Northeast - Cycling Maine
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02-20-12, 08:53 AM
We're considering a cycle tour of Maine this summer. We live in Colorado and have never been to Maine. An internet search led to a company called Summer Feet that offers organized and self-lead tours. We're more inclined to do the self-lead tour but the cost for the Summer Feet tours is $1500 - $1600 per person for 6 - 7 days.
Several years ago we did a self-lead tour in western Canada. It was pretty easy to organize and the only thing we don't want to do is carry our gear from lodge to lodge. I Canada we used a bus company to haul our bag.
So, for those familiar with Maine, I have several questions:
1) When is the best time of year? A native suggested that July & August were nice but September would be less crowded. Weather-wise we'd most like to avoid rain.
2) The Summer Feet tours list a Gold Coast tour that includes Acadia NP, Bar Harbor, Mt Desert Island Schoodic Peninsula, Camden, Penobscot Bay, Ilesboro and Rockport.
They also have a Pedal The Coast tour that goes from Kittery almost to the Canadian border including Boothbay Harbor, Pemaquid Point, Clark Island, Camden, Castine, Blue Hill and Acadia NP.
We'd like to ride 30 - 60 miles a day (on a tandem). Do either of these routes sound better (or suggest another)?
3) As far a hauling a bag lodge to lodge: In Canada we used a bus line but that probably isn't an option in Maine. I was thinking maybe of a courier or maybe taxis. Any other suggestions?
Thanks in advance.
John in Colorado.
02-20-12, 09:21 AM
July/August is the busiest time of year in Maine; most tourists on the road. I'd shoot for early September.
The Summer Feet itineraries sound like you'd hit most of what you'd want to in ME. Really depends on what you want to do and see. The Pedal the Coast tour might allow for a broader ME perspective; the Gold Coast tour would be a fantastic mid-coast excursion limited to some of the more touristy areas.
If you're considering the Pedal the Coast tour, you might also consider an Eastern Trail (http://www.easterntrail.org/)route, starting in Kittery, ending in Casco Bay, which is part of the East Coast Greenway (http://www.greenway.org/me.aspx)through ME. Might make a great basis for an independent tour through ME and you'd get to see a bit more than just the touristy coast.
Taxi service is a bit sketchy, I'd hesitate to recommend it, so Courier service is probably your best bet. Concord Trailways serices ME by bus, I believe up through at least Bangor, but no idea if bus stops would be convenient for a bike tour itinerary.
Just a note: if you're starting in Kittery, be sure to start in Kittery, not Portsmouth NH -- the Memorial Bridge, only legal to cyclists bridge between NH and ME until heading north in NH to Dover NH, is out of commission for repair through 2013...
02-20-12, 12:03 PM
Thanks for the reply. I really know nothing about Maine. We're not really looking for the "most touristy" areas - just the most scenic and bike-friendly. This may or may not be the same thing. The Summerfeet tours sound good but I thought we could do a similar tour for less if we can figure out how to trasport our bag. A Summerfeet trip for 2 would be $3000 to $3200 including lodging. I'm guessing that we could get 6 nights lodging for $1200 - $1500. If we can get our bag hauled for $50/day (?) that leaves quite a bit left over. I'll look into the courier.
For cycling, the coast is more interesting than inland. Inland Maine, north of Augusta is hills, mountains, trees, rivers, lakes, streams and not many people. Also, you have few choices of route since there aren't many roads. Great for backpacking (Baxter is amazing!), fine for paddling, but not so much for cycling, especially if you aren't camping. The coast, from Kittery up to Mount Desert Island is beautiful, and for that reason heavily used by tourists & summer folk. Route 1 is the main through road, but there are many side trips you can take around the bays, and there are some alternatives to Rt.1 that are less traveled. Northeast of Ellsworth/Acadia/Mount Desert it stays beautiful and is much less touristy. Fewer towns, fewer roads, fewer people, but just as dramatic a coastline. Bigger tides, too.
Early summer can be difficult because of blackflies. July & August are peak tourist season. Past Labor Day, things are much quieter and it is still warm.
Hope this helps!
02-20-12, 09:05 PM
Great idea to come to Maine! Search some of the many organized group rides. There are plenty. Dempsey challenge, lobster ride and roll, light house tour, cadillac challenge etc. coordinate with one of those maybe. They are well organized and all in great places. Even just look at the route and do parts of them. My favorite is the Maine bike coalition lobster ride. Really pretty and it goes by the light house that Forest Gump ran to in the movie.
02-21-12, 07:12 AM
I found General Courier that says they can haul our bag for a reasonable fee. I think we may shoot for the week after Labor Day. However, we're on a tandem and my wife's knees are getting pretty bad. She may have to schedule knee surgery so the ride will have to be planned around that.
Thanks for the info.
02-22-12, 05:46 AM
We're not really looking for the "most touristy" areas - just the most scenic and bike-friendly. This may or may not be the same thing.
Pretty much. Most touristy for a reason, the Gold Coast encompasses most of what people come to Maine to see. I don't think you can go too far wrong if all you do is stick to that area -- it is gorgeous, scenic; you can get lobster, and the natives speak with an accent. My druthers would be to visit the area after tourist season in early September. Absolute busiest tourist period is last two weeks of July - first two weeks of August, so last week of August works, too, but after labor day, number of drivers on the road drop nearly in half. Later in September and you may run into some weather, although this past year would have been fine.
02-24-12, 02:42 PM
I live in Kittery and may offer a bit of help. At the welcome centers here in Maine they offer " for free" Explore Maine by bike. It offers all kinds of info. loops. tours, lodging etc... Lots of scenic tours and safe routes as well. Might want to give them a try and get your hands on one.
02-26-12, 06:53 PM
Give the fine folks at the Bike Coalition a shout. They should be able to help you out.
02-27-12, 08:56 AM
Great - thanks for the tips & help. She now has surgery scheduled for late May. With any luck, we may still be able to plan for early September. I'm thinking for 6 days somewhere between Bath & Bar Harbor. I'll try bikemaine for some routes and see what lodging I can work out.
One option you might want to consider is to rent a van and do day trips.
You could fly into Portland and out of Bangor
You could get a book like 25 Bike Rides in Maine, and do the ones that sound interesting.
We like the Lighthouse Loop (just outside Portland) Ft Popham, around the Schoodic Peninsula (Acadia's Oceanside Meadows Inn), the perimeter
road and carriage trails of Acadia, Islesboro and Blue Hill.
A ride I came up with goes up and down the Maine/NH border. You park at the post office in Kezar Falls, ride up 160 to Center Conway Rd.
You can stop in Conway and either have a short break, or go up to North Conway which has a ton of stores and outlets. There's a PI outlet there, Giordana outlet, 2 bike
shops, and you can check the LL Bean outlet for cycling stuff. Anyway, after the break, go down 153 to Andrews Hill Rd and through Freedom NH back to Rte 25. It's about 50 miles.
We like to go on the 3rd or 4th week of August. It rarely rains, and the temp is usually moderate.
Fave restaurants include J's Oyster Bar in portland... Round Top ice cream in Damariscotta, Gelatto Fiasco in Brunswick (Wild Oats Bakery and Little Tokyo) Cappy's Chowder House in Camden,
Moody's Diner in Waldoboro.
03-05-12, 07:57 AM
Thanks for the suggestion. My first guess is that a van rental would be expensive but maybe not much more than shuttling our bags.
03-11-12, 09:27 AM
I did a quick google and the first site that came up was http://www.exploremaine.org/bike/. It looks very good.
03-12-12, 07:56 AM
Thanks for the tip. My stoker has a knee replacement scheduled for Memorial Day. So, we'll have to see how she recovers. If it looks promising, I'll definitely order that book.
I also live here in Maine and second many of the comments. Here are a few quick recommendations:
- I'd favor September for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, but August would be feasible. There always seems to be more rain earlier in the summer.
- Adventure Cycling's path across Maine has a lot to recommend. They've done their research.
- Favor using wider tires since we have many roads with potholes and crumbling road shoulders.
- Whatever you do, schedule at least a few days for Acadia, including cycling on the carriage trails. It's my favorite place to cycle anywhere, and that's not compared just to the rest of Maine. I mean anywhere that I've traveled.
03-12-12, 10:57 AM
My cycling in Maine is limited to Acadia Natl Park (Park Loop Road and Cadillac Mt.) but I'll toss out one more thought. Be prepared for some hills. Not the 20-mile steady uphill grind sort of climb, but the repeated steep 1/2-mile sort where you grunt up then fly down then grunt up then fly down then grunt up then fly down. Low gears are good.
If your wife's knee is not yet in condition to withstand cycling by the Labor Day time period, you might consider visiting Maine anyway as a reward for suffering through rehab which I understand is a character building process.
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