No motorcycle ride from Toronto to Quebec City would be complete without passing through Montreal. It’s a beautiful city, a cultural hub, a perfect blend of old and new. How often do you get to ride your motorcycle to one of the most unique cities in all of North America?
I left Toronto and rode my motorcycle to Brockville. The next day, I explored Brockville, and today, it’s time to continue my motorcycle ride to Montreal. I’ll be meeting up with someone special when I get there.
As I’m getting ready to leave Brockville Ontario, my plan still isn’t set in stone. I’m not sure if the weather will be on my side for this ride, but yesterday’s rain means I already spent two nights in Brockville, so I’m itching to pack up the bike and just hit the road.
The ride out of Brockville is cloud-covered and I know the rain is coming so I skipped town in a rush. I’ll get breakfast later. My gas light came on pretty early in my ride, but I’m not even bothered because I know my body could use some fuel just as much as this BMW GS could.
I stopped at the Tim Hortons in Iroquois Ontario, and for some reason it took 6 minutes to get one donut and a water bottle. That was the perfect amount of time to get me caught up in a drizzle, then a downpour, sunshine, and everything in between again.
And let’s be totally clear, if this was a short commute home from work, I wouldn’t mind the rain. But today I’m riding over 200 kilometers at highway speeds, and there’s a girl waiting for me to explore the city with her when I get there. I don’t want to show up in Montreal looking, or feeling, like a cold wet dog washed up on the shore.
So when the rain started, I’d pull over, and ten minutes later when it passed through, I would get back on the road again. This continued all along the way to Quebec, and it was frustrating. Everything was taking a lot longer than it should have.
Motorcycle riding into Quebec
Crossing into the province of Quebec on two wheels feels good. I had been in Quebec eight years earlier, when I was working for Harley-Davidson Canada. That wasn’t riding though, that was flying in and out for motorcycle shows, with no time for exploring.
The last time I was in Quebec for fun was as a student on a little 250cc motorcycle. Doing this again over a decade later, on a motorcycle much better suited for the job, made me think about how lucky I was to still be here, and still be able to get on a motorcycle and ride.
By the time I was done waiting out all of the on and off rain falls on my ride, I find myself in Montreal right in time for afternoon rush hour traffic. A lot of you guys warned me about Montreal traffic, but as a Toronto-native, it honestly wasn’t that bad. Montreal has just over half the population of Toronto, so while it does get thick for a while, it’s nowhere near the endless feeling of Toronto’s rush hour.
Before long I took my exit, worked my way through the city, and arrive at the hotel.
After parking the motorcycle and dropping off my bags in the hotel room, it’s time to explore Montreal. Montreal is an almost 400 year old city that combines old and new in harmony. It’s also the largest French speaking city anywhere in the world, second only to Paris itself. About 70% of people in Montreal speak French, about 60% speak French and English, and about 10% of Montrealers speak at least three languages.
To say that culture shines through in Montreal is understatement. The city has the most restaurants per capita anywhere in the world, second only to New York.
Here’s another fun fact, Canada has had four capitals before Ottawa, I’ll pass through all of them on this trip. For five years, Montreal was the capital of Canada.
From Canada’s early history through to the 1970s or so, Montreal was also Canada’s biggest city in terms of population and economy. At that point Toronto would start to see a huge boom and slowly pull ahead.
If it sounds like Montreal is always taking second place behind Paris, New York, and Toronto, don’t worry. Any good Montrealer will be happy to remind you that the city has won more Stanley Cups than any other. Out of 106 Stanley Cup championships, Montreal has won 26 of them. That’s equal to the total of the 2nd and 3rd place Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings combined.
Montreal also has an underground city. It’s a series of tunnels that span 32 kilometers (20 miles) and connects pedestrians to over 2,000 shops, restaurants, hotels, subways, universities, and more, without having to brace fierce outside summer heat or freezing winter. So if you find yourself walking around Montreal in terrible weather and wonder where everyone is, they’re probably underneath you.
Personally, we stayed above ground, because this city is beautiful inside and out. Montreal is a world class city full of preserved history as well as on the forefront of both arts and sciences. I’ll show you more of Montreal when we get back here in a couple days, for now I’ll leave you with this quote:
“Let Toronto become Milan. Montreal will always be Rome.”
End of the Day 2
I rode about 215 km today and did a lot of walking. The day started off slow because of all of the pauses for off and on rainfall. Montreal was beautiful and did a wonderful job of combining old and new. It made me sad that Toronto prefers to tear down all of its history and build condo buildings instead.
Today was windier but still good riding when it wasn’t raining. Overall I rate today’s riding 2.5 out of 5.
Tomorrow I’ll be riding nearly 300 km by motorcycle with a passenger on the back, from Montreal to Quebec City. Stay tuned!