RICHMOND — The nine motorcycle riders, many dressed in dirt-bike racing suits, were not your typical band of bikers. And that has everything to do with the route they rode along the midcoast.

As they followed back roads past hay fields, blueberry barrens and horse farms, these riders couldn’t wait to get to the best part of the ride: cratered dirt roads and rutted trails.

They are part of the Maine Dual Sport & Dirt Bike Association, a new club made up of riders on large motorized dirt bikes, known as dual-sport bikes. They ride on and off road, and consider themselves enthusiastic, adventure riders willing to ride anywhere.

“It’s a lifestyle, not a hobby,” said rider Carmel Rubin of Bowdoinham, who spent a month last year riding across the deserts of Baja on one of her four dual-sport bikes.

Riders in Maine with dual motorcycle registration – an ATV registration and a motorcycle registration – can ride on roads and trails where dirt bikes are allowed. This form of mixed riding is not widely known, the riders say.

This is why the club formed – to tell their story to landowners and educate the public. Seeking landowner permission to ride on private dirt trails and connecting a network of off-road trails is their goal.

The club members worked with law enforcement agencies this winter to clarify state law that allows dual-sport riders on ATV and dirt trails where property owners allow motorized bikes.

Maine Game Warden Rick LaFlamme, who met with the club, said now that dual-sport riders are organized they can spread awareness of the laws concerning where they can legally ride and help bridge the gap with private landowners to open up more trails.

“The dual-sport community is a pretty elite group but they’re doing it right asking for clarification. I give them kudos for that,” said LaFlamme, the warden service’s landowner relations specialist.

“The problem is what looks like a dirt bike technically falls under ATV (registration) and the onus is on them to get landowner permission. With the ATV registration they can ride ATV trails, but legally they have to have permission. Landowners might have approved ATVs on their land but not dirt bikes.”

Many of the dual-sport bikes look like street motorcycles, so this brand of motorized riding can be hard to identify.

“It’s not evident which bikes are off-road bikes. I was stopped by a sheriff who was surprised my bike had an ATV sticker on it,” said Chris Nolan, who rides a BMW model made for the 1978 Paris-to-Dakar race, a smooth-riding but rugged two-person bike.

David Stoll of Carmel is one of the club’s trail gurus who knows where the public dirt roads exist. He joined the club to share this knowledge.

As he organized the nine riders at the club’s first rally ride last weekend, he talked of the route from Richmond up through farm country to Northport and on to Belfast.

From there, he said that they would “bushwhack” back down the coast, finding dirt trails open to dirt bikes.

“We won’t be riding on private property,” Stoll said. “These are town-maintained dirt roads. We want to promote responsible riding, not riding across people’s land.”

After a year the nonprofit club has 170 members on its Facebook page, but only 16 dues-paying members. They believe, however, they’ll grow quickly.

The off-road dirt bike community in Maine is where mountain bikers were several years ago, said Derek Hilton of Topsham, who was on Sunday’s ride, but also races mountain bikes.

They are a bunch of off-road riders with a bad reputation for ripping up land who are now planning to prove the naysayers wrong by working with the landowners.

LaFlamme said the fact the club approached state officials to ask how to gain access to land speaks of their commitment.

“They’re a club going through growing pains,” LaFlamme said. “But they have a lot going for them because there are two organizations that have paved the way for them – the snowmobile clubs and ATV clubs.”


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