BELFAST – Cyclists were gearing up Friday morning to ride around Belfast for the seventh annual BikeMaine event.
“BikeMaine is a seven-day cycling celebration of Maine’s people, places, culture and food,” said Will Elting, ride director for BikeMaine.
The goal of BikeMaine is to promote Maine as a bicycling destination. Along the ride, volunteers stop at local schools and communities to teach bike skills and safety courses.
“Our goal is to make Maine safer for bikers and walkers so that’s just getting us that much closer to our goal and making sure that roads are a place that not just vehicles can operate with safety,” said Eliza Cress, communication coordinator for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
The race began on Saturday in Waterville. Riders have the option to stay in tents along the way.
“It’s a great way to visit the state because we get to visit a lot of different little towns,” said rider Linda Prystay. “We also get to meet a lot of people.”
Elting said about 25 percent of riders are from Maine. The rest are from around the world.
Prystay and her husband traveled from Ontario to ride and it’s their first visit to Maine.
BikeMaine brings more than 400 riders to local areas throughout the state, creating a positive impact on the communities.
“When we bring this many people through town, they’re not just here to ride their bikes. They want to go explore, see the local galleries, museums, restaurants and shops and spend their money,” said Elting.
“They really embed themselves in the community in a way that a lot of other tourists don’t always do,” she said.
Elting said over the past six years, riders from BikeMaine have brought in more than $3 million to the state.
There is a registration fee. The money goes to the communities that allow the bikers to stay as well as to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s cycling and pedestrian initiatives.
Registration for BikeMaine 2020 opens Friday night.
“We want to make sure that if people are having a really good time they have the opportunity to commit to the next year right away,” said Cress.