Winter Rider – Denise!

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This is probably the warmest winter I’ve encountered in Toronto yet! Despite the lack of snow, we’re still chatting with Cupcake Riders about winter riding.

Denise Ing’s first Cupcake Ride was our last ride of the 2010 season. Since then she’s come out to countless Cupcake and Sweet Rides and she’s the subject for the second interview in our Winter Riders series.

Before her, now infamous, violent encounter with a TTC rider last week Denise and I chatted about cold weather riding and her lovely bicycles.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a part-time artist. I used to be full-time, but I became more focused on money than ideas, so I decided to put the money issue to rest by getting a 9 to 5 office job. I like to produce work that cannot be bought, namely installations and experiences.

How many winters have you ridden through so far?

I have ridden on exactly three days in winter: February 28, March 19 and March 20, 2011. I squeaked in with the March 20 ride, because spring arrived at 7:20 pm that day. Those three rides were my contribution to Snow Days, an arts-based research project exploring the creative process in February, one of the coldest months of the year (http://labspacestudio.com/projects/snow-days-progress/). I also rode in the November and December 2010 Toronto Girls’ Cupcake Rides, but technically, it wasn’t winter until December 21.

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You organized a few ‘Snow Day‘ rides last year – does this mean you ride in the snow regularly?

The short answer is ‘no’. Now, here’s the anecdote about one of my few rides in semi-snow. I had decided that I would commute to work by bike on February 28, my Snow Day, in spite of the fact that my bike tires do not have any tread. I was determined but scared into insomnia the night before. As it turned out, biking in slush was not as dangerous I expected.

In fact, it was pretty enjoyable biking past all the people waiting for the streetcar. “Why doesn’t everyone bike to work in the winter?” I wondered. The answer came when I arrived at work and discovered brown water streaked up my back and soaked through to the base layer of my clothes. Luckily, I had carried my work clothes in my bag, but I went commando that day. Fenders and rain pants are essential.

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Well, after that traumatic experience, I’m sure you have some winter riding tips you can share with us!

In addition to full fender and rain pants, I would recommend going hard core on gloves and boots. Your hands and feet are the most vulnerable to the cold. Otherwise, it is a constant battle between being too hot or too cold. When commuting to work, I will dress for weather 5-10C warmer than forecast so that I do not arrive at work in a puddle of sweat. However, I am really enjoying my snowboarding jacket; it is waterproof, warm but not bulky, and it has armpit vents that you can zip open when you start heating up.

What’s your winter riding must have? OR Is there anything that helps you get through winter riding?

Waterproof, winter gloves are number one. Everything else I would recommend (full fenders, rain pants, snowboarding jacket, warm boots) are close seconds, but warm hands are essential for me.

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Speaking of fenders, you’ve recently upgraded your fenders on your daily commuter bike. Can you tell us a bit about your cool single speed?

I have a Trek Soho S, which I love. It feels fast and responsive, though I get passed by other single gear bikes all the time. When I first bought it, the Soho S was a sexy, unencumbered bike, but it has become weighed down with practical accessories like full fenders, a rear rack, and a cup holder. The cup holder is for listening to the radio during my commute. I got the idea from 416 Cycle Style.

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Even with all the additions, I think it still looks pretty slick! You also recently acquired a new geared, road bike. It’s so pretty. Do you love it or do you love it?

My Soho S tends to attract male admirers, or at least, it did before I turned it into a commuter bike. In contrast, my Trek Lexa S makes girls swoon. However, I didn’t purchase it for just superficial reasons. During my search, it was surprisingly hard to find geared road bikes that fit female proportions. Supposed unisex bikes are built for male proportions: a top tube that is a lot longer than the seat tube, wide handlebars with a deep drop, and brake levers for larger hands. In the end, I had to narrow my options to female specific design models, and the Lexa S fit perfectly.

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What are some of your other reasons for riding a bike?

Biking calms me down by giving me a sense of control over my transportation, but it also excites me to zip through traffic. I don’t have to wait on someone else, and I breeze through traffic for the most part. Also, biking saves money, and allows me to exercise regularly without having to take time out in my day to workout.

What would make bike riding in Toronto better?

I think drivers and cyclists can agree on one thing: less potholes. My bike is pretty stiff, so I feel everything. When I don’t have to be constantly vigilant for potholes, I can concentrate on maneuvering through traffic, and avoiding pedestrians who like to jump out and surprise me. A loftier goal would be more respect all around; drivers, cyclist and pedestrians need to treat each other with more consideration and courtesy. For instance, my bike ride is better when cyclists ring their bell as they’re passing on my left.

What’s in store for you this winter and after our warm winter?

I hope to bike in the winter whenever I can. If I am loathe to use my bike due to the cold or salt, my Bixi membership will come in handy for getting a quick and safe ride in whenever the mood strikes me.

I will be participating in Art of the Danforth, which runs from May 20 to June 10. My contribution will be a “Rush Hour Service” for commuters in Coxwell Station. More details to come through my Twitter account, @xiao_pangzi.

Thanks for chatting, Denise!

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9 thoughts on “Winter Rider – Denise!

  1. Taslim Jaffer

    This is a fabulous look into winter bike riding in Toronto – living in Surrey, B.C., not owning a bike and not having a whole heck of a lot of experience with winter makes me feel removed from the topics discussed but I was just as enthralled.
    Sorry, Denise, but your commando situation made me giggle; but you lived to tell about it and it’s so great that you are able to give such awesome advice to others who are inspired by the benefits of riding a bike to work that you talk about. It makes a lot of sense to consider it your exercise for the day, or part of your exercise routine, as it can be so difficult to find other time during the week for healthy movement.
    Hyedie – your pictures are amazing – I was wondering who the photographer was!
    Looking forward to more interviews and posts :)

    Reply
    1. happy d Post author

      …and finally today we have snow that is sticking! Am I brave enough to bike in it today? I’ll have to see if they clear the roads :) Although these past 2 winters, the GVRD had mega snow falls, no? I remember my Dad could even leave his residential streets to make it to the main roads because the city didn’t plow the smaller streets!

      But thank you for the super kind words Taslim!

      Reply
  2. B

    I really enjoy reading your “interview series”. It’s great hearing peoples views and advice. The pictures are a bonus. I’m sure it’s a lot of work to do these posts. Great job.

    For what it’s worth, I think Denise’s Soho S is awesome because she made it into a commuter bike. ;) Also, sorry to hear about the incident she went through. I think she’s very brave to stand up for herself. I’m saddened and angered that only one person cared about the assault.

    Reply
    1. happy d Post author

      Wow thank you B!

      I know, her TTC incident is horrible. I do agree with Denise’s observation, though: It meant a lot to have the support of that one passenger, but it was upsetting to be the focus of the simmering anger of TTC riders, kindled by a thousand discourteous acts of my fellow cyclists.

      I think this summer was the worst, in terms of bad cyclists taking to the streets.

      Reply
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