Last weekend I discovered the absolute best way to explore Ontario’s capital city with Toronto Bicycle Tours. How did it win top spot? The grin plastered on my face from the time I mounted the bike until I went to bed that night was all the proof anyone needs. British cyclist Sarah Bentley once said, “You are one ride away from a good mood” and I’ve got to say it strikes a chord. Though I’m not an avid cyclist by any means, I do enjoy a good zip around on two wheels with the wind blowing in my face. Funnily enough, I’ve lived in Toronto twice and during those stints I visited the Toronto Islands less than a handful of times. What a ninny! That being said, my limited island adventures gave me the perfect reason to hop on a bicycle tour and learn more about this popular destination.
This post is brought to you in partnership with Toronto Attractions Council. While I was gifted this tour, everything you read is my own personal experience and opinion.
What Tours Do They Offer?
Founder Terrence is a true Torontophile, through and through. He loves the 6ix so much that he started his tour company in 2008 as a side gig to share his hometown with friends and strangers alike and has since hosted travellers from around the world. His crew of guides love the city and cycling just as much. You’re in friendly and knowledgeable hands with this multilingual team, whose interests and educational backgrounds span everything from architecture and politics to entertainment and the environment. Everybody has their First Aid and CPR certification as well. Fun fact, the Toronto Bicycle Tours team has cumulatively cycled over 33,000 kms!
As of October 2021, there are 4 small-group tours to choose from: Heart of Downtown, Island Tours, Downtown + Island Combo, and the 15-neighbourhood bonanza, Round the City. Tours range from 2 to 12 people, which is ideal for flexibility and pacing. Prices range from $22.50 – $60.50 + tax for children and $75 – $150 + tax for adults, depending on the route you choose.
The Heart of Downtown
The “Heart of Downtown” incorporates a ton of the must-see cultural and historical landmarks and major Toronto attractions. Some of my favourite stops that are covered on this tour include Kensington Market, the Harbourfront, and Massey Hall. Riders also receive 15-20% discounts to other stellar Toronto attractions to check out around town, such as the AGO, ROM, Ontario Science Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame, and Second City Tours.
The “Island Tour” route will take you through the largest car-free community in North America, past a converted artist enclave, a natural science school, a haunted lighthouse, and the coolest neighbourhood you’ve ever seen. If it weren’t for the complex lease and purchasing rules, I’d move there in a heartbeat! There are 2 tour times to choose from: Morning and Twilight. I went on the evening tour and we had the island all to ourselves with the tourists and mainland folk gone for the day.
The Downtown + Island Combo
The “Downtown + Island Combo Tour” is a full-day excursion. Depending on the season, exploring the downtown will take place in the morning or afternoon. There’s time for a food break, which is separate from the tour package, and then you’ll cap off the day with the twilight island tour. I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend the day discovering Toronto. There’s also an option to split your combo over more than one day.
Round the City
Last but not least is the impressive 15-neighbourhood “Round the City” bicycle tour. The next time I join Toronto Bicycle Tours it will definitely be this one. Like I said, I’ve lived in Toronto twice before, but there are so many nooks and crannies to discover and a wealth of history still to learn about. The neighbourhoods covered include the Annex, Cabbagetown & St James Town, the Canary District, Chinatown, CityPlace, the Distillery District, Harbord Village, Kensington Market, Koreatown, Leslieville, Liberty Village, Little Italy, Regent Park, Rosedale, St. Lawrence, and Yorkville. Within those areas you’ll visit stops like City Hall and its huge Toronto sign, the gorgeous University of Toronto, the buzzing Port Lands Film District, a unique shipping container marketplace at Stack’d Market, waterfront attractions like Trillium Park and Ontario Place, the extremely popular Trinity Bellwoods Park, and more!
Where is Toronto Bicycle Tours Located?
The meeting point for the tour is at 124 St. Patrick Street in downtown Toronto, just south of Dundas. Enter the parking garage and follow the yellow signs to level P2, section H. The storage locker isn’t marked from the outside, however it’s close to where you enter from the ramp down to P2.
What to Bring?
Tours range from 3.5 – 7 hours, so make sure to bring water (I love using my Vapur collapsible water bottle) and a snack for the road. Definitely wear or bring layers to dress appropriately for the weather. Remember that it gets windy on the bike so a windbreaker, gloves, and hat are a smart choice depending on the season. Sunscreen is another necessary item in sunnier months. Last, but definitely not least, bring something to document your day, whether it’s your phone or camera. I don’t suggest taking video and pictures while riding – especially on Toronto’s streets – but there will be plenty of stops along the way to capture the memories. Our multi-talented guide snapped photos of us throughout the day too.
Tours run year-round and the team at Toronto Bicycle Tours has you covered with cycling blankets (ponchos) and gloves if you forget yours or need a little extra warmth in the fall and winter. Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing.
Is It Safe to Bike in Toronto?
Yes! Toronto Bicycle Tours takes your safety very seriously. Each tour is designed to follow park paths, bike lanes, and quieter streets. Helmets are provided to riders and are mandatory to wear. And, if you’re like me and a little rusty on your biking hand signals and safety must-knows, the guides cover all of that before every tour.
How to Book a Tour or Bike Rental
Toronto Bicycle Tours has options for nearly everyone who wants to join a tour. Whether you’ve got a 1-year old child, or are an adventurous 81-year old (the oldest rider they’ve had!), able to ride a bike or not, visually impaired, or have physical ailments, there are options for you. Their fleet includes road bikes, e-bikes, seats for the little ones, and so on. They’re also in the process of widening their accessibility options to include paraplegics, so keep an eye on the website for updates.
To book a tour, head to Toronto Bicycle Tours website calendar. There you’ll find the days and times that tours are available to pick from. If you’d like to plan a private tour, you can contact the team by email or phone.
Day bike rentals are quick and easy to secure. It’s an appointment-only, no-touch system with online forms so all you have to do on-site is pick up your wheels.
Why Go on a Toronto Bicycle Tour?
I’d put money on your grin being as huge as mine if you choose to explore Toronto with these guys. Other than my personal bias though, there are several reasons to hop on board. If you’re signing up as a single rider like I did you’re bound to meet a friendly group of people. Terrence noted that one of the rewards of guiding is seeing how quickly travellers click and enjoy each others’ company. On the other hand, if you’re organizing a bachelor/ette party, school or corporate group, coming with friends, family, or a loved one, Toronto Bicycle Tours can accommodate each scenario. Last, Terrence and his crew are constantly taking feedback and travellers’ tour questions to enhance current tours and develop new ones…of which there may be a few in 2022!
If that’s not convincing enough, there’s always the knowledge that you’re getting in some exercise to boost the ol’ metabolism. And, according to writer Chip Brown, “Like dogs, bicycles are social catalysts that attract a superior category of people.”. You be the judge of that!
What Else is There to Do in Toronto?
Toronto is one of my favourite cities. It’s got a buzz and energy to it, that is completely different depending on the neighbourhood or street corner you’re on. There are areas in this bustling concrete jungle that feel as if you’re in the middle of a frenzied tornado and others that are blissfully quiet. It never ceases to surprise and delight me. If Toronto real estate wasn’t ridiculously expensive I might even move back again! In addition to a fantastic food scene, there’s heaps of historical, cultural, and quirky aspects of the city to explore. Check out this blog post to learn more about the Gardiner Museum or the fantastic Casa Loma. If there are other places in Toronto you’d like to learn about, leave a comment below and I’ll happily do some research!