Editors note: Earlier this year, Jenna Meth was featured on Life Is A Beautiful Detail with her brilliant blue Breadwinner B-Road. Check it out here. The thing is though, Jenna is pretty handy with a camera and a pen too. Now she's back with a guest editorial and photo gallery on her search for sunrises along with the group of early birds she's been steadily growing. Hope you'll help welcome Jenna as a contributor to LIFE. Click on any images to view them in a lightbox.
In praise of morning rides
To the uninitiated, this may sound crazy: wake up at 4:30 a.m., eat breakfast, compulsively check the temperature and wind speed, choose which kit to wear, throw your bike over your shoulder and walk out the door into what looks like the dead of night.
You weave your way through empty streets and stop when you reach a familiar meeting point. Suddenly, you are not alone. Over the next few minutes, one bike becomes two and two become ten, then twenty, maybe even thirty. You greet old friends and welcome new ones. Everyone is smiling because they all share a secret: this may be the best way to start the day.
The clock strikes 6:00 a.m. followed by a cacophony of clicks as feet meet their pedals. You roll away, two by two, and for a couple of precious hours, the streets are yours. Slowly, the darkness lifts. If you had any hesitation when your alarm went off, it’s gone by the time that first ray of sun pierces through. As you chase your friends up hills and into the emerging daylight, one thought resonates: it’s always worth it. Do this enough and mornings may start to feel like your two-hour vacation before work; like you’ve discovered an untapped portion of the day and breathed life into it. The morning ride quickly becomes a ritual and maybe your days start to feel incomplete without it.
Some of you are lucky enough to live in places that were made for morning rides – in San Francisco, where the Marin Headlands beckon from across the bridge, in Barcelona where Tibidabo is just a climb away, or in Girona, where Els Angels is part of your morning coffee loop.
Toronto is not one of these places. Sometimes, it feels like we fight for our morning rides, with so much energy expended to dodge yet another bike-swallowing pothole, a matrix of death-trap streetcar tracks, family of jaywalking racoons, or impatient driver in a rush to the next red light. But Toronto is special nonetheless. Our morning routes are creative, piecing together a hundred different sections of road, paths and trails into one seamless whole. We find the steepest and most secluded hills, the cobbled climbs, the smoothest corners, the untraveled side streets, and the empty bike paths, linking them all together to create our local loops.
For a few short weeks each summer, morning rides are saturated with light. It streaks through dull suburban neighborhoods and pools on cracked concrete roads – for a moment making them as beautiful as any mountain pass or coastal forest. Even as the season wanes and morning rides happen under the cover of darkness, we keep going. Sunrises are replaced by the faint glow of stars. It gets colder, so you put on thicker gloves and dig out your winter tights. Braving the elements is always easier amongst friends. Riding your bike, pedal stroke after pedal stroke, is only half the story. The other half is sharing that experience.
The Toronto cycling community is extensive and welcoming, comprised of hundreds of riders of different ages, backgrounds and professions, from all corners of the GTA and beyond. Still being a relative newcomer, I know that I have only really scratched the surface of what this community has to offer, and I will miss it if I ever leave.
No matter your age, skill level or mood, on any given day of the week, there is a morning ride for you. If you live here and haven’t already tried riding in a group, find one. If you can’t find one, start one. If you’re already part of a group, welcome someone who is uncertain and help this community grow.