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Need to learn to ride a bike? Ask Fred Robie!

By | Coalition News, Stay Safe, Travel

Portlander, Marissa Simoes is off to Armenia, where she will spend the next 27 months as part of the Peace Corps.  In Armenia, a bicycle will be her primary mode of transportation.  She hadn’t ridden a bike since she was young and needed a lesson.  Who best to teach her?  Fred Robie, Bicycle Coalition of Maine board member, Bike Swap leader and veteran bike safety instructor.

Watch this movie, “Before you pedal off, how to be safe on your bicycle”, where Fred teaches Marissa to ride again.

Bicycle Coalition of Maine Announceds 2012 Super Raffle Winners

By | Coalition News, Events, Travel

Rich Cromwell’s wife convinced him to buy a ticket in the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s 2012 Super Raffle because of the grand prize – a cycling vacation in Tuscany donated by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.  Valued at as much as $3,145, the 10-day trip includes accommodations, sightseeing and Italian cuisine.

Cromwell, who lives in Brunswick, has taken long, unsupported bike rides in Third World countries, sleeping in schoolyards or the homes of villagers.  The Tuscany trip offers an entirely different experience.  When his wife, Christina, heard about it, she told him, “That’s a trip I would do.”

Rich Cromwell is the lucky winner of the Super Raffle’s grand prize.  Of the 238 tickets sold, his was selected on the first day of spring, March 20.  “That’s unbelievable,” he said, adding that he couldn’t wait to tell his wife. 

Four other people also won great prizes in the Super Raffle.

John Wilson of Pinckney, Michigan won the second prize, a Trek 1.1 road bike valued at $679 that was donated by CycleMania.  He purchased his raffle ticket in November, not long after returning from the Tuscany trip that his wife, Gina, won in the Bicycle Coalition’s 2011 Super Raffle.

Ethel Whitcomb of Belfast won the third prize, a Specialized Hardrock Disc 29 mountain bike valued at $559 that was donated by Gorham Bike and Ski.

Dana McEwan of Portland won the fourth prize, a Thule bike rack valued at up to $500 and donated by Rainbow Bicycle & Fitness.  “Nice!” she said, when called with the news.  “I never win anything!”

Jeanne Peckiconis of Kennebunk won the fifth prize, a Specialized BG (Body Geometry) Fit valued at $300 and donated by Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop.

All proceeds from the sale of the $50 tickets benefit the Bicycle Coalition’s work to make Maine better for bicycling. Thanks to all of the businesses that generously donated prizes to our raffle.  And thanks to everyone who purchased a ticket.

Biking Connects Brunswick Man with People Around the World

By | Travel

Rich Cromwell of Brunswick has mastered the art of meeting people as he travels by bicycle through Southeast Asia, Africa and other countries around the world.

He’s slept in the homes of Vietnamese and Lao villagers, helped Ethiopian schoolchildren practice their English and sampled burritos generously offered to him by campers and hunters while biking along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. 

Rich Cromwell

Biking in a remote floating village in Cambodia, Rich stopped to say hi to a boy in a yellow T-shirt who greeted him with a big smile.  The boy, named Ran, insisted that Rich tour his orphanage.  He saw how the 26 children had to take turns going to school because they shared eight sets of clothes and flip-flops.    

Rich stayed for a few days.  He told friends and acquaintances about the orphanage, and they donated enough money to buy clothes and other supplies.  A retired homebuilder, Rich returned with a friend last fall to make improvements to the facility, including a new water filtering system.

Rich, 65, describes bicycling as “the perfect speed to travel” because you can see so much.  Biking has taken him from Midcoast Maine (where he rides with the Merrymeeting Wheelers) to eastern Africa.  The people who he passes on his travels inevitably want to talk to him, even if they don’t share the same language.

“If you want to connect with the community,” he says, “…that’s definitely the way to go.”

Traveling from Hanoi through Laos and Cambodia, Rich often stopped at schools along the way.  “They’re just aching for English speakers” to practice with, he said.  Some schools invited him to stay for a full day to talk to students.

Rich has biked through many remote areas with no hotels.  He makes the sign for sleep and soon families offer him a place in their homes.  He pays the going rate for a moderately priced hotel and that make his hosts “extremely happy,” he said.

Last year, Rich spent a month biking across Africa’s Danakil Desert, known as the hottest place on earth, as part of an expedition sponsored by the Ethiopian government.  They picked him as their “token senior,” he said.

The expedition stayed at local schools and donated soccer balls, pens and papers at each stop.  “Sometimes, I’d teach an English class,” Rich said.  Since returning home, he has corresponded by e-mail every month with a couple of Ethiopian children who he met along the way.

Rich’s approach to bike touring carries lessons for people who ride much shorter distances and even those touring close to home.  Arriving in a town on bike naturally starts conversations – and the more you get to know the people who live in the area, the richer your experience.


Shoshana Hoose, Communications Director