When Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning travels to shows, or is on tour, you better believe there’s a bike involved. Canning is a firm believer in commuting in his hometown of Toronto. After two years of uncertainty surrounding live shows, Broken Social Scene returned to the stage this past spring in Ontario’s capital. Canning used his bike to get to and from the shows. “We played Massey Hall for two nights in April,” he says. “I rode my bike to and from both shows. I’m always riding, especially in the seasons when it’s not freezing cold.”
The musician is not only the co-founder of the hit indie supergroup, but he’s also been part of By Divine Right and hHead. It was in 1999 that Canning and lead singer Kevin Drew started BSS, which would ultimately comprise many other familiar names in indie rock, such as Emily Haines, Leslie Feist and Torquil Campbell
Although being part of a band involves moving a lot of gear, Canning has roadies to take care of the big stuff so he can get himself to gigs on two wheels. Sometimes, though, he has to lug a bit more stuff than you would even on a bikepacking trip. “I have definitely ridden to shows with my guitar or bass strapped to my back in a soft case,” he says.
Canning appreciates the economic advantage that bikes can offer. Bikes helped him early in his career. “When I was particularly broke, I can recall riding my bike with a Tube-Tech compressor under my arm, which is very expensive gear, but a guy’s got to do what he has to to save a few bucks sometimes,” he says.
His riding isn’t limited to Toronto, either. “On the North American tours, both bandmate Charles Spearin and I would take our bikes and put them in the trailer. It’s the best way to get out and see a city whether it’s Richmond, Va., Oakland, Calif., or New Orleans.”
When BSS was making Forgiveness Rock Record, the band was based primarily in Chicago. A few members of the group rented bikes while they were living there because it was the easiest mode of transportation. “I bought an old school cruiser with the sort of gas-tank look on the top tube,” Canning says. “I really liked that bike.”
Profession: Musician (bass guitar, guitar, keyboards), songwriter
Bands: Broken Social Scene, By Divine Right, hHead, Cookie Duster, Valley of the Giants
Bikes: Old-school beater—an Eaton’s Glider. “I’ve had so many bikes—a Brodie Elan, a Linus, a CCM,” Canning says. “Most get stolen, mostly due to my carelessness, but yes, Toronto is a bike-theft mecca also. Mostly I miss my Cambio Rino. That bike was fucking beautiful, but you know, you get home, couple drinks, let the dog out and you forget the bike was left at the side of the house…”
This story originally appeared in the August/September 2022 issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine