Outdoor Adventures: Rides offer challenges and scenery
Cycling events, whether a charity century, hardcore race, epic mountain bike ride or fun recreational spin, offer opportunities for personal goals, exercise and camaraderie. Though many are Northern New England stalwarts, there are also some new entries on the scene this season.
If Iowa has the RAGBRAI, Maine’s gunning for BikeMaine, a week-long 400-mile cycling adventure through the heart of the Pine Tree State. The inaugural ride, presented by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, takes place Sept. 7-14 with a loop from Orono, including overnights in Dover-Foxcroft, Belfast, Castine, Bar Harbor and Ellsworth. Plans call to grow this year’s 350-rider cap to 2,000 with each year’s route showcasing a different region of Maine. The fully supported ride costs $875 and includes 18 meals. Figure on 60-70 miles per day largely on rural roads. More info at bikemaine.org or call 207-623-4511.
Also get in on another first in the Granite State, the inaugural White Mountain Gran Fondo. The Aug. 24 challenge modeled after popular races in Europe serves up three timed loops of 25, 50 and 100 miles as a way to raise money for City Year New Hampshire, a program working to help struggling students stay in school. Lots of elevation and scenery, there are various starting points but all end at Loon Mountain in Lincoln. The 50-miler starts from Bretton Woods and the 25-miler in Franconia. Sign up at whitemountaingranfondo.com.
Prefer the coast? Register for the 28th annual Seacoast Bike Tour, a fundraiser for Breathe New Hampshire (breathenh.com). There are one- and two-day spins from Portsmouth to Ogunquit, Maine.
Leave it to the Upper Valley’s Dick McKay to come up with two weekends highlighting both the region’s stellar cycling and quenching suds. Fifty Rides Fifty Brews takes place Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends featuring a multitude of rides, from easing along the Northern Rail Trail to climbing memorable hills or doing a century. Guests staying at McKay’s White River Junction hotels (Comfort Inn and Super 8) get cue sheets, can go on group rides and then are pointed to participating breweries (cost) and pubs (included) for beer. After June 1, guests at the hotels get cue sheets. Ride along the Connecticut White River and the Cross Vermont Trail. Participants get a copy of McKay’s cycling book Adventures in Paradise. More info at fiftyrides.com.
That Cross Vermont Trail continues to grow. Help fund it through the Cross Vermont Trail Association by going on the Central Vermont Cycling Tour June 16. Ride central is Montpelier, where cyclists – and runners – span out to traverse the area’s dirt and gravel roads with short (14 miles), medium (33 miles) and long (59 miles) options. Get the skinny at centralvtcycllingtour.org.
NEMBAfest is back at Burke in the pastoral Northeast Kingdom. After many group thumbs-up from last year’s inaugural festival, New England Mountain Bike Association members (and prospective members) return to Burke Mountain Ski Area and iconic Kingdom Trails June 21-23 for a weekend filled with group rides, an expo, demos, music and chances to ride the lift-served trails at Burke. Last year, legendary mountain bike pioneer Gary Fisher showed up. It’s affordable and camping’s encouraged. Sign up at nemba.org.
The Pats Peak Mountain Bike Festival has grown into something of an everyman’s weekend with three events for various types of knobby knocking adrenaline junkies. There’s the 24.12.6 Hours of Pats Peak racing with racers competing in a 6-, 12- or 24-hour race. The Pats Peak Eastern States Cup Downhill Thrill is for the exceptionally skilled and fearless. The Pats Peak XC Challenge also attracts top talent. It’s all June 8-9 in Henniker (patspeak.com).
Don’t forget Mount Washington and the ride that goes around the rock pile, not the races that go up it. The July 20 Mount Washington Century is a fundraiser for Tin Mountain, which provides nature education in area schools. With 40-, 80- and 100-mile options, cyclists pedal through some of the White Mountain’s most impressive scenery while conquering some serious elevation. The rides from Tin Mountain’s Albany headquarters use some iconic cycling roads like the Kanc, Bear Notch Road and Route 302 through Crawford Notch. Here’s a morsel: The century is actually a few miles longer. More info at tinmountain.org.
Okay, get pedaling.
(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)