Spring, summer and early fall in Montreal bring cyclists of every stripe to the city, taking leisurely day trips, professional tours, and show-hopping night rides every day of the week. With city-wide bike rentals, 600 kilometres of bike paths and plenty of food-and-drink stops along the way, cycling lets riders see all the city sights.
Montreal’s ever-expanding bike system recently earned the city a place on Time Magazine’s Top 10 Urban Bike Trips list, hailed as one of North America’s most bike-friendly cities. Along with the many tours offered in Montreal, biking consistently proves itself one of the best ways to see the city, whether you rent bikes, bring your own, or try Montreal’s BIXI system.
Bike Festival: This year, the Montreal Bike Fest gets a new name: the Go Bike Montreal Festival runs May 25 to June 1, welcoming thousands of people, Montrealers and tourists alike, of all skill levels and ages, to take part in cycling tours of the city and other events. For over 40 years, non-profit organization Vélo Québec has been boosting biking for recreation, commuting and as a great way to tour Montreal’s many neighbourhoods – Go Bike Fest takes this advocacy to the next level, with the Tour de l’Île de Montréal on June 1, the Tour la Nuit on May 30 (both free for kids), and an entertainment event at the finish line at Olympic Stadium, featuring a ferris wheel, fashion show and more. And see short films on urban biking and enjoy the sun-lit terrasse of Bar Alexandraplatz on the evening of May 29, when magazine Vélo Urbain hosts Rendez-vous Cycle Chic.
Activities on Wheels: Watch for even more bike-friendly activities all summer long, including Pop Montreal’s Bike-In parties along the Lachine Canal at the St-Ambroise Terrace and Piknic Electronik every Sunday afternoon in Parc Jean-Drapeau starting May 18. There’s even a Bicycle Film Festival that makes a stop in Montreal at the end of summer. And in balmy September, bike-race enthusiasts can see top athletes take to the streets of Montreal in the Grand Prix des Cyclistes. Montreal also makes the search for good food easier with a multitude of food trucks parked throughout the city – check out their daily locations and add them to your bike-riding itinerary.
Of course, sanctioned events aren’t at all necessary to have a good time biking around Montreal: make your own party anytime by packing a picnic – whether the standard bread, cheese and wine or something more gourmet picked up one of Montreal public markets, such as Jean Talon, Atwater or other farmers’ markets and local shops and bakeries. Take your time and roll in to Parc Lafontaine, Parc Jeanne-Mance, Parc Laurier (also home to an outdoor swimming pool) or any one of many public parks throughout the city and their surrounding, restaurant-and-shopping packed neighbourhoods.
Bike Routes: Before setting out for the day, make the trip run more smoothly by plotting bike routes on maps available from Pedal Montreal, Velo Montreal and Route Verte. Biking downtown is made easy by the Maisonneuve Boulevard and Berri bike paths, running from the National Library near Berri-UQAM metro station to shopping and museums downtown, to the city’s westside, where a stop in Westmount Park adds more greenery to the trip. Beginning in the Old Port, the Lachine Canal bike path runs for almost 15 kilometres along a still-functioning boat canal, past the Atwater Market, and all the way to Chemin du Musée in the west, a beautiful park right on the river. Once out there, cyclists can continue on a bike path through LaSalle and Verdun, stopping at a nature sanctuary and even watching brave surfers tackle the Lachine rapids.
With views of downtown and the St-Lawrence River, Parc Jean-Drapeau, located just south of downtown on an island in the middle of the St-Laurent river, features 25 kilometres of bike paths and a chance to bike along the Grand Prix’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – as well as in-park bike rentals with Écorécréo and a huge outdoor swimming pool and a lake. The paths form part of Quebec’s Route Verte, the longest cycling path in North America, and the Trans Canada Trail, the world’s longest recreational trail. Ride to the park from the Old Port via the de la Concorde Bridge or from the South Shore via the Victoria Bridge bike path – or, for the more daring, via the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. Or take the metro (bikes are welcome in the last car of each train) to Parc Jean-Drapeau station.
Further afield but still on the island of Montreal, north of downtown and the Plateau, the rather pastoral Gouin Boulevard bike path, one of the longest in the city, runs alongside the Rivière des Prairies. For more on these routes and bike routes outside the city, consult the cycling experts at Vélo Québec.
Bike Rentals: Explore not only the city centre but the entire island of Montreal on a high-quality, new rental bike available for reasonable fees from shops large and small. In the urban-residential Plateau neighbourhood, friendly and fun Fitz and Follwell rents bikes of all kinds and offers private and group bike tours around town, while in the bustling, tourist-central Old Port, the long-running and trusted Ça Roule Montréal On Wheels entices with themed tours and everything from high-performance road bikes to tandems and hybrid bikes with safety-certified child carriers. In the city’s south end, near the picturesque and plentiful Atwater Market, My Bicyclette offers rentals and guided tours of the industrial-gone-natural Lachine Canal, riverside paths, the city and beyond. And newcomer Dyad specializes in new electric bikes and scooters as well as conventional bicycles.
BIXI: Since it’s inception in 2009, Montreal’s city-wide bike system, BIXI, has expanded to include hundreds of stations across the city in all directions. Unlike rental bikes, the sturdy BIXI bikes are primarily meant for short commutes and available from April through to November: daily, three-day or monthly access fees let riders bike free for up to 30 minutes at a time all day and night, from any station to another – rides longer than 30 minutes incur an additional fee. Each bike has front and back lights, a front carrier and adjustable seat suitable for most riders. Again this year, BIXI joins the Go Bike Montreal Festival for the Tour la Nuit and Tour de l’Île – register by May 29 and for $10 per event, ride a BIXI for however long it takes to complete the city-wide circuit. Whatever way you choose to pedal the city, biking can take you to the biggest tourist attractions and the most out-of-the-way corners of Montreal.
Photo credits : Maxime Juneau, Vélo Québec and Fitz Folwell
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