Posted by: Ian | August 22, 2012

Cycling in Acadia National Park

At the weekend we arrived in Maine. We’re staying a few miles outside Bar Harbor in an area that promises great cycling.

My first few excursions have been the obvious ones. On Monday I went out very early (about an hour after Paula) and found myself drawn, as if magnetically, to Cadillac Mountain. This is the highest point hereabouts. From sea level, where we are, you climb about 500 feet to get to the start of the road up the mountain and then you have a 3.3 mile climb of just under 1,000 feet. The average gradient, if you work it out, is 5.4% and it never feels far from that. The views out across the Maine coast are spectacular.

There is a car park and shop at the top but at the early hour that I was out I only noticed one car. There were, though, several bikes already whizzing down the hill as I rode up it and I passed a few more cyclists who were also making the ascent.

Later, I went out for a ride with Paula, Zoe and Heidi. They have all rented bikes and we went for a 10 mile spin to check them out. They’re fine and everyone enjoyed cycling in a place that’s less lumpy than our part of Somerset.

This morning, also early, I did the other really obvious route: the scenic circular loop road through Acadia. This was a 35 miler, and a fast one, also with beautiful views.

As you can see, I’ve got the Astraeus with me. Picking it up at Boston airport, I was so pleased I’d brought a metal rather than a carbon bike. My bike bag was lying on the floor in the baggage hall and the handlers had thrown a bag of golf clubs on it.

Again, my ride this morning was very quiet and for most of the time it felt as if I had Acadia to myself: in the most popular section of a major National Park on a sunny day in August I passed only six other cyclists and saw maybe a dozen cars. In fact it was pleasantly eerie. As I entered the Park I noticed a white caterpillar on my leg; it stayed with me for most of my ride, although when I was back it had gone. At one point, looking to a rocky coastal bluff to my left it seemed as though a figure was standing looking down at me. I looked again and he wasn’t there. At another point, I heard some noises from the woods. Peering through the trees, I saw a man (real this time) who was moving furtively and looked as if he were aiming a gun at something on the forest floor. I was cycling very quickly and didn’t slow down.

My expectations of Maine are coloured by our last visit. Then, we stayed for a month in a small cabin on a lake and one night I awoke and saw a ghost.

Shortly after I got back I was out again for another 23 miler to take Paula up Cadillac Mountain (I now have an improved, slightly shorter, route). Being much later in the morning it was far busier. Cars passed us all the way and the car park at the summit was completely full.

As we rode up, I saw a guy coming down shouting with exasperation at a Volvo that was holding him up. I felt for him. I had ridden up more slowly this time and was in the mood for a quicker ride down myself. It’s a fun and quite easy descent but it’s not only safety you have to balance against speed but also consideration of how much you’re prepared to violate the 25 mph speed limit. I opted to be reasonably fast without being flagrantly in excess and averaged a shade over 28 mph. Obviously there are many who go all out as my downhill time was only enough to place me 53rd out of 198 on Strava. I wonder whether the local police ever think to check out the site and contact those of us who so conveniently and conclusively document our own transgressions. Ironically, Strava (about which I have very mixed feelings) would then be serving both sides of the law, being as amusingly useful to the police as it is to bike thieves, for whom it presents a listing of which bikes are being ridden together with the domiciles and regular travel patterns of their owners.

Incidentally,  it appears that women are either more law abiding or less stupid about setting down the details on Strava when they speed. Five women have recorded better times than my climb time on Strava but none has recorded a faster descent.

Over the next week or so I intend to head further to the west of Acadia. I’d say that I expect the roads there to be less visited but, as I’ve written, even the most well known routes are quiet in the mornings. I’m really looking forward to exploring more.

While the cycling is fantastic, I’ve had a few minor niggles. First, I’ve had a couple of punctures today from failing patches. I use the easy, glueless patches from Park and almost always use them to fix punctures at the roadside. I’ve been doing it for ages and never had a problem so it’s weird to have two fail today within minutes of each other. They were against different parts of the tyre, and I can find nothing in it to compromise the tube.

The second niggle is that I have a couple of Lezyne pumps that screw onto the valve and recently they’ve been removing the valve cores when I unscrew them. Again, this is something that I’ve done countless times without any issue that has suddenly started to trouble me now.

I expect both of these to blow over. The third niggle is the worst. When I wrote about my previous ghost sighting above I was going to link to a blog that I wrote at the time. However, I find that Apple has derogated both homepage, where the blog site was hosted, and MobileMe, where my primary backup of all of the html pages was kept. I have all the text in a document (over 350 pages) and I’m pretty sure I have the html on CD’s somewhere at home. I know Apple have been warning about this but it doesn’t stop me hating them a little.



  1. […] my last post I’ve been out on more rides around Acadia. The most extensive of these was a circuit that […]

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