The Thrill Of The Open Road Belongs To The Bicycle

By Adrian Duyzer
Published May 21, 2012

Azure sky. Dazzling sun. Rugged nature bisected by a single asphalt ribbon. A single solitary driver blasts down it, wind in his hair, engine roaring. Freedom.

The thrill of the open road.

Thrill Of The QEW. Image credit: Toronto Star

Lying in advertising is nothing new, of course. I have never seen my wife's hair swing from side-to-side in a slow-motion dance of gleaming strands because of her hair conditioner.

I have never been mobbed by a throng of cheering, partying girls after cracking open a Coors Light (although, admittedly, I don't try very often).

But the car companies aren't lying, exactly. The thrill they portray does happen, and as drivers we've all experienced it. The problem is that we experience it so rarely, like during a long weekend up north as we bomb down a provincial highway on the way to the LCBO or a beach or both, in that order.

The rest of the time it's either a mediocre experience or as GTA commuters experience every workday, it's horrible.

If you actually really want the thrill of the open road, and you want it consistently, affordably, and right here in the city, you need to start cycling.

I've relied on a bicycle for a substantial part of my transportation needs ever since I was a kid, and the experience just doesn't get old.

Whipping down city streets, wheels thrumming, the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, the freedom to go where you please and to take routes less traveled: it's an awful lot like the car commercials, except the thrill is far more consistent and accessible.

You don't have to go to Muskoka to get your heart pounding on a bicycle.

It's not always perfect, of course. Biking in the rain is no fun if you're trying to stay dry. But in almost thirty years of cycling, I've been stuck in precisely zero traffic jams. The trade-off is more than worth it.

Then there's the purely recreational cycling in a city that has an amazing variety of trails and paths.

Last night I hopped on my bike and headed up the Chedoke Rail Trail. I'm no photographer, but these shots from my iPhone hint at a bit of the beauty I experienced while - you guessed it - blasting down trails with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.

Iroquois Heights forest meadow.

Bicycles are quiet enough to let you get close to wildlife.

This photo doesn't do justice to the multi-layered and complex beauty of this sunset, viewed from the cliffs that overlook the 403.

For me, cycling is still mainly just a handy way to get around. There are moments, though, when cycling transcends mere transportation, and those moments happen more often than you might think. If you're not a cyclist, go buy a bike and get started. I promise you'll love it a lot more than you think.

P.S. May 28 is Bike To Work Day.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By Parallax (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2012 at 11:14:36

Also, a pox on ebikes.

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By 10Ck (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2012 at 07:01:06 in reply to Comment 77145

"Also, a pox on ebikes."

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 21, 2012 at 17:26:41

I don't get gridlock going into Mississauga every weekday, unless I am going in to work early. When I'm on the 403/QEW, I sometimes hit a little traffic in Burlington, then maybe again a little in Mississauga, but I can go 100km/h on a consistent basis. It's about perception. Please stop assuming and generalizing driving.

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By Gridlock (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2012 at 21:37:35 in reply to Comment 77148

Wow, 1.5 to 2 hours of commuting every day? I feel for ya buddy. A recent study found that long-distance commuters are 40% more likely to divorce or separate from their partners than the're also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, obesity, and stress. Tho it's kind of obvious you're stressed out. Go biking, you'll feel better.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 23, 2012 at 08:28:00 in reply to Comment 77155

What recent study was that? So 60% were less likely to have a bad life? Like, more than half?

Actually, we do go biking. But, thanks for trying to be a troll.

Sadly, not all of us can afford to live in the 'burbs (or want to), have a 10 minute ride to work and so on. You take what you can get. But hey, what do you care, amirite?

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 14:22:55 in reply to Comment 77155

Going into Burlington usually ins't a problem... Coming home at 4:30 is death, though.

(For me at least)

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted May 21, 2012 at 20:41:32

For me, cycling is still mainly just a handy way to get around.

Me too.

There are moments, though, when cycling transcends mere transportation, and those moments happen more often than you might think.

I couldn't agree more:
Bicycle Standing Stihl JPG Image


Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-05-21 20:43:24

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 21, 2012 at 21:24:35

Great pice Ade...and great pics! You're right...I've always found when cycling that I see something new or notice a little detail that I've never seen before. Weather like this is perfect for it. You've given me the itch for one of my favourite recreational rides from here in Strathcona - down the York stairs and into the beauty of Cootes Paradise. We really are blessed to live in a city so filled with stunning nature and spots to unwind.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted May 22, 2012 at 06:32:09 in reply to Comment 77152

Great pice Ade...I've always found when cycling that...Weather like this is perfect for it.

Yes and no Jason, at least not for everyone according to Environment Canada:

Air quality was poor from Saturday to Monday with much of Ontario under a smog advisory.

The smog puts those with heart and lung conditions most at risk. Strenuous outdoor activities should be reduced or rescheduled on poor air days particularly if you experience symptoms such as coughing or throat irritation.

...and great pics! You're right...We really are blessed to live in a city so filled with stunning nature and spots to unwind.

I couldn't agree more: GPCG JPG Image


Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-05-22 06:58:04

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By Grendel (anonymous) | Posted May 21, 2012 at 22:13:19

Bicycles are also so much better than public transit. On balance, it takes as long to get somewhere in the GHA requiring a transfer as it doe to GO to Union and grab a subway pretty much anywhere.

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By Grendel (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 09:56:55 in reply to Comment 77157

Most of the time, anyway.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 09:11:24

Not only is biking good for the soul...whaddya know, it's good for the economy too.

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By Anne Marie (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 11:31:40

I don't agree with Parallax about e-bikes. My husband is disabled and unable to walk more than a block, but has caught my fire and enthusiasm about cycling the trails in my neighborhood, and can only accompany me on his e-bike.

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By Parallax (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 17:59:27 in reply to Comment 77171

Blinded by a beef. I'll grant selective pox immunity. What I see, on streets and not trails, are individuals who almost to a person exhibit all of the worst traits a cyclist can have, added to which you have ease of accelleration and almost total stealth. If you ride a 40cc moped, you need a license and a helmet, along with insurance. Twice this year I've had eBikers nearly run me down on sidewalks (scooters are no better but at least have the virtue of being more clamorous when they torque). If an eBike is a tool for escaping disability, that's one thing. If it's a way of getting around being denied a license (eg. DUI), there may be a greater grey area. But it seems like a market out of step with the real-world dangers of its product: Marketed as freedom, it gives you enough speed to play in traffic but not enough agility or pick-up to avoid collisions. Aside from anything else, it's a hell of a lot easier to flash-dismount from a bicyclist's stance than the default kitchen-chair posture more common to eBikers.

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By ebikerforever (registered) | Posted May 26, 2012 at 07:56:57 in reply to Comment 77193

I love to burst your bubble of ignorance regarding e-bikes.For the vast majority of e-bikers it is the affordable way to get around the city, cheaper and CLEANER than a car, cheaper and more conveinant that the T.T.C. Here is where I 'cyclists' words in your face, "SHARE THE ROAD". Far too often I have seen 'cyclists' using the road as thier own personal playground,weaving THRU traffic, 'blowing' red lights, switching from road to sidewalk and back. As an e-biker I follow the RULES OF THE ROAD as intended for ALL road users, I treat ALL road users with respect and arrive at my destination alive.

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By lakeside (registered) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 17:19:33

Bicycles blow away cars in terms of the user experience most of the time.

For many drivers, riding in a convertible-top car is the ultimate.

But to ride a bicycle on a warm day down a trail through green space is to feel sorry for those poor folks trapped in their convertibles.

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By cyclist (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2012 at 17:32:36 in reply to Comment 77191

Not a view shared by all. If your point is different strokes for different folks I apologize

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