BANGOR, Maine — The Bicycle Coalition of Maine unveiled Wednesday the route of the organization’s first-ever BikeMaine 2013 event, and 350 determined cyclists will spend seven days in September touring several popular destinations in eastern Maine.
The 400-mile tour will start in Orono on Sept. 7, and make overnight stops in Dover-Foxcroft, Belfast, Castine, Bar Harbor and Ellsworth before returning to Orono on Sept. 13.
Organizers unveiled the route during a press conference in Bangor on Wednesday afternoon.
“[This] is probably the biggest initiative that we’ve had in 20 years, and we see this extraordinary event as the vehicle that will bring the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s message and mission to all parts of the state, will showcase the fantastic biking that we have in Maine, and will realize the tremendous economic potential of bicycle tourism in Maine,” said Nancy Grant, the executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine during the press conference and reception.
The ride will be open to just 350 cyclists the first year as organizers strive to offer a quality ride for both participants and host communities. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine expects to expand the field to a cap of 2,000 after several “start-up years,” according to a press release announcing the event.
Mark Ishkanian, the vice president of the coalition’s board of directors, said he hopes BikeMaine will double in size in its second year, but said the event’s organizing committee won’t make that commitment until it analyzes the inaugural effort.
“We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew [by allowing too many riders in the field the first year]. We want this event to be successful right off the bat,” Ishkanian said. “We know we’re going to disappoint some people who are excited about the prospect of a seven-day ride. But we ask those folks to have patience with us, because we really want to put together a quality ride and we really think we have to do it in a thoughtful and considerate way.”
Future BikeMaine events will be staged in different parts of the state, with a goal to “explore every corner of Maine and involve many Maine towns as host communities to welcome riders,” Phil Savignano of the Maine Office of Tourism, said in the press release.
Ishkanian said that as the event changes venue from year to year, riders will learn to love sections of the state they may not be familiar with.
“Whether you’re a Mainer riding in this ride but you’ve never been to Aroostook County or Washington County, or whether you’re from out of state and you’ve only been to Portland, this is an opportunity for discovery for riders from wherever, to come to Maine and really visit our state in a way that is personal, and we hope is very affirming,” Ishkanian said. “Because you learn a lot about the state when you’re riding at 10 or 15 mph and you’re meeting people along the way.”
Of the 350 participants, who will pay $875 each to take part in the ride, half will be from outside Maine. That nonresident participation quota was among the terms agreed to when the coalition accepted a $50,000 Maine Office of Tourism grant.
Organizers expect the field to fill up quickly, and said those who were Bicycle Coalition of Maine members as of Dec. 31, 2012 will be allowed to sign up at bikemaine.org beginning at 7 a.m. Feb. 12. Registration to others will open at 7 a.m. Feb. 13.
Called a “400-mile celebration of Maine,” the tour package includes camping facilities (bring your own tent) at each stop, 18 meals, entertainment, and support along the route.
In a packet that answers frequently asked questions, organizers caution that BikeMaine is a challenge that is not suitable for novice cyclists.
“Proper training will involve weekly training distances of 100 to 150 miles and occasional single-day rides of 50 miles or more,” according to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. “This is not the type of event to ride your way into shape.”
The course will provide a challenge for riders not only because of the daily rides of 60 to 70 miles, but because of the terrain that will be covered: Over the course of the week riders will have to conquer climbs totaling more than 24,000 feet in altitude.
After it becomes firmly established and profitable, 60 percent of BikeMaine proceeds will be invested back in host communities in support of local cycling and pedestrian projects, according to the release. The other 40 percent of proceeds will be used by the coalition in support of its mission: To make Maine better for biking.
• Day 1: Saturday, Sept. 7, Orono to Dover-Foxcroft, 70 miles
• Day 2: Sunday, Sept. 8, Dover-Foxcroft to Belfast, 69 miles
• Day 3: Monday, Sept. 9, Belfast to Castine, 73 miles
• Day 4: Tuesday, Sept. 10, Castine to Bar Harbor, 62 miles
• Day 5: Wednesday, Sept. 11, rest day in Bar Harbor
• Day 6: Thursday, Sept. 12, Bar Harbor to Camp Jordan, Ellsworth, 69 miles
• Day 7: Friday, Sept. 13, Camp Jordan, Ellsworth to Orono, 57 miles