Cycle Commuting in Thunder Bay Positive for Fitness, Climate and Mental Health

Mountain Biking

THUNDER BAY – LIVING – There are many reasons to shift out of your car or truck and get into bicycle commuting.

Health for one. Saving money on gasoline or diesel is another. Reducing your impact on the climate is a third benefit. An added benefit is it is soothing for your mental health. Slowing down to cycle speed lets your creativity grow, and your mental health improve.

All these apply to walking as well, but cycling is just a bit quicker.

Thunder Bay presents some fantastic potential for bicycle commuting. First off is that there is almost no distance so great to preclude you from reaching your distance by bike. From the downtown Waterfront District to the Airport is only 12 kilometres. Planning your trip carefully, you can avoid the steeper hills. Well, you can avoid them on one part of your commute, and enjoy the “free downhill” on the return journey.

You can also combine your trip with Thunder Bay Transit with the installed bike racks at the front of the buses.

As an aside it is often beneficial to let the driver know when you are getting on the bus, which stop you plan to get off. This helps in ensuring the transit driver knows to hold off and let you grab your bike from the rack.

Thunder Bay Transit - Memorial 3M Bus on Brodie Street
Thunder Bay Transit buses are outfitted with bike racks.

There is a growing network of bike paths and bike lanes across the city which can help you avoid vehicles all together. This is a real plus for cyclists. One thing in Thunder Bay which is sadly apparent is there are a lot of drivers (or passengers) who smoke cannabis in their vehicles, when they pass you on a bike, you get to smell the sickly skunk smell of their weed.

Benefits to Your Health

The benefits of cycling to your health is a real positive. Each kilometre you travel by bike is going to improve your cardio-vascular fitness, burn calories, and honestly it is good for your mental health.

The slightly slower pace gives you the opportunity to think. You can get creative, and you get to see things that likely you would rarely see in a vehicle. Wildlife for one. Thunder Bay has an abundance of deer in the city. From the quiet of your commute, you can see them.

You can keep track of your distances with your smartphone. There are a number of apps you can choose from to track your distances on your bike.

The slightly slower pace I would suggest is just good for you in today’s all electronic and fast paced world.

Mountain E-bikes

There are also a growing number of traditional looking e-bikes on the market. These give you the added benefit of assisted pedalling.

Further there are also conversion kits out there…which can allow you to convert your current bike to an e-bike.

Check with your local bike shop for more information. There are some fantastic shops in Thunder Bay with really good staff who are more than willing to help you in selecting the right bike.

Winter biking on the network of trails is a great way to get around our city.
Winter biking on the network of trails is a great way to get around our city.

Risks of Cycle Commuting in Thunder Bay

It wouldn’t be fair to just talk about all the benefits to cycle commuting.

There are risks. Some drivers in the city seem to appear oblivious to cyclists on the road. A helmet is a needed piece of equipment. So too are gloves.

On the bike lanes in Thunder Bay a rider must keep very aware of the road conditions. Many of the storm sewers along major roadways in the city are deteriorating and sinkholes have formed. You have to be wary at times.

It is also apparent that while the City of Thunder Bay has received awards for its cycling trails and lanes, that more work is needed. Placement of sign posts on bike lanes presents risk for cyclists.

Riding bike lanes, keep a sharp eye out for sinkholes near storm sewers. While many are marked by the city, not all of them are. This presents a risk especially for younger riders.

Lights for riding at night are key. EcoSuperior offers some basic lights, but chances are you will want some real lights that will light the way, and let drivers know you are there too.

Fat Bike Challenge

Get Set for Winter?!

While talk of winter might seem odd in July, the truth is you don’t have to put your bike away for the winter. Winter biking has increased in popularity over the past several winters.

Think of winter biking as very like cross country skiing. While you are riding, you are warm. In Thunder Bay people are biking year round in almost all winter conditions. Deep snow presents a real problem.

There are big tire mountain bikes, as well as the option to put studded tires on your bike.

Again check with your local cycle shop.

James Murray


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