Friday, March 25, 2016

Dirigo Dynamo 2016

The Story

The camaraderie of the midnight wheels.
Welcoming the close of twilight.
Moonlight reflecting over the ocean.
Midnight libation.
Quietly rolling through shuttered streets.
Stifling yawns along an unpaved path.
Dynamo lights cutting through morning fog.
Sun rising above the beach's distant horizon.
A breakfast for the weary and satisfied.

To a cyclist, a dynamo is a small wheel-powered generator typically used to light one's way, particularly useful for overnight rides. The Dirigo Dynamo is an overnight ride from Somerville, Mass. to Portland, Maine. The goal is to enjoy the ride; next is to see the sun rise at Old Orchard Beach.

But don't only consider my perspective, consider Lovely Bicycle's perspective of the first Dirigo or Yurtville's view of the second. Or, if you aren't a fan of reading, just look at the photos.


"By the shortest full moon, we ride." anonymous

Both the full moon and the summer solstice benefit overnight rides; more illumination and less night. The following are the 2016 Saturday nights closest to the full moon and summer solstice.

  • May 21; same day as New England Randonneurs' MA200k/300k
  • June 18; closest to solstice; same day as New England Randonneurs' MA400k
  • July 16; same night as the Dunwich Dynamo; same day as New England Randonneurs' VT400k
  • August 20; same day as New England Randonneurs' MA200k

Dynamo Dirigo Routes

Over the years we have found two good overnight routes. They are one-way and about 200km (120miles) each. Both follow Route 1A along the New Hampshire Coast from Newburyport to Portsmouth; the moon over the Atlantic is serene. And both share portions of the unpaved Maine's Eastern Trail; with such a dense canopy that even the moon struggles to penetrate. In Massachusetts and Maine there is an inland route (RWGPS route) and a coastal route. Since the middle of each route is the same, it is easy to swap routes halfway through. Of course, there are countless route variations. However, ...

Group Reliant Riding

"When you go to explore, the number you should have is four." Sandra Boynton

Cycling overnight is an exploration. Few businesses are open before midnight, and none afterwards. Help is often hours away (though 911 still works). Route navigation and repairs are more challenging than normal. Not to mention that most cyclists become quite tired in the wee morning hours. Self reliance is not enough, group reliance is the best plan. At minimum cycle in pairs, and preferably in a foursome.

Inherent in nighttime cycling is reliability, preparedness & visibility. As there is little ability to be rescued in the middle of the night, bicycles must be in their best mechanical condition; get a tune up. With few to no opportunities for outside assistance, a sufficient supply of food, water and repair tools is important. A cloudless night is neither reliable nor consistent, the bicycle, cyclists and road must be illuminated. The New England Randanneurs website has a great section on lighting and visibility, including both recommendations and legal requirements.


Somerville (Boston) and Portland are well connected for a one-way ride. The Amtrak Downeaster provides car-free connection between the cities, and will carry your bike with a bike ticket. Most Dirigo Dynamo cyclists have used the Downeaster to get home. Another option is Concord Coachlines. Of course, Portland based cyclists could take the train or bus down the day before and be at home by the end of the ride.

Rendezvous points have been used to meet with other cyclists, wait for other cyclists who have fallen behind or just to rest with others. Cyclists often rendezvous in Newburyport at Bartlett Mall, often to meet up with North Shore cyclists. In Portsmouth, cyclists rendezvous at either Portsmouth Brewery or the Flying Toast for a midnight snack. Just north of the pier in Old Orchard Beach is the popular place to rendezvous for sunrise. Many rendezvous at Standard Baking Company in Portland for breakfast and at the Amtrak station for the train ride home.

Some cyclists have found the need to truncate the ride. The last MBTA train from Newburyport to Boston is at 9pm (the preceding outbound train can be used to join other cyclists latter in the route at the Bartlett Mall rendezvous). The coastal route in Mass. also offers the opportunity to catch the train to Boston in Hamilton, Ipswich and Rowley. Another point of departure is at Portsmouth, NH. The first C&J bus south is at 2am (only to Logan Airport; the 3am goes to South Station). The C&J bus also stops in Newburyport at 9:30, 10:30 & 11:30pm (all go to South Station).

It's good to meet at a neighborhood cafe to catch a light dinner and coffee before hitting the road. Bloc 11 in Union Square is a favorite as it provides a nice outdoor space to gather with bikes. Also, the SomerVelo bike shop is around the block for last minute repairs & spares. Including sufficient time for repairs and rest throughout the ride, to catch sunrise at Old Orchard Beach (between 5 & 5:30am) a good departure time is 5:30pm, meeting 30 minutes earlier.

The Dirigo Dyanmo is an unorganized ride, not affliated with any group or organization. The above is simply a collection of shared wisdom garnered from previous rides. Preparation, including preferred routes, cue sheet, maps, etc is the responsibility of the cyclists. There is no fee as there is no one to accept it. The following comment section is for interested cyclists to coordinate their own Dirigo Dyanmo rides.


  1. BOSBOS does the Dirigo Dynamo is organizing a ride this year on July 16, meeting at 5pm in Copley Square.
  2. For anyone riding the Dirigo Dynamo this month, next month, or any other time this year, I have about 15 leftover patches from two years ago. Cost is $5 + proof that you rode the Dynamo.

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