By Ted Simpson
Once a week, cyclists come together to ride along different routes across the city.
The #ottbikesocial group conducts what they call a “leisurely group bike ride” every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. They have a set departure point for each week of the month, with Parkdale Park (366 Parkdale Ave.) being their chosen location for every fourth Thursday.
On Aug. 25, the #ottbikesocial Pride-themed bike ride departed from Parkdale Park for a group cycling tour of Hintonburg, the Civic Hospital neighbourhood and Wellington West, with cyclists adorned in rainbow regalia.
About 10 minutes before the 7 p.m. departure time, bicycles start to emerge from the woodwork, coming in from all angles to gather around the north side of the Parkdale field house, just across from the Barking Barber.
One individual makes the rounds, ensuring that every rider has lights for their bike and offering to supply anyone who doesn’t.
Two people, Tyrel London and Felix Belzile, strap on Pride flags like rainbow capes and prepare to roll out. They both said that they’ve never attended one of these rides before, but were drawn by the Pride-themed celebration. Belzile has a sleek road bike, while London rocks a vibrant, multicoloured mountain bike that matches the rainbow colour palette.
The star of the social scene, Watson the dog, arrives with his owner and chauffeur to much adoration. Watson is also decked out in vibrant colours and a Hawaiian-lei-style necklace.
A man who introduces himself as Tyler begins to rally the bikers: he’s leading this ride but is not necessarily the leader of #ottbikesocial. He says that the group prefers to maintain a loose organisational structure; no route or itinerary is pre-planned before the meetup.
Tyler then addresses the group and suggests that they head east on Armstrong Street to Bayview, where they can cross into the Central Experimental Farm and head west before crossing back over Carling and returning to Parkdale Park.
Another person speaks up to say that there is fertilizer being sprayed at the farm, so they decide as a group not to ride through the Experimental Farm and plan instead to cut back west through the Civic Hospital neighbourhood.
It’s suggested that the group meet back at Parkdale Park for a post-ride social and maybe, if people feel up to it, they might go for ice cream at The Merry Dairy. And they take off!
The #ottbikesocial rides will continue to depart from Parkdale Park every fourth Thursday of the month until the choice is made to put the ride on pause for the winter. To learn more, check out #ottbikesocial on Twitter.