October 23, 2014
The Toronto Donut Ride is the longest running ride in Toronto, Ontario, CANADA. It started out in the 1970’s and has seen the likes of Michael Barry and other famous locals cut their teeth going fast and hard. Originally, it was a sanctioned club ride, but due to various incidents in the early years, it now runs as an unsanctioned ride with riders coming from all around Toronto to join what turns into a race pace event every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday year round. In the middle of the summer on a sunny day, the ride can see 125+ riders out. In mid-January, in the dead of winter here in Toronto, where the temperatures dip to -10C or lower, so longer as the weather looks good at the start of the ride, there will be 10-20 guys hammering around the course. I should know – I have been one of them.
The ride starts at the corner of Eglinton and Laird in mid-town Toronto at the coffee shop. I normally head to start 1/2 hour early to get a coffee and chat with a few of the regulars. At 9AM sharp Garmin time, the ride rolls out. It meanders of the city on leisurely pace, with everyone chatting and socialising. Things change drastically when the ride hits the top of Toronto and crosses Highway 7. Turning down the on-ramp, the pace picks out as the hammer drops as everyone starts to jockey for position as both the grade and pace increases and doesn’t let up until the ride return to back into Toronto a few hours later.
The ride has a few different courses, and splits up as riders self-select the group they want to ride with generally depending on fitness. There are those that go up “Jane St” for a harder pace…and by harder, I mean I have run out of gears spinning 120RPM on the flats only to get dropped on the sprint up a major climb on the way to the cafe at the half way point. Most of the elite racers take this route leaving the rest of us to hammer up “Keele St.” which isn’t much easier. It’s a 3km hard ride up hill finishing in a sprint…and that doesn’t include what is affectionately known as the “rollers”. Four short climbs in a row that are hit hard at race pace only to be followed by a sprint to a stop light a short time later as the ride turns back south.The Donut Ride is the only “race” I know of with a cafe stop. Grandma’s Oven is flooded with cyclists for about 30mins around 10:45AM. It is considered a badge of honour to complete the first leg of the ride and made it to Grandma’s Oven with the pack. If one gets dropped, it is well known that you have until 11AM to make to Grandma’s Oven or risk riding back into the city on your own. The Donut Ride is unforgiving, in that, if you get dropped, no one will wait for you. But, I would argue that risk or challenge is the reason so many in Toronto cyclists head out on this ride considering most sanctioned group rides have a no drop policy.
After the cafe stop, the ride back into Toronto is no less eventful. The pace gracefully heads a bit north to turn back south where the pace again picks up. It is on the southbound leg of the ride that the yellow rule “tends” to be violated as the road going south as the road narrows in sections. Rotating pace lines form as fast as they break up. Just before the realm of Toronto is visible the ride sees the final sprint: The Major Mac Sprint. Lead outs form and occasionally a solo ride attacks as the light turns green at the intersection preceding Major Mackenzie Dr. as the group sprints for the light congratulating the podium finishers as the pace slows (usually) for the return ride into the city.
In so much as the ride picks up riders as it heads out of the city, riders disseminate as they return into the city and head back home to continue with they day. In my case, the ride is a solid 3 hrs and 90km with some good hard paced efforts during the ride.
Mark Buckaway resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a Software Developer by trade. He races bikes on the road and track and has aspirations of competing for Canada at the Master’s Track World Championships in Manchester, UK. Mark uses his Fly6 Camera to record his commutes to work and rides around Toronto. You can find Mark on Twitter @hackcycling.