Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Montreal Bike Fest

Bike month concludes with the Montreal Bike Fest, a week long celebration and North America's largest bicycling event. The festival involves several rides, a week of commuting activities, and related events. I have been to the festival several times and plan to be there again this year.

This Saturday things kick off with the Metropolitan Challenge, a 75-150 kilometer ride through the nearby countryside. I did the 100K ride a few years ago and it was lots of fun and not as difficult as it sounds. The following weekend has a Friday night ride and another one Sunday afternoon. These rides involve closing the roads to motor vehicles allowing cyclists to take over the streets. The Friday night ride (Tour la Nuit) draws approximately 12,000 enthusiastic riders, many in costume and with creative bike light displays. The Sunday ride (Tour de l'Ile) gets at least 30,000 and has had up to 45,000 riders. The 52K course (below) covers much of the city and is a great way to see neighborhoods you may not otherwise get to.

The route changes every year. This year they head west. There's usually crowds of enthusiastic spectators urging you on and in past years they have had a house decorating contest for residents along the route. 52K may sound long but my wife who's not a cycling nutcase like I am has done it several times and I bet you can too!

While in town I hope to get a chance to explore the Bixi. Montreal's new bike sharing program. Modeled after the Paris Velib system, it should look familiar to frequent readers of these pages. Here is a part of the Bixi system.

I hope I've inspired you to come up to Montreal or to at least dig your bicycle out of storage. Have a great end to your bike month!

1 comment:

Dug said...

Bixi Follow Up:
I just got back from Montreal where among other activities, I got to try out the Bixi. Like any system in its early stages there have been problems reported with the system's mechanics, people upset about losing parking spaces and grumblings about the cost. The costs are $78/year $28/month and $5 for a day (Canadian Dollars-currently at 85 Cents USD). However, the first half hour is free so that's not very expensive at all!
There are racks all over the main parts of town. You swipe a credit card and it gives you a 5 digit code that unlocks a bike. Return it to any available rack-I was able to ride home from a place I had walked to.
The bike itself is very utilitarian, heavy and a bit clunky . There are only 3 speeds but they are well chosen ones. My bike had a shifting problem-it did not want to stay in one of the gears. Not comfortable for a very long ride but fine for short trips. In my opinion the bike was plenty adequate for its likely uses.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the system and with the city for having the gumption to go ahead with it.