Feel the wind on your face and listen to the rhythmic tunk-tunk of wheels on railroad tracks during an easy-going ride on a railcycle.
These neat two-person pedal bikes are a hoot to ride, and railcycles make for a pretty unique and easy-going experience through the woods in Thorndike.
But first, it should be noted that it is generally frowned upon to ride a bicycle or otherwise loiter about on railroad tracks. Because trains. The railcycles on the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad Tracks were designed for the purpose and are used on a section of track that isn’t currently in use by trains. The good folks in charge are there to make sure you don’t encounter any locomotives.
Each railcycle seats two people, so you’re encouraged to bring your favorite person to ride with you. If you have two favorite people or no favorite people or otherwise have an odd person out, there’s also an option to book a seat next to the guide who’ll lead the trip. (A two-person railcycle is $32 for the one-hour ride. A seat next to the guide is $16.)
[Book in advance on Facebook or on the website.]
Rides begin from 37 Gordon Hill Road, Thorndike (the Farwell General Store – definitely check the place out after your ride). There you’ll be greeted by your guide (ours was Ally, and she was friendly and excellent), sign a waiver, and get a neon safety vest to wear during your ride (safety first!).
Then it’s time to ride.
The route distance can vary based on the group, but generally is around two miles each way. The ride out has a slight incline, and while these are train tracks and are relatively flat (this is hilly Maine, after all), your legs will feel that incline, at least a little.
But more than that you’ll notice the rhythmic tunk-tunk of the wheels on the tracks. And the ongoing woods that break now and then to reveal a creek or farm or cabin as you pass by. There will probably be butterflies and birds and sunshine glinting through the trees. It’s an entirely chill and calming ride.
At the halfway point, we got off our railcycles to turn around – and to watch some turkey vultures circling overhead – clearly they’d found something dead and delicious.
Turing a railcycle is a low-tech affair. It involves lifting the railcycle and physically turning it around and placing it back on the track. This means whichever bike was in the front on the way out will now be in the back. The way back is also slightly downhill, which means you can coast much of the way. How nice!
And eventually you’ll arrive back at the general store where you first started. And you should go it if you haven’t already. This space was originally storage and the general store was in the adjacent building, but that one’s in disrepair and funds are needed to fix it up. Inside the shop you’ll find a wonderfully curated collection of old goods – spectacles, shoes, books, photographs, buttons, and animal skulls – as well as newer items like note cards and notebooks and the work of local artists and basketmakers. It’s really cool in there.
Also make a point to stop inside Garden Variety, another cool shop that’s just around the corner, for a selection of homegoods, art, cards, kitchen items, kids things, and more.
Railcycles are accessible to lots of riders, even folks who don’t ride bicycles very often. Be sure to wear closed-toe footwear (no sandals, clogs, crocs, or open-backed shoes, either). Pedalers must be at least 10 years old and the weight limit is 250 pounds.
37 Gordon Hill Road, Thorndike (Farwell General Store)
$32 for a 2-person railcycle
$16 to ride with a guide
See the schedule and book your 1-hour ride:
This post was originally published on June 8, 2019