Cyclist have several organized rides to choose from this summer in Maine that feature miles of rural roads, all leading to farms and other local food producers. Credit: Julia Bayly

Cycling enthusiasts and foodies are joining forces in Maine this summer, organizing rides highlighting some of the best routes and local agricultural products the state has to offer.

“Maine is becoming a cycling destination its own right, regardless of the theme of a ride,” said Frank Gallagher, communications director with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. “But we are seeing some great rides that are tapping into the ‘farm to table’ movement that seems to be defining the restaurant and foodie sectors in Maine.”

Looking ahead to organized rides this summer, events from southern Maine to the St. John Valley will give riders the opportunity to see some of the state’s most scenic rural areas while sampling some of its best locally produced goodies.

The gravel route

On June 23, hardcore road and gravel riders can head to northern Maine to take part in the FARM Ride with Fresh Trails Adventure.

With more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain more than 60 miles of paved and gravel roads, this ride is not for the casual rider and a mountain bike or road bike with puncture-resistant tires is recommended.

For those up to the challenge, the FARM Ride offers some of the best cycling on the back roads of northern Maine’s St. John Valley.

“It’s a way to take advantage of the roads we have around here,” said Matt Michaud, event director. “The gravel roads are plentiful, have less traffic and really gets cyclists into the the heart of the country where they can experience the true beauty of the area like the buckwheat and potato fields.”

The $30 registration fee includes snacks, mechanical assistance and a finish-line burger made with beef from local producers, beer supplied by Fort Kent’s First Mile Brewery and live music by local performers.

Farm to farm

Riders looking for something a bit less challenging, but every bit as tasty, can head to Wiscasset on Sept. 15 for the 19th annual Morris Farm Tour de Farms.

Sponsored by the Morris Farm Trust, a working and educational farm in midcoast Maine, the Tour de Farms offers four different routes ranging from 17 miles to this year’s inaugural 100-mile century route.

Along the way, riders stop at area farms to sample produce, beef, pork, poultry and other agricultural goods grown and raised in the region.

The best part? If riders like what they sample and want to bring something home, volunteers are on hand to transport purchases back to the Morris Farms for pick-up at the end of the ride.

“This event is for everyone,” said Angela Richards, administrative assistant at the farm. “The 17-mile ride is geared for families and we added in the 100-mile ride this year because we heard from cyclists they wanted that challenge of a century ride.”

Regardless of what distance riders choose, Richards said the idea is to meet local food producers.

“The whole point is to visit the farms,” she said. “And do some shopping to support [local producers].”

Registration for the Tour de Farms begins in May and the fee includes a post-ride feast at the Morris Farm featuring food from local farms and producers.

Get ready to Fondo

Don’t expect dry granola bars and orange slices at rest stops during the Farm to Fork Fondo Aug. 24-25 at Pineland Farms Inc. in New Gloucester.

Instead, this event that links riders, farms and chefs offers “small bite” delicacies created from produce on working farms along the routes.

Literally translated from Italian, a “fondo” is a “ride” and is typically a long distance ride, or “gran fondo” organized for large groups of cyclists.

Tyler Wren, owner of Wrenegade Sports and event director for the Farm to Fork Fondo, said he wanted to create a very inclusive and non-competitive riding experience when he designed his local food-centric fondo series.

Maine is just one of eight fondos in the series. Other rides will take place in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“The ‘farm to fork’ is a unique thing we created where you get to choose the distance best for you and ride farm to farm sampling gourmet food,” Wren said. “It’s a celebration of farms, food and fitness for everyone.”

Riders in the Maine fondo can choose from among the family friendly 10-mile ramble, the 35-mile “Piccolo Ride,” the 55-mile “Medio Fondo,” or the challenging 85-mile “Gran Fondo.”

“It’s just a lot of fun and a great way to see local agriculture at its very best,” said Matt Sabasteanski, outdoor recreation director at Pineland. “We are involved for those very reasons.”

Pineland is a 5,000-acre facility that combines a working dairy farm with miles of four-season trails for hiking, bicycling, snowshoeing and skiing.

“We work hard to keep the agricultural piece alive to show to the public,” Sabasteanski said. “The [Farm to Fork Fondo] really fits hand in glove with what we do with running events that keep people engaged and active in the outdoors.”

The fondo is designed with all levels in mind.

“We really pride ourselves on having riding options for all abilities,” Wren said. “At the fondo you will see the pro riders at the front and people on rusty bikes at the back and everything in between.”

Registration fees depend on the route selected and include pre-ride coffee, gourmet snacks at aid stations set up on local farms, a post-ride barbecue and live music at Pineland Farms .

“This event is all about showcasing the importance of farmland preservation and basically telling the stories of these farm families,” Wren said. “We also want to motivate the cycling community to support these farms.”

It’s not a tough sell, Wren said.

“We have a big following and had 500 riders in each of our last two years in Maine,” he said “Maine is really a great place to tell the story of local farms and farming.”

Apples to apples

Cyclists can finish off the season with the Maine AppleCycle on Oct. 13 at Shaker Hill in Alfred.

Sponsored by the Community Bicycle Center, the ride’s routes cover the 7-mile “Apple Seed Seven,” all the way up the the “You’re So Hardcore” 100-mile century.

Each of the four routes passes a selection of up to eight apple orchards along rural roads in York County where riders can stop for apple-inspired treats including cider and donuts.

The AppleCycle prides itself on providing a low-impact and sustainable experience with locally sourced foods, limiting disposable waste at rest stops and composting food scraps.

The registration includes fully stocked rest stops at participating orchards, support during the ride and a post-ride lunch.

“Cleary farming and local food is something people in Maine are interested in,” Gallagher said. “They want to know where their food comes from, what goes into and who it is raised.”

Rides showcasing local foods are a great way to get cyclists — always a hungry bunch — involved, he said.

“When you are on a bike you experience the world with nothing between you and the outdoors,” he said. “Stopping at these farms, you get a clear sense of what goes on there and taste some great Maine food at the same time.”

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.