The top 5 cycling clubs in Toronto
The top cycling clubs in Toronto range from the recreational to the race-ready with a fair number of options in between. While there's a little bit of a learning curve affiliated with group riding, most would say that it's more entertaining that slogging through the kilometres all on your own. It's also easier to go long distances, as you'll benefit from being able to draft behind other riders (just make sure to do your turn at the front).
Cycling clubs offer camaraderie, training tips, and, in some cases, pro-like kits that'll have you looking like you're ready to dance up Mount Ventoux without a chain. In addition to organized clubs, local riders eager to get their feet wet with group riding might also consider the Donut Ride, an informal but regular group jaunt that departs from Eglinton and Laird on Saturday mornings.
Toronto Bicycling Network (TBN)
Geared towards beginners and enthusiasts, the TBN has long been the best place to turn Toronto cycling into a social activity. With regular rides of widely varying distances (and speeds), this is the type of club that offers something for almost all riders. There's even group mountain bike rides through Don Valley. Rides take place throughout the week during peak cycling season.
Morning Glory Cycling Club
With rides in Leaside, High Park and Oakville, Morning Glory covers a lot of territory. It also does a lot of rides -- in fact, there's one every day if the weather cooperates. Despite their frequency, these rides are typically well organized and attended. This is a club for folks who are capable of hoping on a bike and riding +50km, and so not for outright novices, but those looking to increase the distance and speed at which they ride will find a happy home here.
Midweek Cycling Club
If you want to learn how to race, this is the club for you. Although there are weekend club rides to participate in, it's the Monday learn-to-race series and the Tuesday night crits that are the main draw here. If you think you've built up your fitness enough to test it in a competitive environment, a crit is a great way to start. Big points given here for the work the club does to de-mystify bike racing, which can be daunting for those just getting into it.
D'Ornellas is a well-rounded bike club that brings together enthusiast road riders of various levels. The 25 year old club is perfect for east enders, with a starting point of Lawrence and Victoria Park. Rides typically head north out of the city to Markham and Stouffville and come in a variety of lengths depending on the skill level of the riders participating. Popular rides talk place on the weekends, but there's also some midweek activity as well.
Beaches Cycling Club
The Beaches Cycling club started as an informal group ride back in 2007, and has grown into a 100+ strong club with rides scheduled Tuesday through Saturday (plus hill intervals on Thursday). Most rides are enthusiast friendly and relatively laid back, but if you're a racer looking to stretch his or her legs, the Tuesday advanced ride is fast-paced and populated with competitive cyclists who know how to stomp it.
Probably the best club for sheer bike nerds, Blacksmith's weekly ride is typically composed of bike industry types (Cervelo employees are a common sight) and local racers looking to put in some group miles. The level of rider is quite high, but the pace of the rides are reasonable, so you don't necessarily have to worry about constantly being dropped. Rides take place on Saturdays and cover about 85km.
Photo by Ben Roffelsen in the blogTO Flickr pool