The entire province of Québec is criss-crossed with a 4,300 km (2,700 mi) cycling network called La Route Verte. This “green route” passes through Montréal, the cobblestone streets of old Québec City and meanders rural countryside from the Ontario border in the west to the wind-swept Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the east. National Geographic was so excited about the Route Verte that they ranked it #1 in their Top 10 Bike Routes in the World! Start with an espresso and get oriented at Velo Québec’s Maison des Cyclistes in Montréal.
Montréal on Two Wheels
Bicycles are as iconic to Montréal as gondolas are to Venice. The city’s 350 km (218 mi) of bike paths include hilly downtown Mont Royal Park, several islands in the St. Lawrence River and the banks of the Lachine Canal National Historic Park – stop at McAuslan micro-brewery’s patio en route. In 2007, Bicycling Magazine ordained Montréal to be the best cycling city in North America!
Montréal’s bike-bragging rights were upped in 2007 when the locally-developed public bike-share program, BIXI was launched and has since been adopted by cities around the world. BIXI’s name comes from the first two letters of “bicycle” and the last two letters of “taxi”. Just swipe a credit card, unlock one of 5,200 bikes then drop it off at any one of 460 stations across the city.
Tour de L’ile
Bike fever comes to a head in Montréal every late May during a week-long Bike Fest. Streets around the city are closed off to cars for a 50 km (31mi) Tour de L’ile when a vast wave of 30,000 kids-to-seniors on bikes jockey for position at one of the biggest gathering of cyclists on the planet. There’s also a lovely Tour La Nuit, a 22 km (14 mi) night ride around city streets.
Planning a multi-day bike ride in Quebec? There’s a handy designation called Bienvenue Cyclistes which includes cycle-savvy B&B and campsite members who won’t panic if a mud-covered cyclist shows up their door. There’s always a covered, locked place to store your bicycle, a pump and tools for making minor repairs. Members are savvy about local bicycle repair centres, bicycle rental outlets and nearby tourist information offices. Bonus: Cyclists are guaranteed a space even if they don’t have a reservation.
A Petit Train
North of Montréal in the Laurentian Mountains, an abandoned railway line called the P’tit Train du Nord (the “little train of the north”) has been converted into a 230 km (143 mi) biking and walking path. Entirely car-free but with more than 20 vehicle access points, the scenic route is hard-packed gravel with a mellow maximum three percent grade travelling through forest, alongside riders and through lovely villages with cafés, bistros and cozy inns along the way.
South of Montréal, the Monteregie region’s 600 km (375 mi) of bike paths offer pedalling amid apple orchards on the Cider Route, visiting cider mills to taste ciders including the Québec’s homegrown sensation of ice cider, a luscious dessert wine made from crushed frozen apples. Or follow the banks of the Richelieu River, stopping in at historic Fort Chambly on the way.
Sip and cycle your way through wine country 100 km (60 mi) southeast of Montréal along the Eastern Township’s Route des vins, Wine Route. Stop in at quaint New England-style towns that have officially been designated as the province’s most beautiful, visit local farmer’s markets, taste artisanal cheeses and cool climate wines, dine on local cuisine and visit a grand Benedictine abbey where monks make cider and award-winning cheese.
South Shore St. Lawrence River
Bicycle the south shore of the St. Lawrence from Lévis, opposite Québec City, to the town of Montmagny, about 60 km (37 mi) away. Pedal through farmland with river views, stopping at a string of rural villages with tiny churches and cafes. From Berthier-sur-mer, take a ferry to historic Grosse Île National Historic Site. Then, from Montmagny, another ferry sails to L'Île-aux-Grues, for a tranquil route past dairy farms on a tiny island with a big cheese reputation.
Explore the winding, hilly terrain of the Charlevoix region northeast of Québec City from Baie-Saint-Paul 350 km (217 mi) to La Malbaie, a landscape made famous by Québec painters. See their work in Baie-Saint-Paul’s many galleries, then explore the hub of the province’s agri-tourism, stopping in at farms, cheesemakers and restaurants serving farm-to-table cuisine with views of the St. Lawrence River.
Cycle along both shores of spectacular Saguenay Fjord on part of a 400 km (250 mi) bike route where you can spot beluga and Minke whales, hike, kayak and tackle a Via Ferrata. Or test your fitness on the Cols du Fjord, a 3-day, 340 km (211 mi) cycling excursion with a total challenging 3,500 meter (11,482 foot) elevation gain!
Blueberries are so much part of this route in the Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean region north of Québec City, that they are part of its name! Delicious wild blueberries in late summer and a flat, paved route around Lac Saint-Jean make cycling even a section of the 256 km (160 mi) Route des Bleuets a fun family affair.
Taking the Green Route #6 from Québec City
From the city to the countryside in no time – an old railway route from just outside Québec City to Riviere-a-Pierre has been converted into the leisurely, forested and almost flat 68 km (42.2 mi) Jacques-Cartier/Portneuf cycling path, part of the Route Verte #6 with villages and scenic viewpoints along the way.
To fully experience the true beauty and charm of Quebec, stay at a local B & B by consulting www.bbcanada.com
Photos are courtesy of Tourisme Québec
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