The third annual BikeMaine, a weeklong ride organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, is set for Sept. 12-19, and it is expected to be the biggest one yet. During the 349-mile tour, an estimated 350 cyclists will pedal throughout southern and western Maine, camping at communities along the way.
“What we’re trying to do is develop bicycle tourism in the state and to economically impact small communities that don’t usually get that tourism,” BikeMaine Ride Director Kim Anderson True said. “We’re trying to educate communities about how to continue to attract cyclists.”
Each year, BikeMaine takes riders to different regions of Maine. This year’s host communities, where riders will camp, are Kittery, Old Orchard Beach, Bridgton, Bethel, Sweden and Kennebunk, respectively. Each day, participants will pedal an average of 55 miles, with optional 10- to 15-mile loops along the way for those looking to lengthen the ride.
Registration is nearly full, with only a few slots left as of Aug. 25.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to really see how diverse this state is,” True said. “We start off riding along the sandy coastline, playing on the beaches of Maine, then ride to a lake region and over to the mountains.”
Founded in 2012, BikeMaine is organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine — an advocacy group made up of the state’s most experienced cyclists and cycling event planners — with the support of founding sponsors L.L.Bean and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine, as well as many other sponsors and partners.
The event was inspired by Cycle Oregon, “The Best Bike Ride in America,” which started in 1988 and today attracts about 2,000 cyclists from all over the world.
“They try to get cycling to places that usually don’t see a lot of cyclists and really celebrate rural communities,” Mark Ishkanian, who is on the volunteer Ride Committee of BikeMaine, said. “This was our opportunity to do an eastern version.”
“The ride will never be as big as Cycle Oregon, which is on the brink of being a moving city,” Ishkanian said. “We’re hoping to get closer to 500 riders in the next few years so that the ride is economically self-sustaining and we can achieve the goals we’ve set.”
One of the priorities of BikeMaine is to positively impact communities and organizations involved. Proceeds of the ride go to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine to improve and strengthen cycling across the state, focusing on those communities featured the tour.
Each day, a community along the route hosts the riders for lunch. Each night, another community hosts the riders for dinner, entertainment and camping. Meals are prepared with high-quality local and seasonal ingredients, and the planned entertainment includes music, comedy and dance.
“For most of the communities, it’s a very sizable fundraiser they put together without having to worry about attendence,” True said. “The communities have been very appreciative of the fact that the riders are coming through.”
“There’s nothing quite like riding into a town and having people standing beside the road clapping and welcoming you wanting to show you their community,” Ishkanian said.
The inaugural BikeMaine tour was hosted in 2013, and registration was capped off at 250 riders, which hailed from 37 states and Canadian provinces. The ride generated an estimated $235,000 in direct economic impact.
The second BikeMaine, held in September 2014, again was limited to 250 riders and generated an estimated $395,000 in direct economic impact.
“This is the third year of our three-year startup plan,” True said. “We anticipate we’ll have the money at the end of this year so that we can start dispersing in the form of minor grants, giving back to the communities.”
These grants will boost communities’ biking and walking initiatives, whether its by funding the painting of bike lanes or helping to get a bike committee up and running, True said.
This year’s BikeMaine costs $925 per participant, and registration cap has been extended to 350 cyclists.
Each participant will receive three hearty meals a day; course support, including well-stocked rest stops, maps, a signed route, support vans, mechanical and medical assistance, and luggage transport; and the BikeMaine Village, a portable tent city that springs up where the tour stops for the night. The tent village includes hot showers, restrooms, bike mechanics, medical tents and a gathering place for cyclists.
And of course, all participants will receive this year’s BikeMaine T-shirt.
For information or to register, visit ride.bikemaine.org.