Forget Shadowfax, last night, the king of all steeds was my trusty Bixi bike!
I’ve been in Montreal most of this week for work, along with one of my developers, Matt, and we decided to rent bikes yesterday and see a bit more of the city.
The first step was to walk about 100 feet North of our hotel to the Bixi bike rack. These are scattered all across the city, and are really easy to use. Insert credit card, print ticket with bike code on it (or, for the environmentally anal, simply memorize it on screen instead), then choose a bike, enter code, and go. Yes, it really was that easy.
So, we got our bikes, and rode through the city. In many places, Montreal is much more bike friendly than Toronto, and what’s more, the drivers actually seem to understand that they share the road with cyclists. At no time did I feel threatened or aggressed by drivers. What a refreshing change.
The bikes are… okay. They’re relatively heavy, though not unbearably so, and they’ve got three-speed hub shifters which are pretty well geared, though not enough for the ride up the mountain we took. The brakes were my biggest concern. The drum brakes sometimes felt like they were connected to something else, a different bike, maybe. Cos sometimes I’d squeeze those levers, and get nothing back. Aside from that, they were great, if a little nerdy looking.
As I mentioned, we rode around town for a while, then up to the top of the mountain, where one is treated to an amazing view of the city.
Then we had a relatively hairy ride back down the mountain (brakes, remember?) and parked the bikes back where we got them. We could have returned them to any Bixi rack in the city, but we figured we were going for dinner near the hotel anyway, so why not just put them back where we got them.
All in all, my Bixi experience was incredibly positive. Next time Sarah comes to Montreal with me, we’re definitely going to take advantage of the system. I hope something similar makes it to Toronto!