Take the Tour de France. Throw in a few staples of Maine summertime — camping, tourism and local foods.
The result might look like something the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is planning for September.
BikeMaine is a fully supported seven-day bicycle tour of the state designed for cyclists comfortable with riding 60 to 70 daily miles and camping out at night. The inaugural route will start and finish in Orono, cover 400 miles and 24,000 feet of elevation, and make stops in Dover-Foxcroft, Belfast, Castine, Bar Harbor and Camp Jordan in Ellsworth.
“For our 20th anniversary we wanted to take on a new challenge,” said Kim True, director of the ride. “We think it will be a grand time for our riders and what we’re hoping is that it will be a driver of economic development for our host communities as well.”
True envisions an annual event that grows from 350 riders this year to 600 next year to perhaps 2,000 in the not-too-distant future. No other state in New England hosts such an event, she said. The closest is probably the Bon Ton Roulet, a week-long tour through New York’s Finger Lakes region.
“Each year it will be a different route,” True said. “We’re trying to have it be the second full week of September so we’re not interfering with Labor Day and we’re done before the foliage season gets under way. And there’s nothing like a fresh Maine harvest in September. It’s going to be primarily in-season, local food that people are receiving. I think that’s going to be a big draw.”
Planning for the event has been in the works for a year, True said, jump-started by a $50,000 grant from the Maine Office of Tourism. Half the field is reserved for out-of-state participants. The cap of 350 is designed to ensure a successful experience for the inaugural event.
“Unfortunately there are going to be a lot of disappointed people the first year,” True said. “We regret that, but we thought it best if we could start small and grow this in the right way. There will be plenty of ways to volunteer.”
The cost of the trip is $875, and includes 18 meals, baggage transport, mechanical and medical assistance, and other support.
For those who’d rather not bother with their own tent, a porter service is available for $400 more, and will include a tent, ground cloth, two chairs, and daily set-up and take-down.
“This is not for beginners,” True said. “We have plenty of other rides in the state for those beginners and intermediate riders. We suggest people have at least 1,000 miles (for the year) under their belts before they tackle BikeMaine.”
Coalition members (as of Dec. 31) have a 24-hour window to register for the event before it becomes available to the general public at 7 a.m. Feb. 13. More information is available at bikemaine.org.
“More tourists are coming to explore Maine under their own power — cycling, kayaking, hiking, canoeing — often described as adventure tourism,” said Phil Savignano of the Maine Office of Tourism, in a prepared statement. “BikeMaine will add to our draw as a tremendous outdoor destination. Over the years, BikeMaine will explore every corner of Maine and involve many Maine towns as host communities to welcome riders. This is a real winner for Maine.”
The Bicyle Coalition of Maine is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1992 and dedicated to making Maine better for biking.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: