Montreal puts the sizzle on its status as a cycling and cultural beehive with a bike festival from May 29 to June 5.

It's anchored by a bicycle tour of the city-island that rivals New York's Five Boro cycling extravaganza in size and adds a distinctive French twist.

Tour de l'lle de Montreal is the iconic event for a bicycle-mad city that Joelle Sevigny of Velo Quebec, the province's bicycle association and festival organiser, calls "little Copenhagen in North America".

The festival is far from little. The Sunday tour on closed-off streets on June 5, typically draws 25,000 people, and follows a Friday night ride that brings together 15,000 in good weather.


The classic Sunday ride is 50km, with an "express" option for fast cyclists to leave before the mob. Shorter hops are part of the mix, as is a 100-kilometre ride that ventures beyond streets closed to traffic.

Tour la nuit, on the Friday night, takes cyclists 23km and invariably brings out plenty of bikers and spectators in goofy costumes with some wild homemade illumination on the bikes.

Tour de l'lle de Montreal began in 1985 with 3500 people and mushroomed as the cycling ethic took hold. Cycling is a year-round form of commuting and recreation despite the bitter winters in a province that is home to Route Verte, the vast bike network that made Quebec the world's top cycling destination, according to National Geographic.

The Go Bike Montreal Festival opens on May 29 with "metropolitan challenge" rides in the countryside.

The main Sunday ride costs $30.50 to $41 (Canadian dollars) for an adult, depending when booked.