Bath Mountain Biking, Pt. 1: North Bath

It seems as though all throughout mountain biking culture everyone has their own particular trail system that they’re drawn to, whether it’s the local trails across town, a lift-access bike park, or anything and everything in between. There always seems to be a strong connection between a rider and his or her favorite riding spots, and the very reason we ride stems from that connection to some degree. I’ve always chased that feeling wherever I’ve spent my time living, whether in the Hudson Valley or Central New York. Only this time I found this feeling in my new home state, Maine. I’m currently living in Bath which is renowned for its naval history. I mean, it’s called the City of Ships for a reason, right? However, one of the things it’s not well known for (outside of local riders and builders) is its mountain biking scene. Sure, there are a more well-known trail destinations in Maine such as the Yarmouth West Side Trail, Sunday River Bike Park, and the Carrabassett Valley, to name a few, but I’m not attempting to establish Bath as the next big riding destination. Instead, what I’m trying to showcase here is a sampling of what my local trail system(s) have to offer. We begin with North Bath.

A dash of rocks with a large helping of greenery.

A dash of rocks with a large helping of greenery.

Located approximately half a mile from my apartment is the trailhead for the Whiskeag Trail, which is a 5 mile, multi-use trail that connects the YMCA in Bath to the Thorne Head Preserve. It’s popular amongst dog walkers, hikers, and mountain bikers alike, but is easy to feel the solitude provided by the trails and woods just north of the nearly 9,000 people that call Bath home. There’s not a lot of elevation to work with here in Midcoast Maine, but what is in abundance are roots, rocks, ridgelines, and a wonderful mixture of both deciduous and coniferous trees. However, because of the lack of elevation, one spends a shit ton (that’s an approximate measurement) of time pedaling. I know what you’re thinking, there’s nothing romantic or fun about pedaling, right? Wrong. Any rider who has spent time climbing in a saddle understands that there’s always some sort of masochistic duality between slogging up a technical climb and gallivanting down the other side. And that’s precisely the deal here: the consistency of short ups and downs is oddly satisfying.

There's a line or two somewhere in this rock garden.

There’s a line or two somewhere in this rock garden.

Nestled deep in the woods of the Whiskeag are plenty of features to keep the technical riders happy, as well as some of the more gravity oriented folk but make no mistake, these trails require just as much physical fitness as they do technical ability. When riding through the Whiskeag at speed you’re most likely to spend an equal amount of time picking a line through chunky roots and square rocks as you will breathing through every orifice you have, and that’s the beauty of the sport, eh?

Nothing wrong with a little gap here and there.

Nothing wrong with a little gap here and there.

An out and back on the Whiskeag and a few of its alternate trails brings you to about 9-10 miles of riding and just under 600 feet of elevation gain. It’s possible of course to get an extra mile or two up at Thorne Head Preserve if you’re looking to extend your riding a bit. For a trail network less than a mile away from my dwelling, the Whiskeag is a great way to stretch the legs out pre or post-work and offers riders with more of a “beginner” feeling compared to some of the other trail systems across town. If you’re around Bath long enough to get some riding in, I suggest starting at the Whiskeag and get to know the trails here first, as they’ll serve as a good introduction to the rest of the trails within the city limits.

 

I believe the word that captures this moment is serene.

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