PETER LEISS, 40.573 km (25.211 miles) recently set a new Canadian Men’s Age 70-74 record. This was Peter’s 2nd time riding the One Hour. Previously, he did 39.619 km to establish a Canadian Men’s Age 65-69 record. This was also at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre during the Day of the Hour event on August 24, 2019. On that day, he had to restart due to a flat tire after four minutes but he bettered Michael Kolesar’s Canadian Age 65-69 record. Peter Leiss is the 8th fastest Canadian male in the One Hour event and 4th fastest male globally in the Age 70-74 group.

Peter, you’ve been a keen cyclist for decades now and have accomplished some incredible feats from breaking the hour record for your age group, to riding across Canada,  to finishing Paris-Brest-Paris. How long have you been cycling for and how did you originally become interested in the sport?

I started cycling as a young child on a single speed coaster brake bike on Sheridan Nurseries. I was probably four years old, and the bike was too big. I remember riding it with one leg below the top tube. The good thing was that all the roads were sandy loam, so the inevitable crashes did not hurt too much.

Later, my family moved to Erindale in what is now known as Mississauga. My brother and I got CCM bikes with drop bars and 3 speed Sturmey Archer hubs. We rode those everywhere–to school and around the neighbourhood and, I also delivered newspapers with mine. At one point I delivered the Globe and Mail in the morning and the Telegram in afternoon. I used to sling my paper bag over the rear fender rack with strap hooked on the axle nut. Those were pretty durable bikes. One summer I rode to Streetsville and back, about a 20-kilometre trip and I think I was 9 or 10 at the time. We built a dirt track in the woods near where we lived. We would bomb that with all of our neighbourhood friends, drifting around berms and flying off jumps.

Once I went to High School, I didn’t ride too much for a year or two. I got back into riding after buying a Peugeot with the money I earned over the summer. It was either a PA 10 or a PX 10. I do remember that it had Alloy Tubular rims and Simplex shifters. I rode that bike into Toronto, around Mississauga and out to Oakville. I really hated those tubular tires because when I had a puncture, I would have to replace the tubular and the rims also bent easily, so I had it re-built with steel clincher rims. Not a great choice as it turned out because they were impossible to brake in the rain. I kept that bike for about 5 or 6 years but had gotten into cars and girls by then, so it was not ridden much.

Due to some poor lifestyle choices in the ‘70s I lost my license and needed wheels to get around. For some reason I can’t fathom I ended up going Bicyclesport on King Street and bought a Nishiki from Mike Barry Sr. Remembering the fiasco, I had with the Peugeot I asked if they could change the rims to steel. I was convinced by them that the rims would be fine, and they were. The proof was getting caught in the Streetcar tracks as I left the store on my new bike to ride home. The rim survived and so did I.

I started riding that bike everywhere even after I got my license back. I really enjoyed exploring around southern Ontario with the wind in my hair and the sun beating down. It was a good bike, but I didn’t really know that much about riding properly. I would just go out and hammer hard. That frame broke and it was replaced by Mike with a Nishiki International. Another good bike that I spent a lot of time on.

Peter, you have been involved in many aspects of the sport, from taking part in multiple disciplines, to being president of the Ontario Randonneurs,  to volunteering at events.  What is your favorite discipline as a rider?  What about as a fan of the sport?

I started to learn about proper riding when cycling magazines became available and I really liked the British and European ones, as they provided coverage of the awesome races overseas. I had dreams of riding in those races but had never developed the skills and form for that since I was working on a Nursery where the busy season was the best cycling weather. I decided to commute to work and back and take longer rides on the weekends. There weren’t many people riding seriously then.  Or if there was, I didn’t know them.  I did watch some criterium races  and was in awe of the power and speed I witnessed. It seemed to be world that was hard to break into. I am a big fan of road racing and really enjoy road riding.

In the early ‘83 I started to work for the Borough of Etobicoke later to become the City of Etobicoke. This allowed me more time to get more serious about cycling. Safe to say that my co-workers thought that I was a tad odd riding a bike to work and back home most days. I was also working a second job downtown at bar and this is where I met Geoff Gadd. He was working at Bicyclesport at the time, and he convinced me to come out and join in some rides. Little did I know that these guys and girls were serious riders. So, in the late 80’s I went out with them on some rides. I had been to many of the places they were riding to but was not prepared to take the hard way to get there. There were a lot of hills which meant a lot of climbing. I’m a substantial guy, in fact I played as a Lineman in football, so this was not so easy for me. They taught me a lot about how to ride in a group and how to take on hills. By the early 90’s I was convinced by them to try Randonneuring. I struggled somewhat with the distances for Randonneuring especially in the first couple of years. I got them done but they were brutal.  I had thoughts of doing Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) in 1995 but the qualifying rides were a little too much for me at the time.

You have been cycling for a good percentage of your life, what is it that has kept you engaged in the sport and the community?

‘95 was also a turning point for me in my life. I had continued to make poor lifestyle choices up to the end of that year. My marriage ended and I knew that I had to make changes. Through therapy and stubbornness, I started to recover. Cycling was a big part of that recovery. I would cycle to the sessions and by the time I got there I was feeling better. Endorphins do that to a person.  A lot of that had to do with the people in the club. They were from all walks of life and all kinds of occupations. You learn a lot from spending countless hours with like-minded people going the distance. They give support when you are low, and you offer the same when they need a little help. The long rides got easier, and I qualified and rode PBP in ‘99. I had also become active with Toronto Randonneurs, the club that Mike Barry Sr. had founded, which later evolved to Randonneurs Ontario. This also where I met Peggy my wife. She had done PBP in ’87 so knew what was in store for me. We would ride together for the most part and eventually bought our first Tandem. We are on our third tandem now and we ride it quite often.

I also had a Mariposa Randonneur bike made for me after PBP. For some odd reason I did not think I deserved a Mariposa until I had proven myself by completing PBP. In hindsight I would have had a much easier time as this bike is still my favourite bike today.  Every time I get on everything just fits perfectly.

Peter’s Mariposa Randonneur Bicycle, built in 1999. Repainted in November 2023 in the Bicycle Specialties – Mariposa Bicycles workshop. 


I have remained active with the Randonneurs on the Board. However, I had always thought that a ride across Canada would be a goal for me. In 2017 I did that with group of great people from around the world and Canada with Tour du Canada. Again, it was the people I rode with and especially the people we met on the road that kept me going. Our Country is vast and extremely scenic, but it is the people that make it great. To me there is no better way to experience Canada than from the saddle of a bike. People are always interested in what you are doing and then amazed that you are doing this on a bike. Our group still messages back and forth and some of us still ride together. One of them is Fred from Vancouver Island, another big guy who I really enjoy riding with. We kind of feed off each other and have embarked on more adventures.

This is how we ended up riding to the Arctic Ocean. That journey took two years as we were stopped from entering the Northwest Territories by COVID restrictions. That meant we rode from Vancouver to Dawson with Tour du Canada. It was a bit disappointing not complete the ride. Fred and I rode up to the start of the gravel and the sign to the Arctic Ocean on the Dempster Highway. At that point we decided that we would have to find a way to complete the ride.

Peter Leiss at the Arctic Circle

After exploring options, we decided that we would ride self-supported carrying all our gear. Training for that relied heavily on my previous Randonneuring experience which is to go out most days and do longer rides. Then preparing all the gear, I might need en route and riding with it to get a feel for riding with 60 lbs gear on a bike. There were a lot of refinements of the load and the placement on the bike. At same time, Fred had started Randonneuring on Vancouver Island and of course doing the same thing with his load. One of the riders that we rode up to Dawson with was interested and had done cycle touring previously. Jaques had good advice for us. We all had experience riding day after day and covering longer distances but not on gravel. I had experience riding gravel here in the Toronto area but other than what our friends, Peter and Gayle told me about the Dempster I had little idea of what was in store.

What a beautiful ride. The scenery is outstanding and again the people made the ride. Of course, you meet a lot less people on the Dempster but everyone was friendly and helpful. We completed the ride to Tuktoyatuk in 2022.

Peter, you started riding  and training at Velodrome in more recent years, what sparked your interest in track riding?

After I had completed the ride across Canada in 2017, Peggy’s’ son, Terry encouraged us to try the track at the Mattamy National Cycling Center in Milton. I was hooked almost immediately. We watched the first Day of the Hour. This was where the idea to try for the hour record started. Michael Kolsar had established the Canadian Hour Record for 65-69 men. That was my age group at the time and it looked like an achievable goal.

You have broken the hour record in the velodrome twice for your age category.  There is a big difference in physical preparation between riding the Dempster Highway to racing on the track. What has your training looked like to prepare for the hour?  Did you follow the same formula both times or did you change it up between your first record and the second?  And what about your aero equipment?

I started by seeing if I could ride for an hour without stopping on the track. Then I started to do “Structured Training” sessions at the track. The rental bikes did not suit me very well, so I had a custom Mariposa track bike built. A track bike is the purest form of bicycle to me. Of course, the fit was made for me and was further refined by Heath Cockburn at the 11 for the first hour record attempt. My training was helped by Terry and some of the coaches at Mattamy. Primarily this consisted of long rides on the track and some longer efforts on the pursuit bars. Nothing too scientific. I had the endurance already it was just the speed that was lacking. Tackling the hour has a lot of very specific and required fine nuances to do well. I managed to set a new Canadian 65-69 hour record in 2019 but fell just short of my personal goal which was 40 k. with a 39.619 kilometer ride.

My second Hour attempt was just over a week ago and a lot of things changed between the first and second attempts. Covid had shut down the track for extended periods and of course I got older. Maintaining and improving form was a challenge. When the track reopened it took over a month of consistent effort to get my track legs back. I also bought a second track bike a FELT TK1 in the interim. I had this bike fitted by Heath as well. Again, I was doing longer rides on the track but more so on my own as opposed to joining pacelines. I was spending more time on the trainer doing structured HIIT sessions and hill work. I slowly built up my speed but was suffering from various physical pains primarily in the shoulders and upper back. I had fiddled with my position to try to get more aero, but it was just not working. I also started training in the gym with a trainer who was very helpful in relieving the some of the issues. Ultimately, we decided that perhaps my position might be the issue and it dawned on me that I had never actually ridden in the position that Heath had fitted for on the pursuit bars. I went back the original position and other than fatigue from holding an aero position for extended periods of time the pain receded.

With the help of my Gym Coach, Terry and fellow riders at the track I set a new Canadian 70-74 age group hour record. I also surpassed my goal of 40 k by riding 40.531 k. I learned a lot from this second attempt. My stubbornness is both a help and a hinderance in doing this. It helps to be able to just keep going but hinders me by not being willing to listen people who are trying to help. There is still a lot of refinement to be had as I look forward to the next goal.

What are your goals for 2024?

As far 2024 is concerned Peggy and I will be taking a couple of trips to Europe. The first is in May to Italy where we will enjoy the Italian countryside. Hopefully we will watch a couple of Giro Stages in person. With any luck Fred and I will try to tackle the Stelvio at the end of our trip. It’s on my bucket list and if not now, when? Later in September we will be going back and riding in Spain on a Tandem tour in Costa Brava. Peggy and I have done 7 tandem tours in Europe but have never ridden in Spain. I will continue to ride the track, ride the road, and do gym work to get fitter. Long term I will likely be looking at the Hour Record for 75-79 so I will need to maintain as much as I can.

You’ve consistently volunteered in the cycling community and supported youth cycling through a wide range of city programs. You’re often volunteering at the velodrome and have donated funds to support young cyclists through the World Bicycle Relief,  and Canadian youth racing abroad through programs such as Ignite Junior Cycling and the Apeldoorn NextGen project.  Why has youth cycling been a priority for you?  

Throughout my life I have volunteered in various capacities, at the Hamilton World Championships, with Environmental groups, at CAMH and with Randonneurs Ontario. Once I started at riding at the track and of being retired, I decide that I would give back to a sport that helped me so much in my life.  While I was still working, I was fortunate to be in a Management position in the Parks department. This allowed to me help when asked about cycling events or programs in Park spaces. It’s not easy to manoeuvre through the “System” to get cycling into Parks. It is seen by many as harmful to green spaces or outside of the normal type of event suitable for Parks. We did manage to get permits for cycling at various parks. These include Criterium type races, Cyclo-cross, Pump tracks, a Skills Park and Grass track training for young riders. We also had the opportunity to build a permanent (instead of temporary which is what was initially planned) BMX park for the PanAm games.

I saw the enthusiasm of the young riders at the track and started volunteering at track events. Watching these young riders grow and achieve remarkable levels of accomplishments on the World Stage is very satisfying. To me supporting these young riders is a no brainer. These young riders can grow and be competitive at the highest levels. Supporting young riders and giving them the opportunities to race abroad and at home is also a part of that process. Having watched young riders grow and achieve throughout my life it became very clear that the road to riding at high levels is not an easy one. By helping to provide the opportunities through Ignite Junior Cycling and Apeldoorn NextGen that road becomes easier. World Bicycle Relief is another area where a bike can change a life. So as cycling has brought so much to my life; when I am able to help, I will.

You’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of kilometres  all over Canada, but also know Toronto’s extensive park system and bike paths better than anyone. What’s been your most memorable ride and what’s your favorite loop in the heart Toronto? 

As far as favourite routes in the Heart of Toronto there are more than one. The trail system is marvellous. My go to routes includes the Don Valley trail lower and upper, the ride to the Lighthouse in Tommy Thompson Park, The Waterfront Trail out to the Rouge River and what I like to call the Seven Hills which includes the Bayview Extension, Sunnybrook Stables, Sunnybrook Hospital, Glendon College, The Science Center, Thorncliff and finally Beechwood. My favourite ride is with the Zoo Loop guys which goes out from Steeles to Annina’s in Goodwood and back. Much of this is on Gravel roads in the countryside. Just a bunch of old guys and girls on a leisurely ride enjoying each other’s company and solving all the world’s problems.