I haven’t been writing, because lately I’ve been riding. I joined Velo Québec shortly after arriving in Montreal some 4 years ago, but for a whole bunch of apparently unavoidable circumstances, I was not really able to join in any of the rides until this year. And in this past week, I have participated in 6 Velo Québec rides, and let me tell you — they are fabulous!
First one was the Metropolitan Challenge last Sunday, May 31. There were four routes: a 78 k, 102, 122, and 147. I chose the 78K route, which turned out to be quite enough, thank you very much, due to the amazingly strong (and persistent!) head wind. We worked HARD for each one of those km! And it was so amazing to be with that many cyclists… the start time began at 7 and ended at 10, which meant that the riders were all pretty much spread out. No jostling or traveling in packs, so that was cool.
The only time the actual number was apparent was at the lunch stop (we not only got a really well-marked route with emergency care all along the way, but we got a boxed lunch and lots of other goodies, including a free massage for those willing to stand in line…). I have never seen so many cyclists (3,500 took part in the event) at once, and it did my heart good to see bikes and riders everywhere. No one locked their bikes. Imagine. It was a community, and you just knew your property was safe. And it was!
Check out the scene…
That was the first event.
The second, the annual Tour la Nuit, took place Friday June 4. Some 15,000(!!!!) rode 20km of downtown streets, all blocked off to traffic. We sailed down main streets and through red lights — it was so much fun!!!
The increase in participants was quite evident: by the time we arrived, we joined a line that was several blocks from the starting line, and had to wait quite a while to start. We stood there for ages, watching the dusk grow deeper and deeper, hearing the cheers of people in the blocks ahead of us as they got to start, wondering when we would get to go …
It took a while, but eventually we got to go. Lots of different kinds of people take part in this event: lots of kids in trailers, sitting in bike seats on their parents bikes, and on their own bikes too. There were city bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes. People came out of their houses to watch and cheer, many played drums, and at one point, there was an entire band! Montréal really knows how to party…
Then yesterday was the Tour d’île – 50 km through the city’s streets, starting at 9 a.m. Not quite a tour of the entire Island, but a good tour of the eastern end of it. And, it poured. Buckets. All day. It poured buckets as we stood in line waiting for the ride to start …
… and it was pouring when we reached the end (note the smiles… partly from the pure pleasure of having made it through the whole thing, partly giddiness at the thought of the warm baths and hot toddies that would soon be coming our way…).
Essentially, it alternated between freezing heavy downpours and freezing persistent drizzle the entire ride. I had puddles in my bike shoes. I wrung my gloves out several times before I finally gave up. And at one point I opened my little pack under my seat and discovered my iPhone was wet, so I unzipped my jacket to see if there was a dry spot on my shirt I could use to dry it off with and discovered I had no dry spots left anywhere!
One part of the route took us through a bit of dirt road which, of course, had turned into mud which meant that for the last third of the ride, we were all covered in a very fine spray of very fine muddy sand. It was amazing. I haven’t been that wet and that dirty in a very long time.
But I loved it. I loved that I was riding through Montreal without once worrying about traffic, that we were sailing through red lights, that there were all these other people loving it for the same reasons I was loving it! And despite the rain, people still came out of their houses to stand by the roadside and cheer us on.
I must mention the drummers at the 26 km pit stop… I truly appreciated those drummers who provided a beat that we were all able to bounce around to while we waited in line for one of the portapotties to free up – helped keep us a bit warm, or at least gave us something else to think about beside how wet and cold we were! I wish I’d gotten a picture of them, but my fingers were pretty much numb by that point… I also wish I’d gotten a picture of the unicycles, or the guys on stilts… I can’t wait for next year’s ride! Hope the sun comes out for that one. If the ride is this much fun in the rain, I can only imagine what it is like when the sun is shining!
NOTE: I have shamelessly stolen the Tour de l’Île photos from irishchick, without whom many of our adventures would go undocumented!