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culture

Cyclists Celebrate Bikes, Toronto, and Poutine

On a group ride, cyclists took in the sights, and a few extra calories.

Andy Inkster and his daughter Elise eat the day's second helping of poutine, at Smoke's. Photo by Gillian MacDonald.


Is there a best way to celebrate the last beautiful Sunday of the year? The answer is yes, there is: a poutine bike ride.

On Sunday afternoon, a group of 13 cyclists met at Uncle Betty’s, at Yonge Street and Glencairn Avenue. They grabbed a bite to eat that included some poutine, and then rode across a scenic part of the city to take in the autumn colours and the nice weather—and, of course, to eat more poutine.

In other words, this was one gravy train that was ready to roll.

Conversation was, naturally, about cycling around Toronto. Eventually, the banter shifted to bike maps of the city and the removal of the Jarvis bike lane. A few tips were swapped about how to eat two portions of poutine in a single afternoon, and then an energetic conversation about living in Toronto helped burn off a few of the infinite number of calories that would be consumed during the event.

After the plates were cleared, Uncle Betty’s surprised the table with a plate of perfectly roasted marshmallows for dessert. Everyone had to remove sticky residue from their fingers before hitting the road.

Gillian MacDonald, Toni Wales, and Andrea McPhee were along for the ride, and the poutine. Photo by Rachel Lissner/Torontoist.

Then the ride began. Joe Travers, of Biking Toronto, and Hyedie Hashimoto, founder of the Cupcake Bike Ride, briefed the crowd on group cycling and the route, which snaked through Forest Hill, along the Beltline, through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and eventually down Sherbourne Avenue to Smoke’s Poutinerie at Jarvis Street and Dundas Street East.

For the past three years Hashimoto has put together themed food bike rides for women, featuring treats ranging from cupcakes to frozen yogurt. She had wanted to meet women interested in cycling, and food turned out to be an attractive reason to get together. Eventually, Travers asked Hashimoto if she would be interested in expanding to a co-ed crowd. It was a simple recipe for success; the tours have attracted as many as 50 people per ride.

Along the unpaved Beltline Trail, an old commuter rail line in Forest Hill, the autumnal colours made for an enchanting landscape. The group arrived in the incredibly picturesque Mount Pleasant Cemetery right as dusk was settling in.

As the sun went down and the group made its way down to Regent Park along Sherbourne Avenue, riders shared mixed feelings about the new separated bike lanes there. Outrage over a cab parked in the bike lane was unanimous.

Outside of Smoke’s, the iron-stomached crew chatted and split a few boxes of poutine, the “divide and conquer” method being the most popular way to tackle an afternoon of the cheesy gravy fries. Only Travers was daring enough to buy a whole portion of poutine at each spot. He finished both of them, although he admitted to feeling wobbly and stuffed afterward.

Winter tends to cool things off in the cycling community, but Travers and Hashimoto might run a hot chocolate ride before next year’s season begins.

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