One of the nicest things about being into bikes and being a self admitted “bike watcher”, is that when travelling to different places it’s always a guilty pleasure to observe and take in various local bike cultures. Whether it’s lesser numbers of cyclists going about their business locally, or the bicycle heavy activity of a city like Toronto, it’s all designed to be taken notice of. Once upon a long time ago, when I lived in bicycle rich Edmonton, I became part of the daily cycling buzz of that city. Bikes and the people who rode them were everywhere. It felt good to be alive and on a bicycle. It felt good to be part of the scene.
A few weeks ago I found myself standing in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. You couldn’t have asked for better summer weather. Due to this, or perhaps in spite of it, bikes and the people who rode them were everywhere. I couldn’t help but soak it all in, taking mental notes as we walked the streets. That old feeling of being part of the scene came creeping back.
It didn’t take long to notice a few interesting points concerning the bicycles that people were riding… or locking to signposts and railings. A very large majority of these machines were older drop barred road and touring bikes. There were old Cannondales and Miyatas. Treks and Nishikis. Velo Sports and Bianchis. Nearly every one of them were reasonably maintained. There seemed to be no rusting hulks in dire need of repair. There was the impression that these bikes were not so much what you would call recycled junk, but machines that had continued to be ridden regularly since being purchased new some twenty or thirty years previous.
Not to be left out, there were also plenty of modern bicycles being ridden. Flat bar commuters were plentiful. As were road racing bikes made of aluminum or carbon fiber. You would see the occasional mountain bike, but the machines of choice both on the city streets and on the bike paths and the bridge crossing over to Gatineau, Quebec were of the narrower tired variety. Nearly every bicycle, whether modern or older, used a rear carrier rack to tote the riders personal belongings. Busy people busily cycling about their business.
The point of all of this is that it felt pretty good to be amid this hive of activity. There were plenty of cyclists and bikes of all description to watch as they pedaled past. There was the hopeful “bike shop employee feeling” of seeing bikes used for utility as well as recreational and competitive use. And for the bike geek in me, there was the fantastic rolling museum of vintage steel to catalogue and file away in my brain. As the saying goes, old bikes have to go somewhere. It was really nice to see them being used in Ottawa. I just wish that I had brought a proper camera!