Ride Maine!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Maine is New England's largest state. One would assume therefore that the State of Maine would have the most riding. Well, it would except for one thing  — much of Maine remains undeveloped. In fact much of the state is unincorporated. This is a concept totally alien to people living in more developed states where every piece of land is part of some municipality.

The best riding in Maine seems to be centered near population areas. This follows the simple notion that areas that have a lot of people also tend to have a lot of trails. In the following article some of Maine's NEMBA chapter members highlight a few of these areas.

If you're planning a summer mountain bike outing and would like to sample something different, why not try Maine?

Carrabassett Region NEMBA

Riding in the Carrabassett Valley region is a visit to the wilderness, a chance to know it more intimately. Only here can you get on a dirt trail, cross a single paved road, and spend hours without seeing a car, while winding in and out of single track, double track and quiet logging roads with sweeping views.

The mountain views, the sounds of the rivers, the feel of vast timberland all around you slow down your mind even as your companions pick up the pace. The vast unspoiled mountain land is a big reason riders travel here.

One of the more popular rides heads up into woods across the Carrabassett River from Sugarloaf, offering glimpses of the Bigelows as well as rolling doubletrack through narrow old woods trails. But those just wanting singletrack don't have far to go.

Many loops start and finish at the Outdoors Center where not only new beginner and intermediate trails, but also steep and rock-laden singletrack is close at hand. The original singletrack that hugs the Carrabassett River is among the most popular.   —Deirdre Fleming

Penobscot Region NEMBA

In celebration of its recent founding as a chapter of NEMBA, several members of the Penobscot Region chapter shared some of their favorite areas to ride in the region.  
Downtown Orono —Orono Land Trust

The Orono Land Trust offers an abundant network of trails linked directly to downtown Orono. Parking near the local bike shop, Rose Bike, provides quick access to trails and convenient après-bike food and drink - or bike repair.

There are three general areas to ride: Piney Knoll Conservation Area, Jeremiah Colburn Natural Area, and Skylar Park, the latter two of which connect with Orono High School trails.

From downtown head east on Route 2 toward the high school and into a terrific network of fast, loamy, and just slightly rooty singletrack.  Here you can access a network of wider and smoother trails in these woods.  From the highest point head north towards Jeremiah Colburn Natural Area or south towards Skylar Park.  Heading south towards Skylar offers more of the same loamy soil with fun twists, turns, and dips.  Riding north instead takes you down one of the most fun, technical descents in the the area before crossing over Forest Avenue and climbing into Jeremiah Colburn.   

Jeremiah offers its own cluster of singletrack, most of it technically challenging due to the abundance of roots. Don't let that deter you: the trails are also fun and fast.  Ride up towards the highway and race the northbound cars on the "I-95" trail downhill towards the industrial park.  Turn eastward and a bit of pavement leads you back onto dirt and down to the Stillwater River Trail.  From here head south back to town or north towards the University of Maine trail system. Back in town cross over the Stillwater River onto Marsh Island and point your wheels toward Piney Knoll, which offers several miles of singletrack and doubletrack.  The terrain is generally rocky and rooty, but offers spectacular views of the Penobscot River.  Explore the area carefully and you might also find a real treat: the dirt roller coaster trail hidden in the woods. For more information and maps, visit oronolandtrust.org.  —Erik daSilva

Newman and Bangor Hills, Orono Land Trust

The singletrack on Newman and Bangor hills is technical, narrow, and twisty.  And steep. In one ride, you may travel less than five to 10 miles, but I guarantee you will enjoy every minute of it and be exhausted at the end of the ride.   

Now, the trails are designed for the advanced intermediate to expert rider. Of the various uphill sections, riders have been heard to say that the trails are 'impossible to ride.'   Especially during wet conditions. And you will find these trails slick more often than not.  The rocks and roots tend to sweat on hot humid summer days, and the fields of moss are always sloshy. These are also the days when the deer flies and mosquitoes swarm. So bug repellant is recommended.

The trails wind through a dense softwood forest.  Hemlocks, spruce, and cedar dominate the area.  Don't get me wrong; the trails are not muddy. The water all goes downhill.  There are very few mud holes. But fat tires are highly recommended.  A four-season Omniterra bike by Surly or Salsa rides like a charm out there. Those large wheels gobble up rocks and roots. A narrow handlebar width also makes sense.

The singletrack weaves into a gully between the two hills.  This exposed ledgy terrain is the steepest, and the fastest. These trails are among the few in the Penobscot Region that provide a ride with significant elevation gain.  These trails also parallel an abandoned railroad bed that is actively being pursued to be turned into a Rail Trail.  Eventually, this will be a place where riders of all levels can enjoy the terrain.

This area also contains a vast network of cross-country ski trails.  With the continued construction and maintenance of the singletrack mountain bike trails on Newman and Bangor hills, this area is becoming a four season, family-friendly recreational area.

Just off the Taylor Road in Orono, you'll find information, maps, and parking at the trailhead. For more information, contact www.oronolandtrust.org.  —Kris Sornberger

University of Maine, Spanning Orono and Old Town
The Old Town and Orono trail systems adjacent to the University of Maine are quite large to say the least. These trail systems are where mountain biking started for our area. You could say they are the heart of the Penobscot Region. The trails offer all types of riding that a beginner or advanced rider can both enjoy. In this network of trails you can ride a short three mile loop or a long 25 to 30 mile loop. You can also use these trails to access the other trail systems such as Newman Hill, the Veazie land trust, or even the Bangor City Forest.  

I grew up riding on these trails over 20 years ago. I have watched them change from less than 15 miles of doubletrack ski trails into about 40 miles of real single track. The trail system can be confusing at times. We have been working for the last five years to make proper maps of these trail systems and have been making great progress. If you are planning on coming to this area to ride, join a group or local shop ride to get the best experience. One of our main goals over the next couple of years will be to make these great trails even better and easier to navigate.  —Jeremy Porter

Perch Pond, Old Town
The Perch Pond area, located off the Kirkland Road in Old Town, offers the newest riding opportunity in the greater Bangor area. Several miles of new single track trails were cleared this past summer and fall and work will continue throughout the year.  

This 850-acre parcel, which borders the undeveloped Perch Pond (formerly Mud Pond) in Old Town, came under ownership of the University of Maine in 2010. In the spring of 2012, local mountain bikers were invited to help develop a sustainable multi-user trail system under the direction of university forester Al Kimball, the Forest Society of Maine, and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife of the the State of Maine. Since then over eight miles of single track trails have been cleared.  

The trail system at Perch Pond was designed to provide drier riding conditions during the wet seasons, better user access to Perch Pond, and challenging New England style technical riding. All new trails were designed and built by mountain bikers and are open to all users. The single track trails range from a half mile to 2 miles or more in length and will challenge both intermediate and expert riders. Users may spot moose, deer, porcupine, and other wildlife while riding. An abundant supply of wild blackberries will provide a sweet snack for late summer riders and post ride beverages can be found in the nearby college town of Orono.

Those who like the excitement of exploring a new trail system, and seeing the trails evolve, should visit in the early summer. By late summer, trails such as "Hundred Acre Wood," "Long Way Home," and "Twitch" will have become classics!  When the Perch Pond crew of Penobscot Region is not riding trails, they will be flagging additional trails, working with the university on building key bridges, helping with signage, and developing user friendly maps of the area.  —Deb Merrill

Bangor City Forest and Walden-Parke Preserve
Known affectionately to local riders as "the dump" or "the bog," the trails at Rolland F. Perry City Forest and Walden-Parke Preserve are a hidden surprise.

Less than two miles from the perfume counter at Macy's department store at the Bangor Mall lays an intricate web of rocky, rooty singletrack and easier double track trails, all contained within nearly 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat and working forest. This mountain bike network winds through towering spruce and pine trees, past pristine ponds and along narrow rocky ridges. Need to gear up before your ride - it's just a 5-minute drive from a Starbuck's latte.

The easiest way to access the trails is to park at the end of Kittridge Road, just off Hogan Road. There you'll see a field resembling a half dome-literally the capped former city dump. Over this sloping hill you pass birdhouses where red winged black birds fly about and down past an iconic beaver dam leading to the trail network.

There's something for every rider: from the smooth gravel path of Deer Trail to the rocks and roots of Bear trail to the woodsy path of Woodchuck. (This network, including the smooth West and East trail, is popular with walkers and runners, so be considerate.) In general, you get classic Northeast single track-lots of rocky, rooty trails.

Cross over to the west side of the old Veazie Railroad bed, and you enter the Walden-Parke Preserve, owned by the Bangor Land Trust, a 300-acre habitat that includes hardwood and softwood forest, vernal pools, and a large bog. Through the woods lies a series of less technical single track, but lots of fun, flowy loops through thick swaths of trees, along the edges of the bog, on top of rocky outcrops.

Unlike at city forest, the mountain bike trails are not marked, but local riders or the group at The Ski Rack, located just off the Hogan Road, can direct you to excellent trails: Charlie's trail or Ianazzi's or Hayden's.

For more information, check out wwwcityforest.bangorinfo.com or www.bangorlandtrust.com.

And enjoy this wild place so close, yet so far from the Bangor Mall.  —Mark Condon

Central Maine NEMBA

It was 1998 or 99 when I got my first mt bike of my "adult" life, I traded a couple of sleeping bags for it from a friend that had a bike shop in Rangeley. I was seriously overweight and out of shape from working 24-7 in my store and not taking any time for myself. My first summer was spent trying to ride 5 miles without having a heart attack. I did manage that and then discovered The Kennebec Highlands; it has been my favorite place to ride since. The Kennebec Highlands is an 8000+ acre parcel of conserved land located in central Maine just outside of the capitol district. It holds the highest point in Kennebec County and some of the best views in central Maine. It doesn't have much for single-track but has many miles of abandoned logging roads. The hills are long and steep that lead to beautiful views facing the Western mountains, you can even see Mt Washington in the distance. As I mentioned it doesn't have much for single-track, yet! CeMeNEMBA received permission from the Department of Conversation in 2012 to start building trails. At this point there is a 5-6 mile loop done with double that slated for 2013. I have been riding KH now for 12 years and love it every time I'm out there.

For beginners we have a small trail system in Hallowell called The Res.; which has 2 miles of great single-track and another 4-5 miles of old roads. If everything goes well, we'll have another 2 miles of trail this coming season. In the last few years many people have honed their skills at The Res and have now become very good riders tackling more difficult trails.

If faster and more technical trails are what you're looking for we have both Pine Ridge in Waterville and Bond Brook in Augusta. Interestingly enough both are located next to airports. Bond Brook has short steep hills with plenty of fast flowy downs along with tight, twisty, rooty sections as well. Pine Ridge has a few significant hills but it also has great single-track. With trail names such as The Canyon, Final Descent and OMG, you know you can have some fun.

CeMeNEMBA will be wrapping up a trail this season that will go from one side of the city of Waterville to the other side while only having to travel less than a ¼ mile on pavement. The trail will include some good sized hills, custom bridges, fast flowy singletrack and connect all parts of the city. Exciting times for CeMeNEMBA.   —Brian Alexander

Greater Portland NEMBA

Mountain Bikers traveling to the Portland region will discover a large number of trail networks with many miles of fantastic riding. Most of the towns around the region have trail networks. The challenge for a new visitor is linking them together where the trail networks don't interconnect. While there are a few places around Portland that offer a lot of mileage, many trails require connecting with a short road ride if you want long rides. For the best riding experience we recommend connecting with a local riding group on a scheduled regular ride, or ask someone at a trail head if they will tell you the goods or show you around. If you want to explore on your own, here are the 3 top picks around Portland for great trails, parking, nearby amenities, with well-signed and mapped trails:

Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal
With 20+ miles of excellent singletrack, plus a great campground to position you for easy access, Bradbury is probably the best known. The east side of the park has the most singletrack; trails like Fox, Ginn, Ragan and Lanzo are smooth and rolling, or try the unyielding "O" trail. There are also challenging short climbs and descents, and of course the roots and rocks. There are many fun bridges over wet areas, and the terrain varies but not a lot of vertical overall. GP NEMBA is closely involved with the park staff maintaining these trails to support all the traffic they receive. On the West side of Route 9 is Bradbury Mountain itself, towering to 460 above sea level. While not huge, it does add some great climbing and descending, but if you want more elevation, the west side trails can be steep, demanding, and rugged in places. Most hikers visit the west side and there are a couple hiking-only trails, so remember they are multi-use and yield accordingly. For the more adventurous, ride out the first part of the Bradbury-Pineland corridor trail to the powerline and back, explore Tryon Mountain, Thoits Brook and Chandler Brook along the way. Maps can be printed off the Bradbury website at www.bradburymountain.com, and all the intersections within the park are numbered to make it easy. Non-riders are only 10 minutes from Freeport, a shopping mecca.

Cape Elizabeth
Riders and hikers of all ages frequent the greenbelt trails winding through the forests that connect the neighborhoods and designated conservation areas together. A 7-8 mile loop can be connected which would include Winnick Woods, Robinson’s Woods, and the Gull Crest Trails in Cape Elizabeth.  All three concentrated riding areas offer miles of windy single track, good for beginners or advanced riders alike.  Trails will take you by beautiful ponds, over tricky bridges, and through technical rocky sections.  Beginners often enjoy Robinson's Woods well maintained outer loop as a great place to get a taste of New England riding! GP NEMBA has held many trail days in these areas, check out the bridges in Winnick and the boardwalk and bridges in the Cross Hill area just outside of Winnick. A local rider or GPS track can help you connect the trails, or print a map from the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust website http://www.capelandtrust.org/ trails.html or from the town of Cape Elizabeth website: www.capeelizabeth.com/government/ rules_regs/maps/ trailsmaps/home.html.

Blackstrap Preserve, Falmouth
Blackstrap Hill Community Forest and Preserve consists of two separate properties totaling nearly 600 acres, making it the largest block of contiguous protected open space in Falmouth. The southern portion is Falmouth Land Trust property and the northern end is town-owned. The property is almost entirely wooded, with the upper portion bisected by a utility corridor. The West Branch of the Piscataqua River runs along the northeastern edge of the property and several small streams, some within steep ravines, drain water from Blackstrap Ridge to the river. Several miles of trails are established on the property and provide a wide variety of recreational options, including some excellent, flowy-but-technically-challenging mountain biking. Be prepared to use your full range of gears and suspension on the ups and downs of this area's well-marked trails. The website describes how to access these trails, a map can be found on the Town of Falmouth website: www.town.falmouth.me.us/pages/ falmouthme_parks/trailmaps/BlackstrapHillCommunityForest.

While there are many other trails to explore in the Portland area, first-time visitors can have some great mountain biking if they stay at Bradbury Mountain State Park and then spend an afternoon/morning exploring Cape Elizabeth, Blackstrap Preserve, or joining a local group ride!  —Brian Stearns