To our readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century type story, ... Click here to continue

Getting to know the Midcoast on two wheels

BikeMaine 2019 tour stops for two days in Belfast
By Fran Gonzalez | Sep 16, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Riders relax after reaching Steamboat Landing Park along the Belfast waterfront Sept. 12. The riders are part of the seventh annual week-long BikeMaine tour, visiting areas along the Midcoast.

Belfast — "We've had a lot of hardships," one bicyclist said of the BikeMaine tour so far. "1,600 feet and climbing," he said, referring to the up-and-down unforgiving landscape comprising Midcoast Maine.

The first of the 450 BikeMaine riders began arriving at Steamboat Landing Park after 1 p.m. on Thursday, setting up tents and taking a load off.

It was the fifth day of a seven-day Midcoast tour covering approximately 325 miles with previous stops in Hope, Damariscotta and Rockland. After spending two days in Belfast, the tour was expected to culminate back at the starting point in Waterville on Saturday.

A traveling tent city, complete with a fleet of U-Haul trucks lugging riders' tents and gear and a rig providing hot showers, took over the green space next to Belfast Boathouse. Multi-colored tents, bicycles and a beer tent sprang up in short order as well, followed by many riders taking the Harborwalk downtown.

A yoga class could be seen at one end of the park, while several riders chose to sit back by their tents with a beverage and enjoy the company of newly made friends.

Bicyclists could have dinner at United Farmers' Market or venture downtown and discover all Belfast has to offer. The Leaky Boot Jug Band provided entertainment Friday night.

Self-described "avid riders" Jon Liebman and Anne Fine of Western Massachusetts said they were enjoying the tour. Both have done the tour previously. "Every year the ride is really beautiful," they said.

Fine said it was definitely strenuous but the weather had been perfect. She has been to Maine before, camping at Camden Hills State Park and visiting in winter as well.

"It's nice to come back," she said. "It's been really wonderful."

Liebman said they took a kayak tour of Rockland Harbor and it was interesting to see the fishing industry vessels juxtaposed with expensive yachts.

According to the couple, they narrowly missed the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on Sunday with a line of dark clouds following them that day. By nightfall, the rain started, but Liebman said it was not a total washout.

BikeMaine's Eliza Cress, communication and development manager, said on check-in day Saturday, there was a hard rain falling in Waterville. But for most of the tour, the riders were "lucky" when it came to weather.

Cress said it was her first tour and she had not ridden yet, but was looking forward doing a loop tour around the Belfast and Swanville areas to get a "rider's perspective."

On the longest day, she said, the group rode 68 miles. The shortest trip was 52 miles.

"The ride could not have been possible without the selfless volunteer crew," Cress added. "We couldn't imagine pulling it off without them."

Will Elting, BikeMaine's ride director, said this year marked the second time the tour has come through Belfast. In 2013, he said, the tour consisted of 150 riders. The ride has grown every year, he said, adding, "Belfast is such a phenomenal venue."

Two riders — one from Kansas, the other from Minnesota — sat under the gazebo taking in the scene.

"It has been a wonderful ride with great scenery," said the Kansas rider. "And the food is hard to beat."

The rider from Minnesota said she was impressed by the number of hills and steep grades.

"Downhill you really have to hold onto your handlebars," she said.

"The overnight towns have been very welcoming," she added. "You get a real flavor of what Maine is like. I will be back."

The event is designed to promote Maine as a bicycling destination and to bring new focus, attention and dollars to the regions the riders pass through.

Proceeds from the event support BikeMaine host communities and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s cycling and pedestrian initiatives.

Locally, the effort to bring the cyclists to Belfast has been a collaboration of Belfast Parks and Recreation Department, Waldo County YMCA, Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce and Our Town Belfast.

"What could be better than camping with a view like this," Cress said, looking out over Belfast Bay.

BikeMaine riders take a load off, playing music and dancing at Steamboat Landing Park in Belfast Sept. 12. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Communication and Development Manager for BikeMaine Eliza Cress said 450 riders are about the most that venues such as Steamboat Landing Park can accommodate, shown here Sept. 12. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
A day of riding is done and attendees socialize, relax and take in the view from Steamboat Landing Park in Belfast Sept. 12. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
The breeze off the ocean made for a good drying day Sept. 12. Riders settle in at Steamboat Landing Park on the fifth day of a seven day BikeMaine tour. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Jon Liebman and Anne Fine, riders from Western Massachusetts pictured Sept. 12, said some parts of the tour were strenuous, but for the most part, they describe the ride as relaxing. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
BikeMaine riders setting up their tents Sept. 12 at Steamboat Landing Park, Belfast. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at waldo.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at waldo.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.