Winter cyclist profile – Brandon, Bike Pirate

Name / Occupation / Age
Brandon Z / Statistical Consultant / 34

What do you use your bike for?
How about what do I *not* use my bike for?
Hmmmm… nothing really. Okay, I don’t use my bike when moving houses. I have stuff. A lot of it.

How often do you ride?
Every day. 100-150 km per week.

How long have you been commuting by bicycle and what made you decide to start?
I’ve been commuting for 10 years. It has always been about convenience. Nothing is more convenient than a bike in the city. If you have kids it’s another story.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle?
I am done trying to convince people. Too frustrating. I present facts. Bikes are healthier, better for the environment, and sexy. Just facts.

When did you start commuting in winter and why?
Same time I started commuting by bike… bikes do not loose the convenience factor in the winter.

What are the biggest challenges for winter bikers in Toronto?
In no particular order:
-Shrinking share of the road
-Booger drip
-Icebergs on side streets (in colder winter spells)
-Finding the perfect glove
-Thinking of a non-offensive way of answering “Did you ride your bicycle today?”
-Snowballs from soccer moms hiding behind their Volvo wagons

What reaction do you get from co-workers?
Oh, I am a superhero to these people, with superhuman powers.

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle in winter?
Motorists are chill. (“Chill” as in: I better slow down before I wreck my new Lexus.)

Can you give a brief description of your route and traffic conditions?
I bike everywhere from Wilson south and Dufferin to Sherborne. I most frequent the side streets just north of Eglinton from Dufferin to Bayview, Bayview south of Lawrence, cutting through Mt. Pleasant Cemetery to Yonge, south to College over to Bathurst. Coming from Chicago, Toronto is hilly — north of Dupont. It took me 2 years to find that perfect gear ratio for my single speed.

Traffic conditions? That’s really a question for a motorist.

Where are your favourite places or streets to bike in Toronto? Least favourite? Why?
Most fun stretch of road is going south on bike on Russell Hill from St. Clair to Dupont (I let’r rip).

Least fave: Another frustrated Dilbert moment always happens when I am biking under the 401 anywhere in T.O., especially with my 3-year old on the back. The word anathema comes to mind.

What could the City do to make winter biking better?
Yeah, like they’d listen. Don’t they have enough difficulties with painting lines? I find it better use of my time, thinking of ways how we cyclists can make winter biking better.

What’s your favourite piece of winter cycling clothing?
My new swanky jacket.

Any bike gadget/gear winter cyclists should not go out without?
Fenders, front and rear lights, gloves, and warm socks with boots (or warm shoes), wind deflectors (or sunglasses)… and a flask of your favorite single malt scotch.

Are you a member of any cycling organizations/clubs? If so, which ones?
Bike Pirates (argggg!) and the I.C.E.S. BUG.

Favourite winter bike stories?
I white washed a middle school kid yesterday after missing me with a snowball. Her mom had to pull me off…

Photos by Leehe Lev


  1. tx for the profiles – a couple of extra general questions might be if there are days that aren’t okay for riding ie. diehards become die-easies, and what tires are preferred/used.
    The challenges of the crossing under 401 are so big it’s why we can’t begrudge spending a lot of money in the more suburban regions. It could be as simple as paint and signage though – the Portland blue lanes could be applied up there as with the Bloor Viaduct exit to the DVP.

  2. Q.What days aren’t OK?
    A.For me, almost every day is OK, except when its physically impossible to ride through the snow (ie. day of or days after a large dump)

    Q.What tires are preferred/used?
    A. For experienced riders, you’re like able to use the same tires all year round. For newbies, I would use a wider knobby tire with more traction.

    re; crossing the 401.
    Howard Moscoe (not the best bike advocate, but still on our side) suggested to me that the large drainage ducts that could possibly be used to cross the 401. Any thought on that? Seems like a long shot though.

  3. re: drainage ducts.

    My mom lives in Brampton (Heart Lake), and what they’ve done up there is use various water channels (from ditches to ducts) that go underneath roadways as bike paths. It works amazingly well in dry weather conditions, but in wet ones, the path becomes a waterway and becomes unusable. Especially in the springtime. I’m not sure if this is at all relevant to the 401 drainage duct, since I’ve never seen it, but I thought I’d share. It also sounds like a situation where lighting would be important.

  4. yes there have been some talks at the now-defunct network sub-committee about using some of the existing passages through/under but sometimes it’s not that simple/easy. Because we don’t seem to have any of the sub-committees after the cutting back of the TCC as part of the streamlinings to make the Bike Plan happen faster because the volunteers weren’t doing these bike lanes – I have no sense as to what might or might not be happening because info isn’t being shared.
    And it’s not just lighting, though it’s related because it’s unfair to women to have another layer of not-ok. As delightful as it is to have a non-road trail and commute, there’s a whole set of equity issues arising from that isolation and there was a woman cyclist in Ottawa that was raped and killed in a somewhat remote trail setting a couple of years back and I’ve forgotten her name. So for gender equity, we can’t just accept nice costly parkpaths instead of road/transport equity and much cheaper paint. It’s politically cheap to pave the parks, but it costs a lot, but it’s cheap to repaint a road, eg. Bloor, but it’s quite high costs politically.
    Brandon, for the sake of your kid, write a notice of liability to the City for their failure to provide some safe passage for you – make copies of course, and what I thought was a good email address for the Solicitor isn’t good.
    It might be interesting to copy the TCAC too, because I think the staff/City filters out some cc’s – to save costs on paper of course. Silly me.
    Safe rides, and isn’t it nice that climate change did more to clear the bike paths than the city?

  5. It’s been my experience (and that of many people on the Icebike mailing list) that negative-tread tires work much better on wintertime city streets than “knobby” tires. (These tires have a generally smooth surface with voids that dip below that surface. Nothing projects from the surface.) The Continental Town & Country remains the quintessential model.

    If you’re going to go knobby, go studded instead. But after 14 years, I have found no effective difference between studded and negative-tread tires.

  6. “Oh, I am a superhero to these people, with superhuman powers.”

    The cycling comedian. Bike on, dude!

  7. Best ‘revenge’ against car culture is that we are raising a child who has the bicycle in her bones…
    The next generation will ride on…

  8. What an inspiration you are, Brandon. You make this city a better place.

  9. re; finding the perfect glove? 3 words. pearl izumi claws. a gift from my lovely wife… thanks, janet!
    btw, they also take care of the booger drip.

  10. He’s my ex Brother in law. Havent seen him in 11 years. Sounds just the same. Great guy. Very funny.

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