Ottawa cyclist brings passion, meditation, philantrophy and gender equality to Toronto road biking

Chloë Hill is a Canadian cyclist and ambassador for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Photo courtesy of: Chloë Hill.
Chloë Hill is a Canadian cyclist and ambassador for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Photo courtesy of: Chloë Hill.

In 2009, Chloë Hill, recently 26, moved to Ottawa and purchased her first 21-speed bike. In 2010, she invested in a road bike and has been riding religiously ever since. After moving to Toronto for school and a career in non-profit public relations, Chloë’s passion for the bike has traveled with her.

Now, she is a cycling advocate and travel aficionado who has used her commitment to riding to give back, both to charity and to improve Canadian cycling culture, for women especially.

A Quarter Young connected with Chloë to find out more about her reasons for riding and spreading nation-wide love for life on two wheels.

1. Do you remember the first time you got on a bike? What was that experience like?

I first started cycling around the age of five. I recall my first attempts on bike as enjoyable, until the training wheels came off. Balance was an issue, being a major klutz in early years. Luckily, my ability to cycle in a straight line has since improved substantially. I now cycle confidently solo and with groups.

2. As a kid, riding my bike gave me freedom. I could go around and around and around by myself or with neighbours. It was our way to have creativity and control. What about riding a bike first sparked your interest?

To me, bikes have always been novel. I appreciate their simplicity and that they allow riders to cover significant ground with little effort. Cycling has always acted as a form of mediation for me. This feeling, as all as the breeze in my hair, keeps me pushing the pedals.

3. My mom was never much of a bike rider, but my dad was. My brother, my dad and I would go on trails together, sometimes. It was a great way to bond and create memories. What about growing up riding with your mom makes the sport so special to you now?

I love cycling for many reasons, but the one I cherish most is the friendship it has forged between my mother and I. Since the day I bought my first bike, my mom and I have spent countless weekends riding together. In addition to regularly booting around town on bikes, we have completing numerous GranFondos, charity rides and even cycled Italy together. Now that I live in Toronto, our cycling network has further expanded and we continue to conquer new rides together. We have shared many laughs, viewed breathtaking scenery, checked in at many espresso bars; all the while motivating the other to finish strong. While she is my mother, cycling has brought us together as ‘Spin Sisters.’ This bond is one I will cherish forever.

4. You’ve written about bike safety and riding with confidence via The Huffington Post. With experience riding in many of North America’s cycling capitals – which city would you say is the safest place to ride? Why?

While the cycling scene is on the rise in Canada, many of its major cities have yet to introduce adequate infrastructure. Having cycled in many of the aforementioned, I feel they could all benefit from additional urban planning, considering a cyclist’s perspective. On this note, I believe many cities can improve and increase ridership by introducing designated lanes for cyclists.

5. Originally from Ottawa, do you have a favourite place to visit on your bike in Canada’s capital?

The nation’s capital hosts beautiful networks of pathways and parkways perfect for cycling, but I must say that Gatineau Park remains one of my favourite rides. The climbs are difficult and the descents are fast. Both these elements make for an enjoyable ride.

6. You’ve been in Toronto for three years now. How would you describe the city’s cycling culture?

Toronto’s cycling culture is booming. The commuter community is vast. Bicycle courier services are widespread. Road riders also form a huge and passionate bunch. To me, it’s evident that Toronto hosts a wide variety of cyclists, a community that is ever-growing.

7. There are so many cycling influencers to follow and connect with. Who (or what) is your go to? Why?

On and off the bike, I consider Clara Hughes to be one of my top influencers. She is an amazing athlete who continues to break barriers while advocating for causes that resonate with me. I’m not alone in saying her professional and personal accomplishments make me proud to be Canadian. On more than one occasion, I have harnessed my inner Clara when undertaking difficult rides.

8. When the weather cools down and the roads get slick, where’s your number one go-to spot to keep on the bike?

Living in the city’s west end, I became associated to the crew at Chain Reactions where I take spinning class throughout the fall and winter. I also invested in a trainer last winter and have logged countless hours on it. Ambitious as ever, I will commute to work as long as my hybrid will allow me to, safely.

9. What’s one of the most important Canadian cycling advocacy groups to you right now? Why?

Close to home, Cycle Toronto is one of the advocacy groups I stand behind. The Share the Road Ride Coalition is also one I support. Both have commendable missions and mandates, and are backed by some of the city’s finest.

10. Though people of all genders participate in cycling, it does appear, at first glance, that majority of the community is made up by men. Or perhaps it’s that men are more vocal about their passion for the sport. What about this needs to change?

Looking at cycling as a sport, a greater emphasis has indeed been placed on men’s participation. Nevertheless, women competing in the sport are gaining visibility and recognition across the globe. I believe these high-level female riders have the ability to increase and advocate for change, promoting and encouraging women’s participation.

Turning to cycling as a form of transportation, commuting has gained popularity for both genders in recent years. Canada remains years behind European countries, but has the ability to make significant ground. Advocacy groups and publicly and privately supported programs to gather, inform and reassure nervous cyclists are another way to increase ridership of all genders.

11. What types of pro-cycling messaging do you think would appeal to more women like yourself, giving them the confidence and passion to ride?

Don’t worry about numbers or metrics. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the competition. There will always be someone stronger and better outfitted than you.  Challenge yourself to improve your riding skills, progressing in a manner that is comfortable and suitable for your needs. Any ride, no matter the distance or speed, should be considered a win. Obey the rules of the road, for all of our sake.

12. For novice female cyclists who may feel apprehensive about joining riding events and cycling communities, where is somewhere they can turn to get on their bike with like-minded others, but perhaps without a competitive aspect?

The competitive aspect was originally one I shied away from when I joined the cycling world. That being said, once I introduced myself to my local group, I quickly became one of the fold. Many groups offer women-specific rides that can act as a stepping stone to the mixed outings. I recommend for women interested in the sport to start with these and graduate to the co-ed rides. I’ve had good luck integrating myself into all types of cycling groups, and became stronger by participating in groups composed of both genders.

Chloë Hill at the 2016 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Photo courtesy of: Chloë Hill.
Chloë Hill at the 2016 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Photo courtesy of: Chloë Hill.

13. On that note, you’ve completed the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre – and the 10th anniversary of the event is next June. What about this event is so special to you?

For the better part of the last decade, cycling has gained significant importance in my life. I ride as a sport enthusiast, as a commuter, and now as part of an epic movement. The Ride is one I didn’t expect to undertake, but with my first one under my belt, I am already gearing up for my second. The 10th anniversary will surely bring with it more energy, more emotions and more funds raised for cancer research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. I have grandiose plans for my 2017 campaign and look forward to making a huge impact.

14. Starting in Toronto, finishing in Niagara Falls, alongside thousands of others. If you could pick three words to describe the overall event experience, what would they be?

Exciting, chilling, empowering.

15. You do this ride in memory of your late grandfather but also to celebrate cycling community and Team Riders for Ryders. What’s it like riding with a group of people who have one-common goal – spread the love of cycling and give back to one of the world’s most respected cancer centres?

I was truly honoured to connect with Team RFR. The team is composed of all types of cyclists, who completed the Ride on all types of bikes. Learning of others’ motivations was touching and empowering, especially knowing we share the same desire to end cancer in our lifetime. The finish line had me verklempt, rolling through with my teammates had me at a loss for words. This experience is one I look forward to recreating at the 2017 Ride.

16. There is a minimum fundraising component of $2,500 for this event. How can our readers support your journey and help you keep the legacy of your late grandpa alive?

My grandpa passing to lung cancer in early 2016 was detrimental for my entire family. Is it in his honour that I rode in 2016, and will ride again in the 2017 Ride. While friends and family members helped me surpass my fundraising goal this year, I’m turning to others for support for my current campaign. I welcome and am grateful for donations of all sizes, made here.

17. Over the last nine years, the Ride to Conquer Cancer in Ontario has raised over $155 million for The Princess Margaret and nationally, with events across Canada, the Ride has raised over $339 million for cancer research, treatment, education and care. Those are HUGE numbers. What does it feel like to be part of this giving group?

Monumental. I toyed with the notion for months, and it’s thanks to the encouragement of friends that I decided to commit. I have zero regrets. The Ride community and experience is a truly empowering one. It requires a significant commitment, but completing it left me feeling beyond grateful. Signing up is the first step, the rest comes easily.

18. Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

It’s never too late to grab life by the handlebars.

For more, follow Chloë on Twitter. Live updates from this young cyclist’s adventures and experiences, along with clever puns, should not be missed.


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