For the second straight year Maine was named the third most bike-friendly state in the nation by the League of American Bicyclists.

No surprise here.

And in addition to the kudos awarded our state, I’ve long thought that Maine has some of the friendliest cyclists around. And I’m defining friendly in terms of the overwhelming amount of riders who get out each season and pedal for worthwhile causes. Take the Trek Across Maine as the ultimate example.

Last year’s three-day, 180-mile ride celebrated the Trek’s 25th anniversary and had a record number of sign-ups — 2,600 — for the third straight year. And then the rain hit. The torrential rain. Rain that was causing streams where no streams had existed before when my friends and I awoke in our condo at Sunday River, ready and raring to go.

Or not.

“Obviously we would love to have beautiful weather, 70 degrees and a tailwind,” said Kathryn Libby, director of development for the American Lung Association, “but the comment we always hear from the trekkers and volunteers is ‘I can’t believe the attitudes.’ “

Downpours or not, Libby said only about 300 of the riders last year were bussed from Bethel to Farmington on Friday, meaning my group, which had two rookie riders in it, was well in the minority. We loaded our bikes onto a vehicle for transport to the first evening’s accommodations. As we rode, warm and dry in a friend’s Escalade, we were amazed at all the determined cyclists we passed.

“It was pretty phenomenal,” Libby said. “Most people said, ‘We’re wet at this point, we might as well continue on.’ “

With dry clothes and fresh legs, we set out on Day 2, the stretch that runs from the University of Maine at Farmington to Colby College in Waterville, feeling much better than many of our co-riders who had risen to the first day’s wet challenge. But as we pumped our way up hills and coasted down them, we couldn’t tell who had ridden the day before and who hadn’t. Saturday was a new day and everyone — everyone — was just happy to be on a bike.

“It’s such a different atmosphere (from other rides),” Libby said of the event that uses 650 volunteers. “It’s the biggest family reunion every year.”

If you’re looking to go join that crowd, the 2010 Trek is from June 18-20 and riders must raise a minimum of $500 to participate. As of Memorial Day weekend, 2,300 riders had signed up. The final day to register is June 11. See www.lungusa.org for details.

I’ve ridden in the Trek for five straight years and it’s been my best experience of the riding season five straight times. Rain or shine. The reasons? First, the volunteers, who consistently go above and beyond to make sure the riders are well cared for. And second, the riders who are somehow able to stay positive no matter what negatives cross their paths.

Unfortunately, Day 3 was another wet one in 2009 and we trekked from Waterville to Belfast in pretty steady precipitation. Of course, because it was raining and cold and the finish line was beckoning, I got a flat just before the second rest stop. (I couldn’t count how many riders paused to ask if I needed help.) But neither the weather nor the flat dulled the excitement of riding across the finish line with three of my cycling friends. It wasn’t the sunniest Trek I had participated in, but it was still 116.1 miles (that’s without the 63.9 miles from the first day) put on my bike for a great cause. And even for those of us who did Day 1 on four tires instead of two, it was plenty to be proud of.

IF YOU RIDE …

You should try the Tour de Cure through the Kennebunks on June 13. It’s a one-day trip that can last anywhere from a 5K to 100 miles. And those 100 miles won’t seem so tough when you’re pedaling along the ocean’s edge, past the Bush compound and down roads shaded by lush forests.

I can tell you from experience that it’s one of the most scenic rides of the summer. And the cause also is good — helping to find a cure for diabetes.

Emily Silevinac of the American Diabetes Association said the Kennebunks were selected because of their gorgeous views and bike-friendly nature. She’s expecting 600 riders for the Sunday morning event.

The registration fee is a very reasonable $25, but all cyclists are asked to raise additional donations for the cause.

Online registration ends at midnight on June 8 but walk-ons are welcome on the day of the event.

Check out www.diabetes.org/tour to get involved.

 

Deputy Features Editor Karen Beaudoin can be contacted at 791-6296 or at:

[email protected]