The top cycling events in Toronto this summer offer something for every type of rider, from the absolute beginner through to the weekend warrior and hardcore racer. Many of the longer rides on tap are affiliated with charities, so you'll have extra motivation to get in shape to complete your goal. The season is definitely front-loaded with events to take advantage of more reasonable temperatures, so take note of the dates below and plan accordingly. In addition to what's listed below, Toronto has numerous cycling clubs that host rides on a weekly basis.
Here are my picks for the top 10 cycling events in Toronto for summer 2014.
Ride for Heart (June 1st)
This annual chance to ride your bike up and down the Don Valley Parkway is the biggest ride of the year in Toronto based on number of participants. Less a high-paced race than a lazy jaunt along the wide-berthed highway, there do remain some faster groups who look to take advantage of the undulating terrain to kick it into high gear. The ride, which supports heart disease research, does sell out -- so it's best to register early.
Ride to Conquer Cancer (June 7-8)
Covering a minimum of 200km in two days can be a challenge for many riders, but that's the whole point of this event, which raises funds for cancer research. Now in its seventh year, the ride has continually grown in popularity such that last year it raised just shy of $20 million for its charity of choice. There's multiple ride options, all of which alternate between the Toronto and Niagara regions. The "classic" takes the scenic route to Niagara falls while other options include Toronto loops that return you to your starting point. You'll need to fundraise in the neighbourhood of $3,000 to enter as an individual, so best not to leave it to the last minute.
World Naked Bike Ride June 14th)
This isn't a taxing ride when it comes to physical fitness, but you'll want to be in good shape because you're going to be riding around naked for all to see. Ostensibly an event designed to shed light on oil dependency, that never seems to be the main talking point when the nude peloton passes by. There's no registration -- you just show and go. Just make sure to take a shower that morning, m'kay?
Toronto Ride Guide (June 15)
Not into getting naked? The Toronto Ride Guide is an 18km jaunt around the city, the purpose of which is to familiarize riders with some of Toronto's best neighbourhoods as well as bike paths. It's a good way for novice riders to get to know city roads within the safety of a group, and there's plenty of stops along the way for a rest. The ride comes in at a very reasonable $10.
24 Hours of Summer Solstice (June 21st)
One of the premier mountain bike events of the year, toast the official arrival of summer with 24hrs of riding/racing at Albion Hills. Don't worry, there are team options for those of us who cringe at the thought of putting that much time in the saddle (with only a few rests). Part of the fun, really, is the camaraderie of camping out with the other riders/teams and trading stories about the most epic rides you've done. Check the registration page for the various pricing options.
Evergreen Bike Works Festival (June 22)
What better place for a bike festival? The Brick Works is already overrun with cyclists on the weekends, so Sweet Pete's thought it'd organize an official celebration (which will also help generate awareness for its new store on the site). Expect a mountain bike obstacle course, guided bike rides, and half price tuneups at the shop.
Provincial Criterium Championships (July 1st)
Cycling has a really bad reputation as a spectator sport in North America, which is probably at least slightly fair. That said, a criterium is far more exciting than your average point A to B race. Not only is this more dramatic and aggressive riding, but the fact that the pack loops around over and over again means that you get to see the action for an extended period of time. Part of the annual CHIN picnic at the CNE, over 5000 spectators are expected to be in attendance.
Friends For Life Bike Rally (July 27th)
Ok, this is a big one. 600km in six days, from Toronto to Montreal with a group of 400 some-odd fellow cyclists. The Friends for Life Bike Rally supports a Toronto AIDS charity and has taken place for 15 years. The six day journey is fully supported with daily stops for lunch and overnight camping along the way. It's a bit of a slog for those who haven't done a lot of back to back long days in the saddle, but that makes it all the more rewarding. Riders my raise at least $2,500 to participate in the event and are this encourage to start well ahead of time.
Le Tour de Terra Cotta (August 4th)
The 10th edition of this "tour" in Caledon features a perfect breakdown of rides for cyclists of all ability levels. At 26km, 52km, and 104km, everyone can get in on the racing fun. The rolling hills in the area are also prime riding terrain, so participants can expect to test their legs, regardless of the length of race they choose to enter. For me the best part is that the race involves full road closures, so you can make use of the whole road, just like they do in the real Tour. There are all youth races on offer. Registration ranges from $50 to $95 depending on the length of race and date that you enter.
MS Bike Tour (September 7th)
The MS Bike Tour is a huge series of events spread across Canada with over 27 individual rides in different provinces. The Toronto iteration of the event takes place September 7th, departing from Centennial Park for 30km and 55km routes through Toronto. This easygoing ride doesn't have quite as ambitious fundraising goals, so might serve those folks who want to do a charity ride but have left their fundraising efforts a little late. You should, of course, aim to beat the minimum donation, but every bit helps.
- Share the Road rides (various locations and dates)
- Gabrielle's Ride (Oakville, July 20th)
- Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (Brighton to Cornwall, August 11-15)
- Ride 4 United Way (Durham, August 24th)
- Ride for Karen (Toronto, September 7th)
What did I miss? Plug your favourite summer cycling events in the comments below.
Thanks to Pure Leaf for sponsoring our summer adventures. For more things to do this summer, check out our Best of Summer page.
Photo by PLTam in the blogTO Flickr pool
by Derek Flack via blogTO