If you’ve counted the number of bike shops on your block lately, it will not be a great surprise that Toronto has an active—and political, and sometimes messy—cycling culture. Add our easily navigable street grid to the cost of cars, parking, and monthly transit downtown and in the inner suburbs, and it’s clear why your bike is an increasingly popular way to get to work in the morning.
So if you’re thinking of making the move to a condo—or the move to full-time cycling—here’s a quick guide on how to navigate the perks and challenges of condo living when you commute by bike.
Look for a discount on your rent
As well as saving on commuting costs, cycling can save you more than a little on rent. Since parking spaces in most Toronto condominiums add from $100 to $300 monthly to the condo fees (and, trickling down, to the amount you’ll pay in rent), looking at units without dedicated parking can save you that much right off the top.
If you’re in love with a unit that does have a parking space, see if your landlord is willing to rent the space separately or sublet that spot. There are legions of people commuting every day—especially if you’re renting downtown—who would love the idea of a dedicated parking space close to their office, and the reduction in rent your landlord gives you might well turn into a net win for them if they’re able and willing to sublet that parking space to a commuter.
Parking spots aside, commuting by bike lets you check out units which are just a little farther out from TTC stops and closer to the network of side streets that host Toronto’s dedicated bike lanes. Those extra few blocks will be a breeze on a bicycle, and units a few blocks up a side street or away from the subway line tend to be that much more affordable than ones right next to the subway.
Find out the rules in advance
While the rules in older condos around bikes and storage are in flux, many condos have rules against storing your bike on the balcony, for good reasons: Bikes on balconies mean road dirt tracked through elevators and halls, and your own unit’s floors, and that means more cleaning for both you and your property management company.
Find out, when you view a unit, how it deals with bikes and cyclists. If you can store your bike on the balcony, keep it clean and you’re ready to go. What’s more, many newer condos are designing with bikes in mind and offering amenities like special bicycle lockers, bike parking inside or at the back of the building, hobby rooms which let you do your spring tuneup inside, and even in-house bike share programs for building residents. Some older buildings have converted some of their parking space into bike storage by hanging bike racks in their parking garages.
So if you can snag a unit in a building with cycling amenities, there’s even less to worry about—and more space for you in your unit while your bike sleeps securely behind a locked door. However, if not, have a plan before you rent as to how to handle your overnight storage, and where you’ll keep your bike through the winter if you’re not an all-weather cyclist.
Get inventive with your storage options
Once you’ve sorted what the boundaries are, there are ways to easily work within them. While many condo buildings have rules against bikes on balconies, they don’t hand out demerits for keeping your wheels inside the unit proper.
If your landlord’s all right with you mounting a small wall shelf and you’re willing to plaster the holes at the end of your lease (ask first!), there are wall-mounted racks available from Mountain Equipment Co-op or other downtown stores for under $20—ones that support the bike by its frame while you’re in, and look like a normal wall shelf while you’re out. They’re a great way to keep within the rules, keep the floors tidy, and not use up any of your precious floor space.
If not, check out units that come with lockers: They’re a great place to park your bike securely, and usually connect to a parking area for easy roll-out in the morning.
Find a bike shop or two along your daily route
Yes, they’re everywhere, but having a few bike shops you like and trust between work and home can mean the difference between getting a flat fixed almost instantly and having to wait—and ditch your bike at home—until the weekend, when you can get to your local.
Wear a helmet