Posted: September 1, 2017
Take a bike: Maine’s best places to rent and ride for all skill levels
Written by: Leslie Bridgers
Up Next: 6 Maine islands to visit in the fall
Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for most kids. And even if the riding ends there, the skill gets so emblazoned in your memory that the fact you’ll never forget is a cliché. Although bike riding may not be among your regular activities, it can be a great way to spend a day on vacation – or just a day off – getting to take in the sights and fresh air, while getting exercise that will help justify an indulgent meal or ice cream cone later. Most of Maine’s hot destinations have bike rental shops that will get you fully equipped and send you off on a route based on your experience – often straight from the store. Here are some recommendations for where to rent when you’re visiting the state’s most popular travel spots, which also happen to have some of the best biking.
Acadia National Park bike patrol volunteers Charlie and Marsha Lyons give directions to the Duclos family of Amherst, N.H., before they head out on the carriage trails at the parking lot near Eagle Lake. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Acadia National Park
Located in the hub of Mount Desert Island, the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop offers half-day, full-day and weeklong rentals, as well as child's seats, handlebar bags and car racks, though you can ride right into nearby Acadia National Park from the downtown shop. The shop also provides free maps (as well as helmets and locks) with your rental, showing routes all over Mount Desert Island, and the staff is happy to provide recommendations based on your time and riding experience. The 45 miles of carriage roads – the gift of John D. Rockefeller – are particularly popular. Reservations can be made easily online, as long as you do it at least 48 hours in advance.
Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop, 141 Cottage St., Bar Harbor, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, $25 per day, 288-3886. barharborbike.com
Darby Urey bikes on a trail at Ragged Mountain in Camden. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Sidecountry Sports' two midcoast locations offer a variety of bicycles for every experience level and type of riding, from downtown streets to island trails to the mountains. The Rockland shop is right next to the ferry terminal, so you can rent a bike, head over to Vinalhaven or North Haven, ride around, get lunch, swim in a quarry and be back before the shop closes. Or staff can direct you on a 10- to 20-mile ride to the lighthouse at Owls Head. From the downtown Belfast shop, you can ride the rail trail along the waterfront, get off at the end and take a hike, then ride back. If you want try mountain biking for the first time or are already an expert, Sidecountry does free rides and demos for all abilities at the Camden Snowbowl every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Sidecountry Sports, 161 High St., Belfast, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 338-0008; 481 Main St., Rockland, open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 701-5100; from $25 per day. sidecountrysports.com
Jamie Brunaccioni, left, and Mike Heiden, both of Greenfield, Mass., follow their bikes up the chairlift at Sunday River. Staff photo by Joe Phelan
Maine's big ski mountains aren't just winter destinations. The Sugarloaf Outdoor Center has a bike rental shop that's open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day with a fleet of 18 mountain bikes and maps that will guide you through Carrabassett Valley's many miles of trails, starting from the shop. They're marked just like ski trails, so you can stick to the greens or head for the double-black diamonds, depending on your skill level. Also nearby is the Maine Huts & Trails system, where you can bike to a hut to get lunch or stay the night.
If you're a beginner bike rider, you'll want to stick to the roads in Bethel. The 13 miles of trails by the Bethel Inn are more for intermediate to advanced level riders (or beginners with a real sense of adventure) and are used in the winter, as well, when they also serve as cross-country ski trails. You can rent a mountain bike, fat bike or, for another $30, a higher-end demo bike from Barker Mountain Bikes and ride a couple miles over to the trail system, or the shop will shuttle you there. If you're staying at the Bethel Inn, you can also rent bikes from there. The most adventurous riders will want to head to the Sunday River Mountain Bike Park, where you ride chairlifts up to the trails and bike down. It's only open weekends Sept. 8 through Oct. 8.
Carrabassett Valley Bike, Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, 5092 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, $35 for four hours, $50 for full day, approximately Memorial Day through Columbus Day, 671-3560. On Facebook
Barker Mountain Bikes, 53 Mayville Road, Bethel, open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, $35 per day, 824-0100. barkermountainbikes.com
Kendra Drinkwater, right, and her daughter, Sage, 9, left, spend the day visiting Kendra's mom, Paula Marquis, center, and enjoy some biking together along Back Cove in Portland. Staff photo by Jill Brady
Run out of a shipping container on the Portland waterfront, the Portland Encyclepedia is a rental-only shop that provides maps to send riders out based on their interests. You can follow a route that takes you to multiple lighthouses, another that will bring you to three of the best lobster roll spots or a third that passes by all of Portland's breweries. If it's just a scenic bike ride you're after, head right out on the nearby Eastern Promenade trail to Back Cove or over to Mackworth or Cousins island, both of which are connected to the mainland. Add $6.50 to your ferry ticket and you can take a bike over to one (or more) of Casco Bay's islands, though if you're headed to Peaks, you can save some money and instead rent from Brad's Bike Rentals. There's even a one-hour rental option – about the time it takes to do the 4-mile perimeter loop at a leisurely pace.
The Portland Encyclepedia, 6 Commercial St., Portland, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, weather permitting, May through October, $20 half-day (up to four hours), $30 full day, 866-857-9544. portlandmainebikerental.com
Brad's Bike Rentals, 115 Island Ave., Peaks Island, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through September, then weekends in October (with an honor system during the week), $10 for the first hour, $20 for three hours and $30 for the whole day.