MAINE, Maine — It might not have felt like it Friday, but the peak months of summer are just weeks away. For many Mainers, that means the riding season is inching closer and closer.
“They’re looking forward to it, we’re looking forward to it, we’re excited about it," Luke McCannell, vice president of Bangor Motorsports, said.
Last March, McCannell and other power sports retailers had no idea what to expect considering the COVID-19 pandemic had just forced the closures of many businesses in the state. But to his surprise, last summer sparked a fresh wave of outdoor exploration. More Mainers rode ATVs, bikes, went on hikes, or canoed than ever before.
“It’s nice to see people kind of getting energized and excited about the outdoors again," McCannell added.
With all those people getting outdoors, the demand for new gear has been high. MCannell said every product in the showroom has been selling well before the riding trails are open for the season.
His advice for riders is to plan ahead when thinking about getting a new ride so they're not left out in the cold, or stuck in the mud, when the season gets underway.
Another shop seeing a "wild" increase in demand is Ski Rack Sports in Bangor. The store sells ski equipment in the winter, and biking and kayaking gear in the summer.
“We have the least amount of bikes, you know, on March 26 that we’ve ever had," store manager Peter Richmond said.
Richmond has worked for the shop for ten years but he said the demand for bikes, helmets, and other accessories has never been like this. His advice to customers is to buy that bike or other piece of gear while they can. He made sure to clarify that he wasn't making a sales pitch, because other local shops are also stretching their inventory thin.
“If you are even remotely interested in this bike, you should just take it because it’s not going to be here three days from now," Richmond added.
Some manufacturers give Ski Rack Sports the date when they can expect new bikes. Richmond said some models will be rolling into the shop in 2023 because of the statewide and national demand.
Besides riding on two wheels or four, kayaks and canoes are also in high demand before the summer. Maine guides are also expecting another busy season.
"We could not take one more person down the river [last year]," Lani Love said.
Love is a guide with Allagash Canoe Trips. For nearly 70 years, the trip service has led Mainers or out-of-state visitors around one of Maine's hidden beauties. The trips last five to seven days and much of it is isolated from the "real world."
“Southern Maine is not western or northern Maine, there’s a clear division, so a lot of people from southern Maine would come up and they never even knew this was essentially in their backyard," Love added.
After a busy year last year, Love, her husband, and other guides are expecting more of the same in 2021 when trips pick back up in May.
She added the trips allow folks to relax and have a week of normalcy as these unusual times continue into a second outdoor recreation season.
“Everybody really needs to be outside more often than we are," she said.