© Sylvie Li @ shoot Studio - Tourisme Montréal
Montréal’s ever-expanding bike system has been named one of the most bike friendly in North America by the Copenhagenize 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 Montréal’s BIXI system, or taking a bike tour suited to your tastes – for more on tours, see our guide to bike tours in Montréal.
© Fitz and Follwell Co.
Make bike excursions smooth by plotting your route beforehand with maps from Vélo Québec, Montréal On Wheels and Route Verte. Tune your bike up and 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 Street bike paths, running from the Grande Bibliothèque 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 the most scenic bike paths is the Lachine Canal multipurpose path – beginning in the Old Port of Montréal, it runs for almost 15 kilometres along a still-functioning boat canal, past the Atwater Market, and all the way to the Musée plein air de Lachine in the west, a beautiful sculpture garden right on the river. Once out there, cyclists can continue on a bike path through LaSalle and Verdun, along the St. 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 river. It features 25 kilometres of bike paths plus the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, an outdoor swimming pool and a lake. The paths form part of Québec’s Route Verte, the longest cycling path in North America, and the Great 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 first car of each train to Parc Jean-Drapeau station when summer festivals aren't happening in the park.
Further afield but still on the island of Montréal, 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. Head off-island by boat along the St. Lawrence River with Navark, welcoming bikes on board for trips to large nature parks, from Boucherville to Îles-de-Boucherville, Lachine to Châteauguay and Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot to Pointe-des-Cascades. For more on these routes and bike routes outside the city, consult the cycling experts at Vélo Québec.
© Party Bike Montreal
Bike rentals and tours
Explore not only the city centre but the entire island of Montréal 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 rents bikes of all kinds and offers themed private and group bike tours around town. Spade & Palacio rents bikes and takes riders on a variety of themed tours, from food hotspots to off the beaten path. In the bustling, tourist-central Old Port, the long-running and trusted 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, Ma 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, Ecorecreo is another go-to pro for electric bikes, quadricycles and Segways. If you’re in the east end, try Vélo Montréal on Rachel Street 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 Montréal
BIXI and JUMP bike systems
For a no-nonsense way to get from A to B within the city, BIXI is a stellar way to go. Since its inception in 2009, Montréal’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. Starting in 2019, a certain number of electric BIXIs joined the fleet – they can be rented at an additional cost of $1 per trip.
Newer on the bike system scene is JUMP by Uber. You'll see its bright red electric, pedal-assisted bicycles around the city. The bikes cost $0.30 a minute to ride and can be locked to any official city bike stand (signposts don't count!). Note that while the same road rules apply to BIXI and JUMP riders as they do to all other cyclists in Montréal, electric bike riders must by law wear a helmet due to the speeds the bikes can reach (32 km/hr, for the curious).
© Maxime Juneau
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 and the night ride Tour la Nuit (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 Mount Royal Park (aka the mountain) along the bike path on Parc Avenue.
© Le Marché des possibles, Susan Moss
More activities on wheels
Watch for more bike-friendly activities all summer long, including at POP Montreal International Music Festival’s Le Marché des Possibles in Mile End, the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers, Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, and along the Lachine Canal at the St-Ambroise Terrasse and during the Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal in June. Bike over to Piknic Électronik 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 St. Lawrence River. In balmy September, bike-race enthusiasts can see top athletes take to the streets of Montréal in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. 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 at one of Montréal’s public markets, a local deli, sandwich shop or bakery. Take your time and roll in to a city park, including the long and winding path in Mount Royal Park, Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau, Parc Laurier and Parc Jarry (both also home to outdoor swimming pools)or any 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.