As a dedicated downhill cyclist and the current owner of Dunbar Cycles—the oldest bike shop in Vancouver—Rob Venables knows a thing or two about two-wheeling. Heavily involved in the cycling community, Venables is at the helm of a number of projects and events dedicated to raising the profile of the sport.
Working on both the provincial and local levels, the Vancouver native has committed himself to making biking more accessible. Through Dunbar Cycles’ sponsorship of a huge portion of the downhill racing series in British Columbia and Canada, Venables has helped provide a platform for a number of up-and-coming riders.
A strong advocate for the Vanier Park dirt jumps near the Burrard bridge—a location that features a pump track and BMX course—the rider and his team have helped create an easily accessible training space for burgeoning bikers. Dunbar Cycles has been involved in community projects like Bikes for Kids, which raised money to provide bicycles to less fortunate children in the Lower Mainland, and the shop, under Venables’s guidance, sponsors a number of local riders in individual races.
Here are Venables’s picks for the best cycle-friendly people, places, and things in the city.
Best spot to grab a mobi bike share
“It’s all pretty new, but I’d say the Cambie Street station—it’s really conveniently located. There are great setups all over town, though. By my house, for instance, at 16th and Arbutus, there’s a big station in front of the new Loblaws that always has loads of bikes available.”
Best Vancouver neighbourhood for cycling
“With all the new cycling lanes, it’s probably Kitsilano. The traffic is generally quieter to begin with, and with the new infrastructure it’s very nice and relaxed out there.”
Best downtown bike lane
“The new Burrard Street path will be fantastic when it opens. Until that’s done, though, I’d say Hornby Street—the one with the segregated lane, with potted plants all along it.”
Best place to have your bike stolen
“Granville Island, without a doubt. You need a good lock to leave your bike there.”
Best bike to ride around the city
“A performance hybrid. They’re not full-on road bikes and not mountain bikes either—they have 700c tires and flat bars. There’s a whole bunch of bikes in that category, but I’d choose a Specialized Sirrus or Vita. They’re light, fast, and comfortable to ride, and the flat bars give you the confidence to manoeuvre in traffic. Most of them come with disc brakes too, so they’re good in the rain.”
Best helmet for surviving a big road crash
“Most of the road helmets are fairly equivalent, but a lot of the new helmets coming out have a thing in them called MIPS [Multidirectional Impact Protection System]. That allows your helmet to slip a bit when it hits the floor, and not stick and jerk your neck. It really makes a difference in a crash.”
Best place to go downhill biking
“Whistler is pretty much the best there is. They’ve got everything from beginner to expert runs, and they’re all chairlift-accessible. There’s some really good stuff coming up on the North Shore as well, but it’s a little bit less popular. And not all of it is always legal.”
Best cycling event
“I would say the Bicycle Trek [for Life and Breath], put on by the B.C. Lung Association. It’s a fundraising event for cancer treatments in the province. Riders go from the Peace Arch border crossing all the way up to Cultus Lake, then around the back of it. There’s a big dinner that night, and the cyclists stay the night and ride back in the morning. They raise an enormous amount for charity.”
Best thing to say to businesses that oppose bike lanes
“You just have to look at the statistics—everywhere there’s a bike lane, business goes up. And that’s all over the world, not just in Vancouver. Cycling provides a different way to see the city, so you notice more stores, and because you’re going slower, you’ve got more time to look around you. Plus, you don’t have to worry about parking—if you want to visit a shop, you can go right in.”
Best way to get people out on their bikes
“The Mobi bike share is such a great idea for just that. If somebody is thinking about starting to ride their bike to work, or just using it around town, it’s possible to get the app and just do a pay-as-you-go service. When people try cycling and realize the huge benefits, they get hooked.”