There will be more updates in coming weeks with minor route changes because the Dunkin Donuts in Merrimac is no longer 24-hours (as riders and organizers discovered mid-ride in 2019) and Kennebunkport Bicycle has moved from the Arundel Rd location.
Start Location: Holiday Inn Express, Woburn, MA (See details below)
Start Time: 04:00 (both distances)
Length: 400k / 250mi (One-way 200km )
Time Limit: 27 Hours (400k) or 13.5 hours (200k)
Ride Leader: Tsun Au Yeung/Sarah Bergstrom
Controls: Woburn, Salisbury, York, Biddeford, Portland, Rollinsford, Exeter
Sanctioning: ACP for the 400k, RUSA-only for the 200k
Cue Sheet: See GPS tracks below (Use “Print Map and Cue PDF” link to customize cue printout if desired)
RWGPS Links (Map + GPS + Cue): Updated June 13, 2021 (not confirmed to be final until after the preride)
400k Full Route
200 (and 400k Outbound Route)
400k Portland to Woburn Only (Mostly useful for programming GPSs)
Registration: Open 5/24/2021
2021 Hotel Information: Note the hotel is not affiliated with the ride beyond this block of rooms and won’t be able to answer any questions. Please indicate you are looking for rooms when registering on BikeReg and someone will provide booking information. When at the start/finish please be quiet and respectful of other guests.
2021 Event Information: As mentioned above, the route and details are very similar as 2016 to 2019 edition. This is one of our more popular events and is a great “tourist” ride for those new to New England.
The Portland 400k is notable in that it has the least elevation gain per mile of any NER ride at approximately 35ft/mile for roughly 8800ft of total elevation gain. For comparison, this is only slightly more climbing then on the Boston 200k to New Boston, MA. That said, the 400k is constant short rollers so be prepared to always be climbing or descending — this is not a flat or easy ride.
Start & Hotel Information:
The ride will leave from the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Woburn. (315 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA) Riders planning on staying the night should reach out to ride leader and mark their intention when registered on BikeReg. The hotel has been kind to us in previous years but they are not officially involved with the event.
Parking: If parking in the the newly-reconfigured mall across the street, park as far away from stores in use as possible. If you would like a stronger guarantee against any possible issue with overnight parking, the Anderson-Woburn Transportation center (1 mile north of the start) and the Hill Street Parking Lot (at Montvale Ave and 93 (1.5 miles south of the start) are also available.
The ride will start outside the hotel near the Dunkin Donuts which will be closed at 4am. When riders finish they should come into the hotel. NER volunteers will be in the Breakfast room adjacent to the lobby or in the room indicated on the Brevet card.
Know before you go: This route has about the same number of turns as many other NER rides (which is to say it’s complex). Navigation with the cue sheet is possible (Pre-rides are navigated with the cue) but riders with a GPS that shows a track might feel more comfortable.
The outbound (coastal) section passes through many touristy spots and as a result riders should expect some weekend traffic. An effort was made to stay off the main roads whenever possible but some short congested sections are unavoidable when near the coast.
The routes uses 3 sections of hardpacked dirt bike paths for roughly 15 miles in total. This is not an “off-road” ride; the dirt sections are pancake flat and ridable on any type of bike. All path section will be ridden in daytime. However, riders should start the ride knowing 3% of the course is unpaved. There is also a small section (0.5mi) of flat, very well-maintained dirt road at around mile 190.
Detailed Route Overview
Leg 1: Woburn, MA to Salisbury, MA
With the sun rising at 4:32am riders won’t have much time in the dark. That’s a good thing as this first 30 mile section is one of the nicest, particularly so early when few drivers will be on the road. It’s about 10 miles to leave the Reading suburbs and then you’re in North Boxford, Andover, and Georgetown.
Going through Harold Parker State park will be one of the highlights. The roads have improved and the dense forest and lakes are as picturesque as they come. This leg marks one of the more rolling sections of the outbound portion of the ride but with fresh legs most should make good time.
In Newburyport riders will join the fairly new “Clipper City Rail Trail” which has perfect pavement as well as some nice trailside art. From there you’ll take the Rt. 1 bridge to Salisbury and join the Old Eastern Marsh Trail which leads to the Dunkin Donuts control. I was lucky enough to see a Eastern hognose snake cross the trail but others are unlikely to be as lucky.
Leg 2: Salisbury, MA to Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine
This section is the definition of pancake flat as riders are on the ocean for most of the distance. After leaving the control it’s only a few miles until you’re in New Hampshire, crossing an unmarked border in an a suburban area. (Look for the license plates to know when you’ve crossed.) Shortly thereafter you’re on Rt. 1 in Hampton Beach. Thankfully, given that most riders will be passing through between 7-8am you’ll miss most of the beach traffic. (You’ll also miss the arcades and boardwalk… sorry.) Enjoy the water view as this is the first NER ride to head Northeast to the coast.
After passing Hampton beach you’ll be in rich coastal communities and will likely see more cyclists than cars. The road hugs the coast as you pass the rocky shoreline. Provided it isn’t too windy many riders will experience their fastest moving averages in this section.
The route turns inland around mile 50 and cuts though Portsmouth New Hampshire before crossing the recently renovated bridge to Maine. While there is no control in Portsmouth, it is a good place to stop for a more substantial breakfast. (But keep it short, you still have 200 miles left to go.)
After entering Maine you leave coast for a bit on minor roads for about 20 miles before returning to the water at the Long Sands Beach. Here adventurous riders have the option to take a detour to visit the “Wiggle Bridge” — supposedly the shortest suspension bridge in the world. To visit the bridge riders must leave the route and head down a dirt road then a short (1/4 mike) walking trail. After crossing the bridge you’ll make a left and rejoin the route. This spur is optional and recommended only for riders who don’t mind dirt and adding about 1/2 mile to their brevet.
When riders reach Long Sands Beach they might encounter the worse auto congestion of the brevet. Take the lane and don’t ride too close to the parked cars — the traffic will likely be moving at bike speed anyway. You’ll be in the shadow of the Nubble Lighthouse which you might recognize from the Maine state quarter.
Pass the beach and take a right to head up a small hill and directly to the lighthouse for an informational control. It’s almost impossible to take a bad photo of the lighthouse. The visitors center has bathrooms and water — you’ll pass places to buy food within a few miles.
Leg 3: York, Maine to Biddeford, Maine
After leaving the lighthouse you’ll pass another touristy beach and then join the rolling and twisty Shore Road which has surprisingly little traffic. Riders will cut though Ogunquit Maine which is another dense but short tourist spot. You’ll soon be headed inland on some low traffic, well paved, rural roads in the mountain foothills. While the hills aren’t too steep this section is rolling and could be hot if it’s a warm day. This sort of climbing is similar to what you’ll encounter on the Portland to Woburn return.
Riders will be Rt. 9A for about 4 miles before entering Kennebunkport Maine. It will be hard to miss the “Wedding Cake House” — the most photographed house in Maine. (I too took a photo, see below.) Kennebunkport is one of my favorite sections of the ride as it’s surprisingly rural with lots of farms on mostly flat roads. The leg ends at the general store on West St in Biddeford, Maine.
Leg 4: Biddeford, Maine to Portland, Maine
At 20 miles this is the shortest leg of the brevet. Riders will cut though Saco (dense) and stay on small the backroads north of I-95. In Scarborough you’ll join the Eastern Trail Rail Trail for 3 miles to transverse a unique tidal marsh. This section of trail is unpaved but the surface is crushed stone and is easy riding on any type of bike. Please be mindful of families enjoying the popular path.
After leaving the trail it’s a quick ride though South Portland and over the Casco Bay bridge into Portland. The control is at the Ohno Cafe in the West end shortly over the bridge. Riders can buy a delicious sandwich if they want to wait. Try to keep your stop short. The remaining 123 miles are hillier and will take longer to complete.
Leg 5: Portland, Maine to Rollinsford, New Hampshire
Riders will leave Portland the same way they came as they head back to the rail trail. This time you’ll stay on the trail for 8 miles in total — the tidal marsh section again plus a longer section though Biddleford. Note: There is a short (2 mile) section of trail which is on the rough/sandy side, though still easily ridable. The trail will become wider with a very smooth surface after a few miles. Even a “racing” bike with 23mm tires should be able to pass over this section without difficulty.
After passing though downtown Saco (and up a short, steep climb) you’ll go back to riding on smaller roads. There’s another short section of the Eastern Trail to pass over I-95 at which point the trail sections are over for the remainder of the brevet. You’ll encounter non-stop rollers, not unlike what one finds on PBP. None of these hills are steep but they will seem increasingly hard as the miles add up and the sun begins to set.
For most of this section riders will be on the well marked East Coast Greenway / US Bike Route #1. The control is just over the ME/NH border at a well stocked Cumberland Farms in Rollinsford, NH. Stock up here — there are not many services on the upcoming sections.
Leg 6: Rollinsford, NH to Exeter, NH.
This ~35 mile section is classic NER terrain: Rural roads, moderate climbing, and lots of scenic pastures and forests. This section is quite but gorgeous. Gone are the touristy beaches and small cities. The roads are twisty and small — quintessential New Hampshire.
Dover marks the last chance to buy supplies for nearly 40 miles so stop there if you think you’ll want something later. Most of this section stays off numbered roads so the scenery is top notch with little traffic. However, remember that you’ll need some way of viewing your cue sheet so a small helmet light is recommended along with a bright headlight. Also keep in mind that in accordance with RUSA guidelines riders must be wearing full reflective gear (vest/sash + ankle bands + front/tail light, etc) by the time the sun sets shortly after 8pm.
The control is a 24-hour gas station in Exeter NH. (Alas, the Merrimac Dunkin Donuts is no longer 24-hour.) Please get a receipt or ask them to initial your brevet card.
Leg 7: Exeter NH to Woburn, Mass
This last section is 45 miles but you’ll have more than 200 miles in your legs so the otherwise easy hills will seem steep. After leaving the control you’ll hit a few rollers and then dip down to ride along the scenic Merrimac river. For the last ~15 miles you’ll be using the same roads as the outbound section, climbing gently back out of the river valley.
You’ll again pass though part of Harold Parker State Forest and then into the suburbs of Reading and Woburn. The finish control is inside the Holiday Inn express where we’ll have snacks and riders can take a shower before leaving if they haven’t reserved a room for the night.
Jesse Morrow’s report from the Portland one-way 200k in 2017
Photos from the Pre-Rides: