It's almost here!
MEC Bikefest Ottawa is coming up this Sunday, and we couldn't be more excited! On top of the usual Bikefest offerings - like our legendary gear sale, group rides, clinics on bike maintenance, training, wellness, touring, commuting, family riding, and more, and a gathering of cycling clubs, events, and advocacy groups - this year's event features a cycling exhibit from the Canada Science and Technology Museum, group rides hosted by our friends at Escape Bicycle Tours and Valley Cycle Tours, the Capital VéloFest SMOOCH bike-powered smoothie machine, great music courtesy of CKCU FM ... and probably more. It's getting hard to keep track of everything.
If you haven't registered for a group ride yet, head on over to the registration page and sign yourself up before 10 AM on Saturday - pre-registration for rides is mandatory. Our clinics are filling up fast, too! But if a clinic you're interested in is full, don't despair - we'll make room for drop-ins. Join us!
March 17 might be famous as St. Patrick’s Day, but this year it’s special for another reason, too: today marks exactly two months to go until MEC Bikefest Ottawa.
Outside, the snow is melting slowly, the days feel longer and warmer, and people on the street seem to be bundled in fewer layers. Inside at MEC Ottawa, our cycling department is filling with the latest gear, our bike builders and mechanics are getting busier helping people get back on two wheels for spring – and we’re putting together another stellar cycling celebration!
We’ll be adding new group ride routes, and local experts – like the Ottawa Bicycle Lanes Project – will join MEC staff with new clinics to help you keep in top form. CKCU FM will be on site to keep us energized, and our friends at Equator Coffee Roasters and the Capital VeloFest SMOOCH will help riders refuel after a grueling morning tour of Gatineau Park.
Check back in mid-April to register for group rides, clinics, and Bikeswap. In the meantime, we’ll be posting updates here on the blog and featuring people, issues, and gear near and dear to the hearts of cyclists of all kinds – from the high-performance road rider to the casual commuter.
If you’re not already fantasizing about summer riding (which many of us at MEC Ottawa have been doing for quite some time already), here’s an event to capture your imagination: the MEC Ottawa Century Ride on Sunday, August 23.
We’ve scheduled the event a bit earlier in the year this time around to take advantage of warmer weather, and moved the start and finish to the Carp Agricultural Society fairgrounds. Riders can enjoy coffee, snacks, and last-minute bike adjustments courtesy of MEC in the welcome area before heading out on a 56, 100, or 160 KM route through scenic, peaceful Ontario countryside.
Need more convincing? Here are five great reasons to register right now.
The 160 KM route includes a complete loop of Mississippi Lake and reaches the edges of Almonte and Carleton Place. Both the 160 and 100 KM routes are pure pavement – smooth and fast. The 55 KM route incorporates short sections of gravel and dirt roads for a quieter ride.
All riders will have the pleasure of riding along Old Carp Road as you approach the finish at the Carp fairgrounds. MEC Outreach Coordinator and Century Ride mastermind Chris Chapman considers Old Carp Road to be the finest road for cycling in the Ottawa area.
‘It’s just beautiful,’ says Chris. ‘There’s a canopy of trees right over it and almost no cars. It’s amazing. I love it.’
All routes will be clearly marked with with black arrows on a yellow board, and riders will receive turn-by-turn route cards. Aid stations along the way will serve water, bananas, and snacks (though it’s still strongly recommended that you bring your own food and water). Our friends at VRTUCAR are supplying four support vehicles to help keep everyone safe.
After the ride, you’ll refuel with a lunchtime feast at the Carp fairgrounds, courtesy of the wonderful Alice’s Village Café – included in your registration fee. The menu has yet to be determined, but no matter what’s served, it’ll be completely scrumptious, fresh, and locally sourced. (Last year’s post-ride pulled pork, homemade coleslaw and chips were amazing. I’m starting to drool just thinking about it.) Plus, you’ll get to wash it down with Beau’s All Natural beer – always a hit.
The MEC Ottawa Century Ride helps raise awareness and funds for the Friends of Huntley Highlands, a group that supports the preservation of natural areas in Carp for ecological conservation, recreation, and the mutual benefit of human and wildlife communities by helping to form partnerships between landowners, community groups, businesses, and the City of Ottawa.
This whole fantastic package – pre-ride coffee, snacks, and mechanical help; choice of three gorgeous routes with full support; and mouth-watering post-ride lunch (plus beer!) – costs just $35.
I like to think that the more we see bikes represented – preferably positively – in popular culture, the more we’ll see bikes out in real life. For so many riders, recreational or competitive, cycling isn’t just about getting around – it’s about love, pure and simple. For adults, bikes can turn dull, aggravating commutes into a chance to unwind and get some fresh air. For kids, they can offer first tastes of freedom, independence, and adventure.
Canadian filmmaker Torill Kove’s Oscar-nominated short film Me and My Moulton is a colourful story of a little girl and her two sisters, growing up in Norway in the 1960s, who ask their parents for a bicycle to share. Her parents – modernist architects with a flair for doing things their own way (three-legged chair, anyone?) – oblige, but instead of picking one up at a local shop (like normal parents would!), they special order a bike from the UK. Their ride of choice is a Moulton – a full-sized, small-wheeled bicycle. The girls are not quite as taken with it as their parents, at least not at first – even after learning that it comes apart easily to fit in the trunk of a car (‘We don’t have a car,’ one sister points out).
Moulton bicycles were revolutionary when they first came out in 1962 – the full-size plus small wheels design was a brand new concept pioneered by Dr. Alex Moulton, an engineer and inventor renowned for his expertise in suspension design. Moultons are still around over half a century later, though they’ve evolved in the meantime. There’s an interesting history of the bike’s design and its uses in racing and touring (including some great photos) on the Moulton Bicycle Company website.
I’ve seen Me and My Moulton twice – after it received an Oscar nomination, the National Film Board briefly made it available for free streaming (thanks, NFB!), and it recently played at Ottawa’s Bytowne Cinema – and loved it both times. The characters and narration are delightful, the art is attractive, the soundtrack is catchy – and the subject of growing up in an eccentric family is treated with love and humour. Definitely worth watching!
MEC sells its own version of the small-wheeled, full-sized bicycle – the MEC Origami folding bike. In among our stable of road, touring, mountain, and hybrid bikes, the Origami does indeed look like the eccentric uncle in the family (at least to me). According to MEC Ottawa cycling product team leader Mike Burke, the folding bike has always been an important part of MEC’s cycling lineup.
Intrigued? Check out this video of an Origami bike in action, then come by MEC Ottawa and take one for a test ride. Or enter VRTUCAR's Record and Share contest to win one! And stop by the NFB website to watch the trailer for Me and My Moulton.
In 2014, 1568 residents and 81 workplace teams collectively cycled 157,331 kilometres. Among the participants, 342 were brand new to cycling to work. For individuals, Bike to Work Month offers a platform for keeping track of your trips and distance – and a fun reason to make the effort to commute on two wheels. For employers, it’s a great opportunity to build team spirit and encourage active, healthy workplace lifestyle by signing up for the Workplace challenge. Give your team a name (MEC Ottawa’s was Blazing Saddles in 2014) and get in the habit of logging your trips and kilometres each day – remember to log trips to and from work separately. Logging the kilometres you ride makes you eligible for $7000 in great prizes including an overnight for two at the Wakefield Mill Inn and Spa and a new Midtown commuter bike from MEC.
And get competitive! Not to give away our secrets or anything, but MEC Ottawa riders started taking more scenic routes home, either purely for pleasure or to get a few errands done, during the challenge. You can read about our other strategies – both for the challenge and for making MEC Ottawa a bike-friendly workplace year-round – on the Bike to Work Ottawa website.
We hope, of course, that the bike commuting habit will develop into love, and won’t be just a month-long fling. The Bike to Work Ottawa website features loads of information and resources for cyclists and employers, and they’ll soon be adding events like the popular Lunch and Learn series – to book a Lunch and Learn session, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop by MEC Bikefest Ottawa on May 17 to chat with the folks from EnviroCentre in person – and get tips on commuting year-round, learn basic bike maintenance skills, chat with local bike advocacy groups, find out about Ottawa’s cycling infrastructure, and much more.
There’s a movie coming up at the Bytowne Cinema that cycling fans – and anyone in need of a little inspiration – won’t want to miss. Marinoni: The Fire In the Frame, a 2014 documentary about Italian-Canadian bicycle frame builder Giuseppe Marinoni, will be touring the country from late March to late April, screening in Ottawa from April 22-25.
Giuseppe Marinoni became an accomplished racer during his youth in Italy, and in the 1960s a local promoter brought him to Montréal to compete. He eventually married and settled in Montréal, and after returning to Italy to train with Mario Rossin as a bicycle frame builder, Marinoni opened his own shop in Montréal in 1974. Over the four decades that have since passed, he has built frames for Olympians and other élite athletes, and has never lost his love for his craft.
‘However,’ writes Canadian Cyclist, ‘this is not a film about Marinoni the frame builder. This is Marinoni the man who wants to prove something to himself.’ Following Marinoni not only in his shop, but as he trains for a world record attempt – for longest distance cycled in one hour for his age group – director Tony Girardin has created an honest, admiring portrait of a perfectionist who’s absolutely in love with cycling.
Marinoni: The Fire In the Frame was a top-ten audience favourite at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival. It’s received great reviews in Maclean’s, Point of View, and Canadian Cycling – clearly appealing not only to cycling fans, but to anyone susceptible to the charm of its central character, curmudgeonly but full of joie de vivre, continuing to push his limits well into his 70s.
Marinoni himself will be at the April 22 screening for a Q & A.
Breaking news! We've just received confirmation from our friends at EnviroCentre that they're bringing the OC Transpo Rack & Roll bus to Bikefest. OC Transpo Rack & Roll service is now available for the season, with over 450 buses equipped to take your bike along for the ride. You can find out more about which routes and buses offer this service on the OC Transpo Rack & Roll page.
Last year, over 70 people of all ages tried their hand at loading and unloading bikes with the help of Kathleen and a friendly OC Transpo driver. If you've been thinking of switching to a multi-mode commute this season, this will be a great opportunity to get comfortable doing the bike-bus transfer at your leisure.
Two years ago today, one of my heroes passed away.
I remember, vividly, the moment when I found out. It was early (too early) in the morning. I had just finished giving a live interview on CBC at Gitta’s Café in Golden, and was slumped in a chair, letting my nerves settle and checking Facebook, when I saw a friend’s post about the world losing Mr. Oades. I burst into tears instantly.
Robert (Bob) W. Oades was my trumpet teacher, back when I was an undergraduate music student at the University of Ottawa. He was one of the wisest, kindest, most articulate people I’ve ever met – extremely well read, an accomplished musician (a founding member of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, for example), and an exceptional teacher.
So why am I writing about him on the Bikefest blog?
Mr. Oades was also an avid cyclist – to say the least. He and Mrs. (Marion) Oades were the original organizers of the Rideau Lakes Tour. I suspect that his enduring commitment to cycling was one of the things that made him ageless. My fellow students and I speculated that he was anywhere between 60 and 120 years old, but we had no idea. We were all pretty well aware, though, that he cycled to Perez Hall almost every day from his home south of Mooney’s Bay (at ungodly hours I might add – he gave me a hard time if I arrived later than he did to start my morning practice session).
Mr. Oades advised me a few times over the years never to get old, but age never seemed to slow him down! I arrived at a lesson one day, sat in the student seat, and found myself looking at a bright blue vintage Ottawa Bicycle Club jersey hanging on the wall opposite. Mr. Oades rushed over, held the jersey up triumphantly, and declared gleefully, ‘It still fits!’
To this day, Mr. Oades remains one of the people I hope to be when I grow up. I think of him every time I pick up my trumpet, of course, but also when I’m out and about on my bike, enjoying the fresh air and Ottawa’s fantastic river pathways. One of these days, I’ll ride the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, and I’ll thank him for that, too.
Last week, Tim McDermott, MEC’s Bicycle Product Manager visited the Ottawa store to give a seminar for staff about cycling products at MEC.
After a quick overview of the evolution of MEC’s own bike brand – which has become more focused toward urban riding over the years, as we’ve started to carry other brands that specialize in road and mountain bikes – Tim highlighted a few things that make MEC bikes unique.
‘Everything on an MEC bike is designed or specced by and for us specifically,’ Tim pointed out, ‘and we apply the same ethics and sustainability standards to the factories that make our bikes as we do for apparel.’
Most MEC bike frames are made from 7000-series aluminum – which is stronger and lighter than the standard 6000-series – and the 2015 models feature upgrades to increase durability and reduce weight. All MEC urban bikes have geometrically identical frames, but the riding position can be adapted somewhat for more performance-oriented or recreational cyclists by changing the stem and handlebars.
Our staff frequently get asked what distinguishes MEC bikes from other brands’ bikes at similar price points. Tim explained that MEC tries to ensure that the quality of the construction and parts are consistent – and that parts are easy to replace. It’s a difference, he says, that riders will notice more after a season or two on the bike. And because we design our own bikes and get them straight from the factory, we avoid a link in the supply chain that other retailers can’t.
Tim’s favourite MEC bike is the Côte. ‘The steel frame gives really nice ride quality – it has a thinner sidewall, which absorbs bumps really well,’ he says. ‘The bike’s geometry makes it nice and stable, so it can handle front and rear racks loaded for weekend tours.’
In addition to MEC’s diamond-frame bikes, we offer step-through frames in three sizes, which Tim says is pretty unique and gives more options for people who have difficulty finding a bike to fit them. One staff member pointed out that step-through frames can be very helpful for cyclists with reduced mobility, and another suggested MEC’s Adanac model for cyclists who want a performance bike but aren’t comfortable in or able to ride in a full racing position.
There was plenty more discussion around MEC bikes and our other featured bike brands, some great comments and suggestions from staff, and lots of excitement – so much that we ended up staying quite a bit longer than expected! I caught up with Tim afterward to ask for his best piece of advice for those shopping for bikes.
‘Make sure to try a few bikes,’ he suggested. ‘You might be surprised by what you like, and I find there’s usually one bike that just feels right, right away. That’ll be the one you want.’
Ottawa-Gatineau is well known for its extensive, scenic cycling pathway system – over 600 kilometres in Canada's Capital Region! – and throughout the summer months, the cycling scene gets even better with Sunday Bikedays!
Ottawa’s signature cycling event – which attracts 290,000 cyclists, in-line skaters, runners, and walkers every season – is about to enter its 45th year. On Sunday mornings from Victoria Day weekend through Labour Day weekend, 50 kilometres of parkways in Ottawa and Gatineau are closed to motor vehicles and instead are reserved for cyclists, in-line skaters, and pedestrians – people-powered traffic only! This year, Alcatel-Lucent Sunday Bikedays kicks off on May 17 - yes, the same day as Bikefest!
In Ottawa, the westbound lanes of Sir John A Macdonald Parkway from the Canadian War Museum to Carling Avenue, both lanes of Colonel By Drive downtown from Laurier Bridge to Hog’s Back Bridge, and both lanes of the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway from the Aviation Parkway to St Joseph Boulevard in Orléans, are open from 9 AM to 1 PM – 35 kilometres in all.
These shorter sections are easily accessible, close to great neighbourhoods with plenty of restaurants, shopping, and activities – perfect for families and friends spending a day together, and folks who want to explore the city on two wheels. Bring a picnic and stop to relax and refuel at a shady park along the way, or treat yourself to a post-ride lunch at a café nearby.
Riders keen on steep hills can head over to Gatineau Park between 6 AM and 11 AM for another 27 kilometres of great cycling along the Gatineau Parkway, Champlain Parkway, and Fortune Lake Parkway. The roads are smooth, the topography challenging, and the scenery unparalleled!
Families with young children can enjoy 3.5 kilometres of gentler riding on the Gatineau Parkway north of Chemin du Lac Meech, near the P8 parking lot.
Washrooms are available in some parks along the Alcatel-Lucent Sunday Bikedays routes, and you’ll find a mix of free and paid parking nearby. The parkways are all universally accessible. More details and maps are available on the National Capital Commission website, along with information on facilities and services, bike rentals, and more.
We’re looking forward to welcoming a very special guest to MEC Bikefest Ottawa this year – the Canada Science & Technology Museum! You might have heard that the museum’s usual location on is closed for much-needed building upgrades – re-opening in 2017 – but that’s not stopping the folks there from getting their knowledge and artifacts out into the community.
The CSTM began collecting bicycles in 1967, and since then the collection has expanded to include a variety of cycles as well as accessories, literature and bicycle paraphernalia – chronicling innovative bicycle technology from the early 1800s to today. They’ll bring some choice items from their collection for Bikefest visitors to check out (and maybe even ride!), and one of the museum’s keen staff will be on hand to answer questions and chat about bike science and history.
"We have a unique collection of bicycles, bike accessories and trade literature that tell us, and our visitors, many different stories about the role of the bicycle in Canadian life," says Assistant Curator Emily Gann.
The bikes we ride today look a little different from those we might have seen back in the late 1800s! Come learn the mechanics of the iconic Penny Farthing high-wheeler, try out a turn-of-the-century tricycle, and check out some bike accessories – like a skirt-lifter – that you won’t find in MEC’s cycling department.
The CSTM website features some nifty bikes too, like the Crescent No. 10 built in the late 1890s, and a resource manual for teaching and learning about the collection and bikes in general – from their social and cultural contexts, to mathematical and physical concepts related to how bikes work, and more. Did you know that Canada had a bicycle boom from 1895-1900? Or that bicycles played a role in women’s liberation? Can you explain drafting or gear ratios?
The CSTM cycling exhibit at MEC Bikefest Ottawa will be a must-see for curious folks and families – we’re thrilled that the museum will be part of our event this year! Bring your questions and imagination, and get ready to experience bikes in a new way!
‘Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.’ – Susan B Anthony, 2 February 1986
I hadn’t really thought about the connection between cycling and women’s liberation until late 2012, when I attended a presentation by Western University professor Dr. Samantha Brennan at the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy’s annual conference, entitled ‘Can Women Be Cyclists? Some Thoughts on Women’s Bodies, Bicycles, and Feminism’. While I (and you, I imagine) might find the question almost absurd – of course women can! – when bicycles first came on the North American scene, women cyclists were a matter of considerable controversy.
Intrigued? Pick up a copy of Sue Macy’s enlightening and enjoyable book, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way), which traces the mechanical evolution of the bicycle and its history as a sport, but also the social evolution it supported – particularly with regards to women.
Bikes offered women a measure of independence that some feared ‘might permanently change women’s role in society’ – and not just because it allowed them to travel. Even Charlotte Smith, who fought for the rights of female workers, felt that bikes had ‘helped to swell the ranks of reckless girls who finally drift into the standing army of outcast women’ and called the bicycle ‘the devil’s advance agent,’ blaming it for the downfall of women’s health, morals, and religious devotion (an attitude that, fortunately, the clergy did not accept).
Bikes inspired changes in fashion, too (since large hoop skirts were rather awkward for riding in), toward bifurcated garments – like men’s pants – for women. This, in turn, generated fears like those expressed by the editors of the New York Times in 1852, that women would ‘assert their claim to rights, which we of bifurcated raiment (i.e., the male, pants-wearing set) are charged with usurping. They design to evict us. They will enter per force the walks of fame, and honor, and wealth, we now occupy, to compete with us, and strip us of our present monopoly.’
‘For every suggestion of a cycling outfit that was comfortable and safe,’ Macy writes, ‘there seemed to be a corresponding warning to women not to overstep their bounds.’
Macy also chronicles the early days of women’s bicycle racing in the late 1800s. Canadian cyclist Louise Armaindo was one of the pioneers, declared by the St. Paul Daily Globe to have ‘the best record in the world among women as an all-round athlete.’ The Daily Alta California reported in 1884 on a relay race between Armaindo – the reigning ‘Queen of bicycle riders … who defeated the picked male riders of America in a match for the championship’ – with her male counterpart, named Prince, and a team of horses. The paper also called her ‘a living example of woman’s physical equality with man’ (yet over 140 years later, competitive women cyclists are still fighting for equality in many ways).
The book is full of other heroes of women’s cycling, fascinating tidbits, captivating images – and plenty of inspiration for cyclists and anyone with an independent streak! It’s about much more than just bikes – and reminds us that bikes are about much more than just getting from A to B.
We’re excited and delighted to offer two wellness clinics at this year’s edition of Bikefest, courtesy of our neighbours at Hampton Wellness Centre. Dr. Amanda Chan – a chiropractor specializing in neuro optimization – and Adam Biesinger, RMT – a massage therapist who also happens to be one of MEC Ottawa’s superstar bike mechanics – will share their knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your cycling season.
Dr. Chan’s presentation, Mindful Cycling: Building Body Awareness, explores and explains the connections between mind and body, the purpose of pain, and how to use cycling as a way to get to know your body’s own language – so that you can improve your life on and off the bike. She introduces techniques and exercises to help build focus and understanding of breath, energy, movement, and emotion.
Adam’s Massage for Recovery clinic will give you tools and techniques to help speed recovery from the exertion of cycling. He has given a few clinics for MEC staff since I’ve been here, so I can say from experience that he is a knowledgeable, articulate, and patient teacher with a genuine interest in helping others help themselves.
If the promise of free clinics, scenic group rides, and loads of bike-related fun isn't enough to lure you to Bikefest, maybe the smell of BBQ will be. Giacomo Panico and his bike rotisserie will be slow-cooking in the MEC parking lot.
And just like that, it's over. Huge thanks to everyone who participated in Sunday's Bikefest! What a beautiful, sunny, fun, inspiring day it was! Please scroll down to see photos of the day's events. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did - and that we'll see you next year at MEC Bikefest Ottawa 2016. Happy cycling!
Our awesome guest group ride leaders:
Our super soundtrack providers:
Our terrific exhibitors:
Group riders getting ready to head out for a beautiful morning of cycling!
It was a great day to be outside with our enthusiastic exhibitors.
Visitors tried their ... feet ... at this antique tricycle and the bike-powered rotisserie BBQ.