Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tour the Bike Borderlands of the Northeast

 Mountain bikers prepare for a road on a dirt trail.
Joe Fox
Mountain bikers take a break during the first Tour de Borderlands event held in East Hereford, Quebec.

Mud season is wrapping up – which means more trails are opening across the Northeast. Including for mountain bikers.

And they can sample a wide range of spots in the region this year through the Tour de Borderlands.

It’s a circuit of mountain biking events that started in Quebec last weekend, and will continue on trails in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine through October.

The tour started in 2019, but was sidelined by the pandemic.

To talk about its return, Vermont Public's Mary Williams Engisch caught up with Joe Fox, outdoor recreation manager at Norther Forest Center in Concord, New Hampshire. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mary Williams Engisch: First, give us a little taste of the events that'll take place at each one of them.

Joe Fox: Part of the idea is to get folks to travel through this region, get to sample from different terrain, get to visit local dining establishments and breweries and farmers markets and really make some memorable experiences in what we think is one of the most special parts of the world: the Northern Forest.

 A map shows destinations in a mountain biking circuit.
Bike Borderlands
Tour de Borderlands

Why did you all decide to put this circuit together?

I think part of it was the idea of economic development. It tends to be rural communities that have historically struggled a little bit with a decline in the paper, pulp industry and some other manufacturing. We've kind of looked at what our organization calls the new forest future, which is combinations of industry and outdoor recreation, looking at the creative economy and figuring out how do these all intersect in a way that create vibrant, healthy communities that people want to come and live in. A big part of this is sort of spreading the love, getting folks to come to this region. Don't just come for a weekend, but spend some time to travel and get to see the unique variety of these various communities.

And this is the the first season back since 2019. How did COVID affect mountain biking and trail usage across the Northeast?

The demand we saw for trails — and this is a national trend, not just locally — was massive. I mean, depending on who you ask, trail users increased visitation by anywhere from 50 to 200% — a lot of new people coming to the sport. At the same time, some of our partners really struggled — the closing of the border certainly was a challenge for places like Kingdom Trails that rely pretty heavily on Canadian visitation. A heightened awareness of how important trails are to both building community in terms of an economic sense, but really community in terms of you know, human interactions.

Well, you've got one Borderlands event under your belt from this past weekend in East Hereford, Quebec. How did it go?

It was fantastic. So there's poutine and hamburgers and sodas, a brewery, definitely a community event. And myself and some others drove up from Vermont to add a little international flair. We had a great time, rode some awesome trails. I'd say probably between 80 to 100 people showed up.

It wouldn't be a mountain biking event in Quebec without some poutine before and after the trail ride, right?


Well, some people love technical trails covered in roots and rocks. Others enjoy steep downhills. And some just like to go outdoors and be in nature, or visit local businesses. What does the Tour de Borderlands have for the many types of mountain bikers that are out there?

I'd like to think we have something for everyone. I mean, all of the networks are really working hard to try to provide trails that can meet a variety of interests and a variety of mountain bike types. Checking in with the local trail networks for advice, I think you'll find everyone wants visitors to have a really good time.

 A person wearing a bike helmet, bike gloves, camo-print shorts and a red, white and blue long-sleeved tee shirt rides a mountain bike on a dirt trail in the woods.
Joe Fox, courtesy
Mountain bikers who love fast terrain, meandering trails or roots and rocks can find something they enjoy during the nine-event "Tour the Borderlands," circuit, covering biking trails in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Quebec.

There's a lot of emphasis now on making outdoor sports like mountain biking inclusive and diverse. How does the Tour de Borderlands serve people of different demographics, whether we're talking about race, gender, skill level or body type?

Bike Borderlands is a collaboration right of these independent trail networks. But we have some guiding principles that we made, where we talk about, "What are our goals for the years?" And a big part of that goal is just that: increasing access to all different kinds of folks. And that can take a lot of different shapes. That can be in messaging and representation. How are you promoting yourself. And do people see themselves represented in their trails? Are the policies and language being used in a way that makes people feel welcome?

From a physical aspect, there are the trails themselves. Are the trailheads accessible? And that may mean compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. The reality is that can be very challenging in mountainous, hilly terrain in the Northern Forest — but certainly adaptive. So, we've worked with partners like Adaptive Sport Partners, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, looking at ways to make trails more adaptive.

We've helped our Borderlands partners with some funding; they've helped each other. There's there's been quite a bit of work in that regard. Some of our partners work with groups like Pride Rides in Vermont with the LGBTQ community. And then looking at ways to to serve the BIPOC population. So there's there's a lot of discussion around this. There's a lot of work being done, and certainly I can speak for everyone that we're all ears. This is this is something that we will continue to learn and grow from each other.

And what would you say to some locals who are interested in mountain biking but are maybe a little hesitant to visit a nearby trail?

Yeah, mountain bikes are now pretty complicated machines. There's a lot going on: get a lesson, make sure you have the right equipment for the day and wear a helmet. Simple things like that go a long way. The trails will be there another day. Start small.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Latest Stories