BREWER, Maine — Things got a little noisy in the banquet room at the back of the City Side Restaurant as the Penobscot County United Bikers of Maine’s 15th annual belt sander drag racing series got underway Saturday.
“When you can’t ride in the snow, this is the place to go,” member Heather Brayman-Mitchell said, adding that the races offer members — and the public — chances to get together while their bikes are in winter storage while raising funds for worthy causes.
The format is pretty simple. Two competitors at a time wait as the racing lights flash red, yellow, then green — then throw their levers to feed the power and watch as the sanders scream and skitter down the track, extension cords trailing behind.
There are three divisions — rookie, stock and modified.
Rookie racers get to choose one of four identical sanders provided for them at $1 a shot, said Brayman-Mitchell, who was last year’s champion in the rookie division.
The entry fee for the stock and modified divisions is $5 per race. In the stock division, sanders can’t be altered mechanically but they can be decorated, as was the case with entries called Orange Crush, Ten-Point Buck, Golden Heat and POS 1 and POS 2, to name a few.
Modified sanders can be altered in any way, as long as they’re still belt sanders.
But the races aren’t necessarily cut throat, with competitors often playing pranks on each other, as first-time racer Caleb Soucier, 16, of Bradley learned.
Brayman-Mitchell was his opponent. Although she told him how and when to hit the lever, she didn’t tell that the lever needed to be held down so his first attempt fizzled when his rookie sander stopped only a few feet down the 78-foot track.
“That’s how I win,” Brayman-Mitchell joked as spectators laughed. That match, however, didn’t count and the pair faced off two more times.
Though Soucier did not advance to the next heat, he deemed the experience worthwhile.
“It was kind of fun,” he said.
The belt sander races are the signature fundraiser for the Penobscot County chapter of the United Bikers of Maine, according to John Rogerson, the chapter’s director.
The races typically raise about $1,200 a year, member Dale Holmes said. Proceeds are evenly divided among the local charities chosen for the year.
This year’s beneficiaries are the Shin Pond Cancer Walk, the Maine Veterans Center, Angels with Hooves, the Hammond Street Senior Center, the Old Town Animal Orphanage and the Maine Transplant Center, the latter of which Rogerson said is near and dear to his heart because he underwent a kidney transplant last year.
The rest of the races in the series are set for 1-3:30 p.m. at City Side Restaurant in the North Brewer Shopping Plaza on the following Saturdays: Jan. 21, Feb. 4 and 18, March 4 and 18 and April 8.