Since three-time Canadian Olympic medallist Curt Harnett took up cycling in 1982, the underappreciated sport has exploded in Canada.
“Just look around the roads on the weekend,” says the 42-year-old former racer. “You have all the clubs, families and people who are just going solo … you see cyclists everywhere now.”
It’s an excellent low impact exercise that’s good for both the body and mind, he says. And it’s a social pastime can be pursued for fun or competitively.
Harnett, currently a business development consultant and motivational speaker, is also the ambassador for the PwC Epic Tour Halton, a GranFondo-style mass participation cycling event coming to Milton, Burlington and Halton Hills Sept. 8. The distances include 140 km, 80 km, 50 km and a 10 km family ride.
Harnett says local races – even those for charities – are being taken a lot more seriously and attracting good cyclists.
“People realize they have to get in shape now,” he says. “You just don’t jump on a bike and go.”
We asked Harnett what advice he has for those settling into the saddle for the first time.
BUY THE RIGHT BIKE
If you’re buying that all-important first bike, one of the most important things to look for is a salesperson who asks a lot of questions.
“If he or she doesn’t want to know what you hope to get out of the sport, how often you’ll be riding and where you want it to lead … get out of the shop,” says Harnett. “Anybody can sell you a bike, but you want the right bike, the one for you.”
The athlete and stresses how important it is to get it right the first time around.
“It’s an investment,” says Harnett.
ADD THE RIGHT GEAR
Once you have the right bike, add the proper safety gear: a good helmet, bright clothing or reflective tape, sunglasses, a water bottle, tools, tire repair kit and a trusty cellphone.
FOCUS ON SAFETY
He says with so many people on the road, safety has become tantamount. Cyclists must “take responsibility for their presence” and to use their common sense.
One example he offers is that while cyclists may have every right to be on the many highways that lead out of the city to rural areas, and it’s normally fine, it’s probably not wise to be there on a busy Sunday night, with thousands of tired motorists are returning home from cottages.
DROP THE HEADPHONES
He says listening to music on headphones may be a wonderful experience for some, but he says it’s dangerous and you’re just asking for trouble.
“I just can’t do it,” he says. “I lose a sense of what’s around me … you start feeling disconnected.”