Exploring Toronto on two wheels is one of my favourite things to do during the warmer months. With more than a handful of dedicated bicycle trails throughout the city, it’s a great way to spend time outdoors away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown-core. In the past, the last few leaves to touch the ground signalled the cycling season was nearing its end for the year. But cycling isn’t restricted to just the warmer months anymore. Fat biking has been gaining in popularity over the past couple of years and has now made cycling a year-round activity in the city.
Fat biking is essentially like mountain biking, except with a much wider tire and a lighter frame. The added width of the tires allows for more traction and grip on a variety of uneven surfaces such as sand, ice, and snow. With the increasing popularity of fat biking, navigating Toronto’s trails during all four seasons isn’t an issue anymore and, in fact, adds an extra level of adventure for those wanting to experience fat biking without leaving the city. And you don’t even need to invest in a fat bike all for yourself to experience it either!
The Evergreen Brick Works, in Toronto’s east end, offers fat biking group rides and rentals. I rounded up a group of my adventurous friends and headed out to test the bikes and see what the trails were like.
Taking advantage of their close proximity to the Lower Don Valley Trail, a multi-purpose trail system running along the length of the Don River, group rides take off from the Evergreen Brick Works and head north. We followed the paved path at first to get comfortable with the fat bikes.
Fat bikes operate like any other bike, with gears and braking systems as you’d expect, but there’s a noticeable difference in the feeling of riding one compared to your regular bicycle. The first challenge can be getting yourself moving. If you’re starting on snow, you may find yourself free-spinning in one spot when pushing down on the pedals. Instead of starting from a stand-still, you’ll want to have your bike moving forward a bit before you begin pedaling. Also, because of the lighter frames, any movement in the handlebars produces a bigger movement than on a regular bike, as you don’t have the same traction that pavement provides.
Once we had all settled in and felt comfortable on the fat bikes, our ride leader Alex led us off onto the unpaved trails. We navigated our way over ice-covered paths, worked up a sweat climbing snow-covered hills, and even tried attempting some wheelies.
My favourite part about riding along the Lower Don Valley Trail is feeling like you’re not even in the city. Tucked into the Don Valley, well below the streets above, is a quiet oasis of trees and streams. It’s a perfect way to escape the city without leaving the city.
There’s more to the Evergreen Brick Works than just the fat biking. I’d highly recommend planning a visit on the weekend and making a full day of your visit! In addition to their year-round Saturday Farmer’s Market, there is a new outdoor Street Food Market. Running on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 6pm, food trucks and converted shipping containers serve up tasty dishes sure to refuel and warm you up after your ride.
Fat biking is suitable for all skill levels and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the cooler months. Just remember to dress in comfortable layers. The Evergreen Brick Works offers group rides on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, or you can just rent a fat bike and explore the trails on your own. Find more at: Three Ways to Get Fat Bike Riding at Evergreen Brick Works.
About the Author
Arienne Parzei is a travel writer, videographer and photographer from Toronto, Canada. Her insatiable curiosity for learning about different cultures first-hand has led her to some amazing destinations and experiences, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, living in South Korea for two years, and backpacking for eight months through China, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Open to trying just about anything, she shares her adventure activities and cultural experiences on her website, SeeYouSoon.ca, and hopes to inspire you in the process.
All photos and video by Arienne Parzei.