Sunday June 3rd, I was invited to attend the wrap-up event of the week-long Montreal Bike Fest.
Two rides were held simultaneously, starting at 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning. The Challenge Route would follow the same route we would follow, but at mach-speeds. This advanced riders’ only event was for those cyclists who could travel in a pack at average speeds of 30km/h for 1-1/2 hours. I looked, but I didn’t see myself in that group of 275 elite riders.
Right behind (at least at the starting line) came the other 22,000 riders who were out to enjoy a day of cycling at whatever pace they chose. Riders of all ages road their bikes of choice including recumbents, kiddy trailers and bicycles built-for-two. 50 people took advantage of a special $10 rate for all day and rented BIXI bikes to complete the course.
Attire was all too festive as well, with unofficial uniforms ranging from furry hairpieces to helmets adorned with rubber-ducky float rings.
Thirty-seven hundred volunteers helped make this a special event. Everywhere you looked, volunteers were warning of speed bumps in the street, making sure you didn’t miss a traffic island or generally pointing the way.
Musicians performed alongside the route about every five kilometers to entertain the riders. Residents even joined in the fun making noise with bells, whistles and a Montrealers’ favorite “ah-oh-ga” horn as bikers road by.
The police force had closed all streets to traffic during the event – even towing cars left parked on the roads overnight. Cross streets were protected with barricades, cones or police cars to give bikers free rein of the entire route. Organizers referred to it as the High Mass of Cycling.
With all the protections and preparations, parents could allow their children to ride in the streets without worry (unless you were concerned about being run over by 22 thousand other bikers.)
The ride progressed around the city, touring nine neighborhoods, with three rest stops at major parks along the way. People were easily distracted by ducks and geese with their baby ducklings and goslings at the first rest area. It made for a leisurely but satisfying ride on a Sunday afternoon – just like the good ole days (????) It was definitely a great day for bicyclists and a bit frustrating for the detour-afflicted motorists.
A giant, 30-meter Ferris wheel awaited the finishers at Parc Jeanne-Merce where the ride began. For me, a soaking tub back at the hotel was my concluding activity.
If you road in the event, please tell us what you thought about this years route in the comments section below.
This was just part of my Ontario to Quebec trip during the summer of 2012. Did you miss any of the other days of this Canadian VIA Rail bike adventure? The links are here if you did…