Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bradbury Mountain State Forest: Maine Attraction

Maine: New England's blueberry stained flannel shirt wearing drunk lumberjack uncle,
covered in mosquito bites, who likes to go fishing and play pond hockey.
A short drive north of Portland, just outside the L.L. Bean mothership in Freeport lies the little town of Pownal, Maine.  There you'll find a sleepy little hamlet with a blinking traffic light, a church, and a country store.  If you're a mountain biker who likes to camp, you'll also find the best fucking mountain biking destination northeast of Sebago Lake.

Yeah, that's right Acadia... I just threw down the gauntlet.

I know the folks in Bar Harbor have already stopped reading this and are busily writing hate mail, but for the rest of you, let me make my case.

The western half.
On a recent trip to Bradbury with friends Andres, Keith and Jon, we split our riding into two entirely different days.  The first afternoon we spent our time on the most technically challenging trails.  And on the second day we cruised along on the flowier singletrack.  Unfortunately for my Maine friends Keith and Jon (of Burnt Meadow Mountain fame), they could only stick around for the first day.  Given that most of the group were riding bikes geared more toward hybrid worthy smooth singletrack riding, it was brutal.  By the end of that first day's ride, one rider had stared death in the face on a trip over the handlebars, while another had lost a rear rim.
Bradbury kicks ass in the bridge department.

We started on the western side of the park by taking on the Boundry Trail, and decided after getting about half-way around to turn back and hit the singletrack on the east side of Route 9.  There we made the ill advised decision to run the "O Trail".... as in "Oh my God when will this goddamn nightmare of a trail end!".  Each of these trails has sections of rock, which provide some nice drops and jumps, but the real challenge comes from the mass of slippery roots that smother the trails.  These make riding especially difficult on the O-Trail where you are constantly turning and climbing on roots.  Basically we picked the two most technically difficult trails in the park for riding cross country bikes.  Oops.

Luckily, the damage was easily mended by beer.

On day two Andres and I hit most of the trails on the eastern side of Route 9.  Where the previous day had been a constant battle with roots, on this second day we found the flow.

The eastern half.

We started on Lanzo, crossed Tuttle Road to Ragan, then onto Ginn, Fox East, Fox West, Ginn (again), down Ragan, down Fox West, and then out on the doubletrack.  Going by intersections we did the following order:  51, 52, 83, 77, 76, 72, 71, 70, 69, 68, 67, 66, 65, 64, 53, 79, 78, 73, 72, 76, 78, 79, 53 and out.  I would have also added Island, Batcave, and 54-57, as well as 57-62 for a little longer ride if we had the time.

The overabundance of roots as a technical challenge is the only negative with Bradbury trails, but such is Downeast biking at its core.
Keith tackling a rocky challenge section. No roots for a change.
 Bradbury also shines when it comes to camping.  It sits along the relatively quiet Route 9, and is a small campground with little in the way of traffic.  Although the sites are close together, there are a few sites (especially the coveted 6, 12, and 16 sites) that are separated from the campground by a short hike and stand of trees.  The biking trails run right by the campground allowing for easy access.  The campground has pit toilets, which keeps away the "non-pit toilet" crowd, but also has showers for decontamination after a long day on the trails.

In addition to the campground, there's plenty to do in the area around Bradbury.

Nearby Freeport, with its outlet shopping,  is a great resource for the mountain biker with a wife who doesn't appreciate the finer pleasures of singletracking.  Given that Freeport empties out for the winter, the outlets have excellent deals after labor day for those looking to fill gaps in their gear closet.

Did I mention that you can find cheap lobster on the Maine coast?  There's no finer pleasure than succulent bottom feeder meat boiled on the campfire and soaked in butter.  Given the smoky mess of eating a lobster in front of a campfire, I highly recommend a "lobster-shirt".  After all, there's nothing more depressing than crawling into your sleeping bag smelling like a fisherman who just lost his boat in a fire.  Well maybe there is... but it involves a pit toilet and a peeping fetish.

With excellent mountain biking, a comfortable camping area, and plenty of non-biking activities to share with those who don't share the addiction, Bradbury makes a great destination for families or roving bands of wild mountain bikers.

Here's the video.   (Make sure you take your anti-seizure meds, as I tried out a helmet camera mount for this ride, which was MUCH more shaky than the handlebar mount).  Enjoy.


  1. I refuse to read this article until you post the video!


  2. Keep it up and the video will be a continuous loop of you going over the handlebars.

  3. That is exactly what I want! -Andres

  4. Ask and ye shall receive. I just updated the post to add video... and although I didn't put you on continuous loop. I did give you a slow-mo feature!

  5. You're supposed to stay on your bikes. :)

  6. That was the plan. The "O" trail did not respect the plan.