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“This is fantastic!” shouts a woman peddling next to me through the dark, but festive, streets of Montreal, Quebec, along with thousands of other cyclists of every age who are along for the ride.
And who could disagree?
For a city that loves to cycle, even Montrealers get whipped up about the annual Go Bike Montreal Festival, held each year in early June.
The festival kicks off with the family-friendly nighttime Tour La Nuit ride that closes streets to cars and encourages participants to decorate their bikes with lights and streamers.
Costumes are also heartily encouraged and residents along the route set up cafe tables on porches and sidewalks to sip wine, eat cheese and give cheers to passing riders.
Montreal’s Go Bike Festival Returns in Full Force
Cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, the festival ran with restrictions in 2021 and 2022 but came back in full force this year with 40,000 riders expected to take part in the weeklong springtime event anchored at either end by the Tour La Nuit and the Tour de I’lle de Montreal.
For Jean-François Rheault, CEO of Vélo Québec, the festival perfectly encapsulates the culture of cycling that is well entrenched in Montreal and other parts of the bike-crazy province.
“In Montreal, cycling is a serious mode of transportation and now we see the same push in places like Laval and Quebec City,” he said.
“If you build it, they will come. It’s the key to a strong cycling culture.”
Cycling Connects Quebec Communities
Rheault found his love of cycling as a teenager when he came into Montreal from the suburbs to ride in the Tour de I’lle for the first time.
“I remember the feeling of pride and I realized I can ride a bicycle in the city and I can ride long distances,” said Rheault, who has professionally worked on improving bicycle infrastructures all around the world for the past 18 years.
“I do believe the bicycle has the potential to make our communities more inclusive and solve many problems that we face – whether it’s climate, public health or even the economy.
“Whatever you build it for, on the same bike path you will meet people riding across Quebec, people who are going to visit friends or just people who are out and about for a ride. These trails are linking communities together and building communities.”
Province of Quebec a Cyclist’s Dream
Whatever your reason for cycling in Quebec, there are no shortage of options to choose from in just about every region of the large province.
Here are a few ideas to get you started once you’ve explored Montreal’s 900-plus kilometres of bike paths.
La Route Verte
At 5,300 kilometres, La Route Verte is the granddaddy of all signposted cycling trail systems, offering endless multi-use trails and designated roads to take riders a long or a short way from their starting point.
It also connects to trail systems in neighbouring Quebec and the U.S. Plenty of supports can also be found along the way on many sections of the trail system, including tour planning, shuttle services, bike repairs and designated bag droops at overnight accommodations.
P’Tit Train Du Nord
Within La Route Verte is the 200-kilometre P’tit Train Du Nord, a rails-to-trails pathway from Sainte-Jerome to Mont-Laurier, taking riders through small, picturesque villages and scenic wilderness areas with fast-running rivers.
Along with an abundance of nature are many lovely cafes and microbreweries to keep you nourished along the trail.
Véloroute des Bleuets
The 256-kilometre loop trail around Lac Saint-Jean in the Saguenay region takes riders through 15 communities with stunning scenery and lots of opportunities for a dip in the lake or a rest stop at a microbrewery.
Cycling Trails in Quebec City
Start in Quebec City‘s Old Port and head along one of three cycling routes, including a short scenic trail along Saint Charles River, or for something a bit more challenging, take the 50-kilometre Corridor du Littoral trail to Montmorency Water Falls Park, where you can zipline over the falls.
Another fun option is to hop on a free ferry (all ferries in Quebec are free) for a short ride from La Malbaie to Isle-aux-Coudres, a beautiful island in the Charlevoix area along the Saint Lawrence River.
It’s easy to bike around with stops along the way that could include Les Moulins de L’Isle-aux-Coudres, a working watermill, or a visit to Cidrerie Vergers Pedneault to taste some regional cider offerings.
Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip
If You Go:
Ville de Montreal: https://montreal.ca/en/topics/cycling-and-bike-paths
Velo Quebec: https://www.velo.qc.ca/en/
La Route Verte: https://www.routeverte.com/en/
Author bio: Pat Lee is an experienced travel writer who loves to explore the world, sometimes on two wheels. She loves to learn about what makes a small corner of the world tick through up close and personal experiences. While she’s been privileged to visit many parts of the world, she’s barely scratched the surface.
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