bike build in the montreal airport


Unboxing and loading up your bike in the airport, people stare, and the occasional old guy strolls over to ask where you may be headed. I may as well have been putting on a space suit for my first launch into the unknown. I felt I had made an incredible discovery that others may never know. In the same moment, I was tiny and frightened, protective of my most valued possession, which was threatened each moment I looked away to grab more gear. I had an hour or so before Cody would make his way down the escalator, and begin his unboxing. I took my time setting my saddle height, tightening my straps to perfection, darting my eyes to the top of the stairs every few seconds to see my compadre.

I took a few laps in the airport, and had nearly flat tires. I got to work hand pumping and Cody came rambling over, his bike box dropping down the over sized slot shortly after. This was our third time meeting, and we planned to ride 7 days together. We reallocated our gear to share the load, hand pumped, and took off, leaving the two empty boxes. The sun was out, and we didn't know if we needed to go left or right. No map, no phone service, no idea. A group of ladies were seated together, waiting to begin work, or so it appeared, so we rode over to ask directions. Not a single one knew English, and my gauche and droite have never been straight since my high school french class.

Left looked promising, so we went left.

It did not take long for me to realize just how bent my brake rotor was, and the hand pump did not do so well, so a shop was first on the list. We spotted another cyclist on the road, and waved him down. English. And the shop was close.

Riding on a bike path, we had plenty of room to ride side by side, but it did not stop a cyclist from shouting for us to be single file. I understood his frustration, because he didn't want to have to wear a helmet to be safe. Many cyclist we spotted disregarded this fundamental. We found the shop. "Nice helmets," they said. "We have a bent rotor," we said. "What's that?" they said. Shit. We borrowed a towel and a wrench, and we eyed it and tried to align it on the fly. They offered to inflate our tires. After that, we headed off to find breakfast. It had been several hours, plus an early morning flight, so I was fighting off demons to stay cool.

Cody and I kept looking over at each other, mentioning how sluggish we both felt with all this weight. It was going to be a long trip if our legs had to work this hard. But, this was both of our first times with packed bikes, so it must just take some time to acclimatize. We passed another shop later down the road, and I needed a second opinion. The mechanic at the last shop had set us both up at 20 psi. Road bikes, lots of gear. Doofus. We were now formulating an idea about the cycling community of Montreal, and it was bleak.

Our first night was going to be in Saint Jean sur Richelieu, some 30 miles away, and the day had just started. We were cagey to get riding, but this spot was the only reservation we kept for the trip, and the camping options were limited. It is in these moments that I fail as a traveler. Spend an afternoon sightseeing? Nah. Go to a museum? Only if I have the flu. Go shopping? My bags are already full. So we cruised around town to have an afternoon of drinking, and slowly crept to our destination.

Riding around Montreal was chaotic. The traffic was ferocious, and we witnessed two car accidents that afternoon. But, we didn't fly all that way to ride around a city. At the Airbnb, an extremely friendly, overweight, shirtless, wall-eyed french Canadian opened the door. Meh. Nice guy, I'm awkward, who gives a shit, let's sleep. He introduced us to his girlfriend, who we were unable to communicate to, but she gave us plenty of bottled water. They stayed up late playing tetris. We both took long showers and aired out our kits. Then a fucking freight train comes barreling by. We were too excited to get much sleep that night anyways. We were ready to get out of Canada.