone you live with, share photos online.


In response to the COVID-19 crisis and in adherence with current physical distancing recommendations, Tour de Guelph 2020 will not be held in its usual single-day event format. Instead, we welcome all new and past riders to register, fundraise, and complete one of our Tour de Guelph routes on your own, making sure you are physically distanced from other riders, any time on or between the fourth Sunday of June, 2020 and the fourth Sunday of July, 2020, (Sunday June 28th, 2020 to Sunday July 26th, 2020). Take a photo of yourself on your ride and email it to us, we’ll post it in a special online photo album. Please also share your pictures on social media using #TdG2020.”

How to sponsor me: Here

Tour de Guelph June 28 - July 26

Friends for Life Bike Rally

What it was: 6 day, 660 km ride from Toronto to Montreal (with 1 day and 3 day options)

What is now? 90 day challenge to ride for either 600 minutes or 600 kms

How to sponsor me: Here!

Pedal for Parkinsons

What it was: July 10-12, riding in Prince Edward County

What is now? We might still be riding! The new date is August 28-30, 2020.
Milford Fairgrounds

Join us one, two or all three days as part of a community bound by cycling and a commitment to support everyone impacted by Parkinson’s.

P4PinPEC is a three day Charity Bike Ride. 100% of donations raised will go towards Parkinson’s Disease research. Riders can choose to ride 1, 2, or all 3 days. Each day there will be different route lengths available. Along each route there will be Rest Stations stocked with amazing goodies.

How to sponsor me: details to come

Pedaling for Parkinson's in PEC - Prince Edward County Guide
accessibility · cycling

Welcome to all the new women riding bikes!

Kermit and Miss Piggy riding their bikes

As I noted the other day, in a celebration of World Bicycle Day, there’s a huge rise in the numbers of people riding bikes. Bike sales are on the rise and many more people are out and about on two wheels. Here in Canada there’s talk of running out bicycles. Bicycles are the new toilet paper.


From Outside Online: “There are various reasons for this phenomenon. Amid nationwide stay-at-home-orders, mass-transit ridership is in free fall, leaving essential workers in need of a socially distant way to get around. And many people, especially families with young children at home, are looking for lockdown-compliant ways to get outside and keep everyone as healthy and happy as possible.”

Most of the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers ride bikes. Tracy has moved on from road cycling but she’s kept her commuter bike. Christine also rides a bike. Catherine, Cate, Nat, Kim, Susan, Bettina, and I all ride bikes.

We want to welcome you, new rider, to our community!

Here’s some helpful advice from Jennifer Herring and others on Twitter.

Some posts beginning cyclists might like:

Beginner’s Love (Guest Post)

Tips for beginning cyclists who want to go faster

Safe cycling is a disability rights issue

Five tips for new cyclists

Big women on bikes

Riding bikes in skirts and dresses, totally fine if that’s your thing


June 3 is World Bicycle Day

Maybe you ride a bike now. If you don’t, it’s likely you will in the future.

Bicycles sales are up and riding is way up as people avoid public transit as a result of COVID-19. With spin studios still closed, riding outside is now a good safe way to get some movement in your life.

I don’t think the United Nations General Assembly had this in mind in April 2018 when they declared June 3 as International World Bicycle Day.

But let’s get on our bikes and ride and take photos and tag them #worldbicycleday.

See you out there.