5BBC in Montreal – 2016

by David MEL Meltzer

Friday 6:30 AM and the riders start accumulating next to the House that Ruth Built in the Bronx. Front wheels come off, and the bikes are loaded in the bays. After driving through a misty rain, the skies cleared up as we crossed customs into Canada. About a third of the group are returnees – and the rest are newbies. We are all excited.

After arriving at Ruby Foos, we reassembled the bikes, put them in the Hong Kong Room, and had some free time. Some ate. Some swam in the pool. Some just relaxed with friends. But the night's activities had yet to start. We rode the five miles from hotel to the starting point of the Tour la Nuit. We joined with the hordes of other cyclists waiting for the sun to go down. As the sun lowered, the lights came on, and the ride commenced. Lots of lights. Lots of costumes and lots of kids. The route was about 15 miles through Montreal neighborhoods. Every block had people beating on drums, blowing horns, shouting “ALLEZ”. Little kids stuck their hands out to get fives from the riders. Make no mistake – this was a party. We met up at the festival, grabbed some free chocolate milk, and headed back to the hotel for a well deserved late night snack and a night of sleep. Those mattresses at Ruby Foos were sooooo comfortable.

Day two had us doing a regular club ride – a long way from the five boroughs. Allan, a Montreal native, led us through some interesting neighborhoods. We rode through elegant Hampstead and had a stop at the Oratory. And then the climbing began. The first bit of climb took us to beautiful Beaver Lake. The second climb took us up to the top of Mont Royale. The views were just spectacular – well worth the climbing.

What goes up must come down. It was a breathtaking ride down the mountain. We ended up cycling through the Plateau neighborhood – with a stop at Schwartz's for their famous smoked meat sandwiches. From there, we loaded up our panniers and headed down to the harbor for a picnic lunch and some time off for sightseeing. After lunch, we rode along the canal and then entered into the Harbor Islands. A quick stop at the architecturally interesting Habitat 67 [Moshe Safdie] and the Biodome [Roger Taillibert]. After the Islands in the Harbor – it was back to Montreal proper – riding through the block that Allan grew up on. Back at the hotel, we cleaned up and broke up into smaller groups for dinner. Some went to Old Montreal, some to PF Changs, and some to Rue St. Denis to a brewery. I opted for the 3 Brasseurs brewery for a well deserved beer.

The big event was on Sunday – The Tour de L'Ile. Unfortunately the forecast was not pretty. Some of us rode the 60 or 100 as planned. Others stepped back to shorter rides. And, there were some who opted out totally to visit museums, sleep late, or even twist balloons. [Jackie - thanks for the balloon monkey.] I did the 60, riding mostly with Bobby Moletti and Karen Rolnick. The ride took us through industrial areas, along great bike trails, and everywhere – those great views of the Prairies and St. Lawrence Rivers. You could feel the city melt away as we headed further from downtown. Lunch was at a local school, and was delicious in the best Montreal tradition. After lunch, we began to return to civilization.

Throughout the day, the skies were a steely gray. After lunch it began with a light drizzle and then a steadier light rain. And then the deluge. The heavens opened and the wind picked up. We rode through the torrent five miles back to the hotel. But, me, Bobby and Karen met with Allan who wanted to get some treats for the group. The four of us then did a sodden scavenger hunt through Montreal – stopping for St. Viateur bagels and Cheskie's chocolate babka. I could not have been any wetter if I drove The Truck into a lake.

With the rides completed and everyone safely back, it was time to load the bikes back onto the bus, and head home. Our three days in Montreal successfully completed. Thanks to Allan who really put his heart and soul into the ride, and Sharon who kept him in check. Thanks to all those who helped in so many ways – loading and unloading bikes, fixing mechanicals, and doing everything we needed to have a great time.

See you in 2017.