[Updated on June 3, 2016]
Experience Montréal like a local by hopping on a bike this spring, summer and fall. The city’s 645 kilometres (400 miles) of bike paths, high-quality bike rentals and tours and a popular bike festival make it a breeze to discover neighbourhoods, get to and from events, and see the city sights.
Montréal’s ever-expanding bike system has been named one of the most bike friendly in North America by the Copenhagen Index, credited with inspiring other major cities around the world to build more bike paths, encourage awareness of cyclists and do it all in style. Go your own way by renting bikes, bringing your own or trying out Montreal’s BIXI system, or taking a bike tour suited to your tastes – for more on tours, see our Guide to Bike Tours in Montréal.
Make bike excursions smooth by plotting your route beforehand with maps from Pedal Montréal, Vélo Québec, Ride the City Montréal, Ça Roule and Route Verte. Tune your bike up, grab a map and a coffee at La Maison des cyclistes across from Parc La Fontaine. 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. Among our picks for most scenic bike paths is the Lachine Canal multipurpose path – beginning in the Old Port, it 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, along the Saint-Lawrence Waterfront Cycling Path, stopping at a nature sanctuary and watching brave surfers tackle the Lachine rapids.
Another scenic go-to, with views of downtown and the St-Lawrence River, is Parc Jean-Drapeau, located just south of downtown on an island in the middle of the St-Laurent river. It features 25 kilometres of bike paths plus the F1 Grand Prix’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – as well as in-park bike rentals with Écorécréo and an 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 pastoral Gouin Boulevard bike path, one of the longest in the city, runs alongside the Rivière des Prairies, while further west, there’s the West Island Heritage Bicycle Trail. For more on these routes and bike routes outside the city, consult the cycling experts at Vélo Québec.
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 & Follwell Co. rents bikes of all kinds and offers themed private and group bike tours around town. 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. Add zip to your ride at Dyad, specialists in new electric bikes and scooters as well as conventional bicycles. With two locations, at Parc Jean-Drapeau and in the Old Port, Écorécréo is another go-to bike pro. If you’re in the east end, try Vélo Montréal on Rachel near the Olympic Stadium. Or opt for something different with Party Bike Montréal, a wheeled invention made for 16 people ready to roll together with stops along the way for food and drink.
BIXI bike system
For a no-nonsense way to get from A to B within the city, BIXI is a stellar way to go. Since it’s inception in 2009, Montreal’s city-wide bike system has expanded to include hundreds of stations across the city in all directions. Unlike rental bikes, the BIXI bikes are primarily meant for short commutes and available from April through to November: one-way, daily, three-day or monthly and seasonal access options let riders bike free for up to 30 minutes at a time all day and night, from any station to another – there’s an additional fee automatically added to rides longer than 30 minutes. Each sturdy bike has front and back lights, a front carrier and adjustable seat.
The Go Bike Montréal Festival in late May and early June welcomes thousands of riders, Montrealers and tourists alike, of all skill levels and ages. For over 40 years, non-profit organization Vélo Québec has boosted biking for recreation, commuting and as a great way to tour Montréal’s many neighbourhoods. Go Bike Fest takes this advocacy to the next level, closing select streets to traffic for the fun-focused, island-traversing Tour de l’Île de Montréal on June 5 and the night ride Tour la Nuit on June 3 (both free for kids 12 and under). Entertainment and other activities make the atmosphere even more lively at the start and finish lines, just minutes from downtown, right where Parc Jeanne-Mance meets Parc Mount-Royal (the Mountain) along the bike path on Parc Avenue.
Activities on wheels
Watch for more bike-friendly activities all summer long, including Pop Montreal’s Bike-In parties along the Lachine Canal at the St-Ambroise Terrace and at the Marché des Possibles. Bike over to Piknic Electronik in Parc Jean-Drapeau, happening every Sunday afternoon starting in mid-May – ride from the Old Port to the park, past iconic Habitat 67 and over the Saint-Lawrence River. The Bicycle Film Festival sometimes 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 Montréal in the Grands Prix Cyclistes. Montréal 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 ride itinerary.
Make your own party anytime by gathering a group and packing a picnic for the road – whether the standard bread, cheese and wine or something more gourmet picked up one of Montréal’s public markets, a local deli, sandwich shop or bakery. Take your time and roll in to a city park, such as 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. Whatever way you pedal the city, biking can take you to the biggest tourist attractions and the most out-of-the-way corners of Montréal.
Up next: Guide to bike tours in Montréal