The Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which refers to itself as “one of the most effective bicycle advocacy groups in the country” on their website, took over the New Balance Student Recreation Center to host their annual Great Maine Bike Swap.
“The Great Maine Bike Swap is an opportunity where people can get their trusty old bikes out of the shed, garage [or] barn and put them under a fresh set of legs,” said Fred Rovie, a member of the Great Maine Bike Swap organizing committee.
For a $3 fee, interested sellers could drop off their bicycles at the New Balance Student Recreation Center on Saturday, and have it on display for the Sunday event. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine takes a $15 commission on all sales.
As for interested buyers, two basketball courts were reserved to display of a variety of bikes, gear and Bicycle Coalition of Maine merchandise. There was also an area for prospective buyers to test bicycles.
“Most of the bikes come from individuals who have outgrown a bike or they have a lifestyle change and they say, ‘I’m not riding a road bike anymore. It’s been hanging in the barn for 12 years; what the heck? Let’s get it out,’” Rovie said.
In addition to individuals bringing in personal bicycles, several older, formal bicycles from bike shops were also on display. According to Rovie, the prices of the bicycles range anywhere from $10 to $2,000.
“[T]here’s a lot of real nice, plain vanilla bikes that end up being here, and people get a chance to get a bike under them that they might not [have] otherwise,” Rovie said, adding that there are a few “dream bikes” at the Bike Swap as well.
“It’s a pink Serotta,” he said, recalling a steal earlier that day. “It’s a custom-built bicycle — a road bike. The original price on it was probably close to $1,800, and somebody got it for [$200]”
Rovie says he also enjoys the social aspect of the event.
“It also ends up being a really nice sociable event,” Rovie said. “I think we have seven bike shop owners that are here today, and they don’t often have a chance to mix and mingle.
“Some of us [who] have been doing this for a while, we get to see people that [we] haven’t seen in a long, long time,” he added. “One of the chaps I was just talking to owns three trikes, and he’s owned about six trikes. I sort of see him here, and I don’t see him other places.”
Aside from the actual bicycles, Rovie says the event is also great for cycling advocacy.
“[The] Bicycle Coalition of Maine is here, obviously, and we work on our safety education and access,” Rovie said. “The Bangor Land Trust is here [too]. One of the pieces we’re dear to is trail access. The newly formed chapter of NEMBA is here — the New England Mountain Bike Association. So there’s a lot of connectivity that takes place that is absolutely wonderful.”
According to Rovie, the Great Maine Bike Swap began when Davis Carver, owner of Bath Cycle and Ski, had a vision.
“Davis Carver had a vision and knew there was an opportunity to have bikes bought and sold and people would be excited to do that, and he ran the bike swap,” Rovie said. “He started the bike swap in Portland and ran it for seven years, and it never could get legs under it as a commercial venture.”
It was at that point that the event was taken over by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
“[W]hen we got a partnership with [the University of Southern Maine], that allowed us to really move ahead and bring it to a level where it’s financially sustainable,” Rovie said.
The Great Maine Bike Swap is one of many events put on by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a group that, according to their website, leads the effort to improve biking in our state.
“[T]he real [purpose] is to make Maine a better place to bicycle, because it’s got some really, really cool places to bike and there are some really great people here,” Rovie said. “Ten years ago, if you talked about a state where bicycling was [great], everybody would say, ‘Vermont!’ Well, Vermont spent years just saying, ‘Vermont’s great to bike!’ They don’t have any different facilities [than Maine], and they don’t have the coast. Their roads aren’t that much different from what we have here.”
The newest event from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is BikeMaine, set to take place from Sept. 7-14. According to the BikeMaine website, “In the inaugural BikeMaine ride, 350 riders will pedal 60-75 miles daily across Maine’s varied landscapes on a fully supported ride, camping along the way in friendly and unique communities that will highlight what makes Maine great. Riders will enjoy meals featuring seasonal local foods and local entertainment and, through their presence in each community, will help support local Maine economies.”