Though St. John’s is known for its brutal hills, nonsense streets, and savage drivers, it’s still a perfectly fine city for a bicycle.
“The more people see cycling going on, the more support there is for better programs and facilities,” says Councilor Dave Lane.
With a Cycling Master Plan forthcoming and our blessed summer months upon us, it’s a good time to climb up on the nearest banana seat and ride.
If you want a bike for commuting in St. John’s, Flora Smith of Canary Cycles recommends a hybrid. Blending characteristics from more specialized road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes, hybrid bikes provide stability, comfort, and ease of use. “Most models can accommodate racks and fenders, and have nice features like reflective tires,” says Smith, who notes that a new hybrid will run you around $500-$800.
Smith adds that a helmet and daytime visible rear flashing light for visibility in traffic are essential gear for riding in town.
If your bike is currently gathering dust (and rust), Canary Cycles offers tune-ups. “If your bike has been in storage for a while, you can pop into our shop for a tuneup and we will look over the bike and make sure everything is in good running order.” A tune-up will run you $59.99 at Canary Cycles. If you’re handy, they also have a free-to-use DIY bike repair stand and pump installed outside their location at 7 Lemarchant Road.
However, not being able to ride a bike is the secret shame of lots of adults. One study estimated the number to be around 1 in 8 adults. The same study notes the bias that bike riders think that everyone knows how to ride a bike. So, aside from “just do it,” what advice or resources exist for wannabe bicyclists?
“Find a parking lot with a gentle slope and try balancing and coasting,” says Smith. “For most people, you need to practice like this for about 60 minutes.” Smith says that you can temporarily convert any bicycle into a push bike/run bike by removing both pedals and lowering the seat so that you are sitting with your feet almost flat. “When you feel you have your balance and control, you can reinstall the pedals and try riding. Remember to wear a helmet and gloves when learning to ride.”
If you’relooking for biking buddies, St. John’s has a solid community of bicycle enthusiasts. “The community is always evolving,” says Smith.On Facebook, St. John’s Cycling Group, and BNL (Bicycle Newfoundland) are good spots to check.
“The best facilities we have are the T’Railway, Virginia River Trail (upper portion), and the Multi Use Path along the crosstown arterial,” says Lane. “The T’railway in particular is a great place to get back on a bike if you haven’t cycled for some years, and it can be a great trip with the kids from downtown to Bowring Park. But don’t be afraid of our hills!”