Biking the West Island

Yesterday, I finally got around to biking out to my Grandfather’s in Dollard. A long trip (by my standards, anyway!) but reasonable. It was pretty neat to see all the different kinds of city biking that I passed through along the way – I think I covered just about all of it, from relatively heavy downtown traffic, gravel forest paths, terrifying high-speed not-at-all-bike-friendly roads, and very lazy suburban paths and streets.

Here’s the route I took:

  • Left from Lower Westmount
  • climbed Decarie (boulevard, not expressway!!!)
  • jogged over a few blocks on Jean-Talon to Lucerne, which turns into Ste-Croix after going under the 40
  • up Ste-Croix and then O’brien to Gouin
  • take the Gouin path through all its snaking around until it gets to the Bois-de-Liesse nature park.
  • Through the park and exit at Sunnybrooke. Stay on the bike path heading west until Lake
  • then onto the path at Salaberry.

On the way back, I took the South route:

  • the slightly insane route straight down Boul. St-Jean
  • Lakeshore rd
  • and then the Lachine Canal,
  • up Atwater

The trip up was fairly straightforward, but boring. I was really diappointed by the Gouin path on the short stretch I used it – it zigs and zags down all sorts of tiny streets, which can be nice since there’s no traffic, but it means that every 20 feet there’s a stop sign, and you have to cross the busy streets a few times without any lights or stop signs to give you a chance. Slow and tiring for no good reason… As well, except for the tiny jaunt under the bridge, you’re never near the water at all. I think if I had to take this route regularly, I’d end up just forgoing the path, and going straight down Gouin with the traffic instead.

Bois-de-Liesse was a nice surprise though! I didn’t know this park at all. Not great biking, since you share the path with hikers (lots of kids were out!) and it’s all gravel or dirt, but it’s so nice travelling through the trees!

After that, biking in the Suburbs on the other side was really dull. There are a surprising number of bike paths, but their design is…creative, if not effective.. Most of them are a relatively narrow bidirectional lane over to the side of the road. Normally, this is ok, but there’s nothing separating you from the traffic, and often not enough room to safely pass other bikers. Bus stops often interfere with the path as well, though with the scarcity of bus service out there, it’s not really a frequent issue. The real problem is that the paths tend to just end randomly, without notice! This can really suck when you suddenly find yourself coming up to a big intersection (crossing Sources on Hyman), in the middle of the road going the wrong direction! I don’t know if they expect people to just get on the sidewalk at these spots or what… Doesn’t make much sense though.

After the satisfactory, but fairly boring trip out, I decided to head to the South shore for the return trip. Boul. St-Jean is NOT a good road to bike on. it might be nice at 3AM, but at 4PM when I tried it, there was a lot of very fast-moving traffic, and no room at all to manoeuvre. I was tempted on several occasions to either turn around or get on the sidewalk, but I persisted. A harrowing 10 minutes, which I don’t recommend. I don’t know if there’s any better alternative for crossing to the south shore though.

I had biked along the south shore before, and was happy to repeat the experience. Travelling along a relatively quiet road, right by the water, with parks most of the way, lots of wildlife, and a cool breeze off the water is the way it should be! Lachine canal path was similar, but a little crowded, as usual.

All in all, a fun trip, but I wish I could travel along Lakeshore without risking life and limb on Boul. St-Jean. Does anyone have a better route to take? Is St. Charles or Sources any more bike-friendly? Or are there any tunnels or other ways to cross the highway that don’t show up on maps?

And geez, I’m wordy.

Busy busy busy!

Sometimes a blog doesn’t get updated because nothing is happening. Other times, it doesn’t get updated because there’s just way too much going on! I’ll try to make a few posts in the very near future about all the new developments in my life, but for now, a very quick run down:

  • Sari and I got married!
  • Both of our bikes got stolen – if you know of a good bike for sale in Montreal, let me know!
  • I lost my Brandenburg V virginity
  • I have a concert coming up next week in Fredericton – Sunday November 18th at 3:00PM at Gallery 78. You might want to get a ticket in advance, because it’s a small space, and there might be a lot of people there – I’ve been getting more pubicity than usual!
  • As always, there are a few more photos up.

Biking to Pointe Claire

These pictures have been sitting around for almost a month now, but I’ve finally put them up. I took them on a fantastic day – after weeks of sweltering heat and thunderstorms, the weather was sitting at a comfy 20°C, with just enough clouds to keep the sun from being excessive. So I decided to explore!

I started out going through Verdun – I meant to head down to the shore, and travel along the bank there, but I took a wrong turn, and ended up following the canal instead. After getting to the end of that canal, I kept following the shore through Lasalle, then through Lachine, Dorval and part of Pointe Claire – at that point, the bike path runs out. It’s still a nice enough ride, though it’s rather strange to be so deep into suburbia, but I decided I had had enough. My legs aren’t used to that kind of treatment!

Next longish trip will probably be to see if I can find my way to my Grandpa’s house. Doesn’t look like there are any great biking roads to Dollard though, but there are only a couple of spots where you have to really slog through traffic. We’ll see when I get to it! Might not be for a while, because I’m exceedingly busy preparing for a concert in Fredericton on the 23rd of September, along with a recording for a competition that needs to be completed by the 15th. On top of that, I’m working full-time for the next two weeks, so I need to take what practice time I can find!

Biking down the canal

I’ve been upgrading and fixing my bike a bit in the past week. Nothing major, but I finally got a rack and a pannier! I highly recommend this to anyone that uses a bike much. It’s a million times nicer than a backpack, especially when it’s hot out. Much easier on my back too – a heavy pack puts all the weight into just the wrong places.

The bag I eventually decided on, after spending a very long time perusing bike forums and looking at the offering at MEC (they’ve mostly sold out this season’s supply, apparently!) and other stores was the Arkel Bug. It’s very nice. I particularly like how it converts to a backpack – most of the panniers out there are well-made, but they’re designed for people on long trips who leave the bag on the bike most of the time. For something that I’ll be carrying around to stores and work all the time, this is far better. It’s also just very well-made, and as a bonus, the company’s based in Quebec!

I also picked up a bike computer (i.e. speedometer + odometer) from MEC. It’s the cheapest one they offer, though now I’m thinking the next model up might have been nice to have. It’s no big deal, but it’d be nice to have it display your maximum and average speeds. But I just couldn’t justify the extra $2.

I also finally got around to adjusting the saddle a bit. It’s never been perfectly comfy, so I tried tipping it forward a little bit. It felt much better at first, but I think it was just a little too much, since it put much more weight on my arms, and my butt started getting sore after 45 minutes or so. So I reduced the angle a little, and also slid it back an inch or two, and I think it’s an improvement! Luckily, it’s a very easy thing to adjust. I think I’ll just keep some hex keys in my bag for the next little while in case more fiddling is warranted.

Finally, my chain needed some work after the rain on the weekend, so I cleaned it and squirted in some oil. Seems much nicer now!

So, with a functional bike, and all sorts of toys, I decided it was time to do some exploring around Montreal. Can you believe that I had never traveled down the Lachine Canal? It’s a really nice path, gentle, flat, with lots of trees. I stopped at the end of the Canal, but next time I might go further, and keep travelling by Lachine. Apparently that’s also very nice.
view of the trail