Residents of Laconia, rejoice. You’ve got your city back. Streets around the Weirs are open once again. Booming V-Twins no longer serve as early morning alarm clocks. And Laconia Motorcycle Week 2011 is in the books. Claimed to be the oldest biker rally around, an estimated 30,000 riders congregated on the shores of New Hampshire’s Lake Winnepesaukee and throughout the White Mountains for the 88th time to celebrate a weeks’ worth of festivities, from live music to biker build offs to bikini bike washes.
This year’s rally will be remembered for being relatively low-key. People are still budgeting their hard-earned dollars, it rained quite a bit, and the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Why mention the Bruins? Because a multitude of Bruins’ fans were in attendance and most certainly would have been more surly had the home team lost. Instead, many rally goers were still basking in their team’s glory.
Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams stated in The Citizen newspaper that “Last year was the quietest and now this year takes that title.” The report also said 68 people were arrested by local and state agencies for DUII over a nine-day period. Miraculously, only one fatal traffic accident was attributed to the rally. Of course, at times the police presence felt like overkill. At one point Friday night, I passed more state trooper cars on the road than motorcycles. Makes me wonder who was left to cover the rest of the state. Later I witnessed them shadowing a group of Hells Angels, who had a strong presence at the rally, but I didn’t see enough representation from any other clubs which may have created a conflict to warrant the amount of enforcement on hand.
We kicked off the week by taking in some racing action, stopping first at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for some vintage motorcycle racing, highlighted by TT-style sidecars, before hitting up the hill climbs later in the week. The Gunstock Hill Climb was once again a star attraction of the rally. Competitors barreled up the slopes of the Gunstock Ski Resort in a drag-style competition. Riders varied from peewees ringing out little 50s just to get up the hill to supercharged ATVs which bombed up the slopes. The girls attacked the hill just as hard as the boys. They also crashed just as hard. The sun peeked out for the first time in days, which brought out a great crowd who were treated to a day full of great racing action.
We spent plenty of time at the Jack Daniels tent next to the Lobster Pound to check out the progress of the Biker Build-Off. It was cool to see the motorcycles take shape over the course of the week as six bike shops had one week to
build a ground-up custom. The competition was not without its share of drama, from last-minute carburetor adjustments to get bikes started to full-on electrical fires just outside the tent when it was time to ride the bikes in for the announcement of the winner. In the end, Jack Fiorvante of Deadwood Choppers won the $5000 cash grand prize for his Jack Daniels-themed motorcycle. Deadwood Choppers out of Middle Island, New York, separated themselves from their competition by using a slew of original parts, from the frame to the fenders to the underslung tank. Their bottle-shaped Springer used on the bike’s front end was finely crafted and tied into the bike’s JD-theme perfectly. Fiorvante also paid attention to details like dividing the tank to house both gas and oil, and even used the wooden cap off of a Jack bottle for its gas cap. A 107 cubic-inch S&S V-Twin and an Ultima 6-speed transmission helped the bike claim top honors.
Friday featured the Laconia Custom Bike Show. Even though turnout was small, Kevin Berry was still proud to win “Best of Show” honors for his radical Rowe Custom with smooth sheet metal bodywork, high-dollar paint and slick features like a rear Trans Brake by JayBrake. The custom creation, built by Marc Rowe out of Dover, Delaware, featured a polished 117 cubic-inch S&S engine mated to a Baker 6-speed transmission. It was all neatly spooned into a Rowe Customs frame with meaty double-walled, baffled Rowe-made pipes twisting off the right side. There was enough chrome around the engine to blind you in the sun. Legends Air Ride suspension slammed it to the ground. Its license plate also slid out at the push of a button courtesy of an air-operated system. Mike Macaan out of Dracut, Mass., gets credit for applying the slick grey-to-black paint scheme. The bike cost Berry about a year’s worth of wages and is headed for the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show at the Thunder in the Valley Rally in Pennsylvania, where it will encounter much stiffer competition. Funny little side story. Berry got pulled over riding to the show for not having any mirrors on his bike. And it was the only time he rode it while he was in Laconia. Just goes to show you the cops were looking for any reason to pull people over.
The local Haymond Law Firm does its damnedest to promote bike shows at Laconia, but the idea isn’t embraced very strongly by the masses. A paltry 12 bikes entered the seventh annual show at Opechee Park. Makes me wonder why Laconia patrons don’t embrace bike shows like most other rallies. It’d be cool if one of the heavyweights stepped up with promotion and prizes. The rally could benefit from a Rat’s Hole, IMBBA, or AMD caliber event to spice things up.
Friday night, it was a packed house at the Full Throttle Saloon for the Skid Row concert. The band ran through a quick list of its hits as the crowd sang along to its favorite songs. Michael Ballard and crew set up for the first time at Laconia this year, comparing it in ways to Sturgis for all the great places to ride in the area. Ballard’s putting together a tour model and plans on hitting the road next summer to bring the Full Throttle Saloon experience to even more biker rallies, using Laconia as a litmus test. The Skid Row show was good but did come with a sneaky, last-minute cash cover charge of $8. We didn’t notice a cover charge mentioned anywhere on the FTS website or on the banners posted at their Laconia setup. Not that $8 is a big deal, but the principle behind it is shady.
While attending the rally, Dirico Motorcycles kindly hooked us up with a prototype bagger so we could get some much-needed riding in. New Hampshire has incredible scenery, from runs around the lake to the highly acclaimed Kancamagus Highway and the Mt. Washington Auto Road. We took the road less traveled in a quest to take in some of the historical covered bridges that dot the landscape. The Dirico prototype bagger, based on a counter-balanced TC rubber-mounted on an FL, served us dutifully as we bounced from bridge to bridge.
(R) Kevin Berry sits on his Rowe Custom radical motorcycle which captured top honors in the 2011 Laconia Custom Bike Show. (M) Deadwood Choppers Jack Fiorvante is a happy man after winning five grand in the Laconia Biker Build-Off. (L) Having fun with friends at the 2011 Laconia Motorcycle Rally.
By Saturday, the Weirs was jam-packed. Cruising Lakeside Avenue was a popular activity. As was hanging out at favorite watering holes like the Naswa Resort. Hell, just hanging out period was popular. I don’t know of any other rally where entire families set up lawn chairs just about anywhere alongside the road to people watch. They sit on stoops and hang out on porches and make watching bikes roll by a communal activity. Spirits overall were high, thanks in part to the local boys winning the Stanley Cup during the course of the rally, elevating the party mood. Of course, there were more than enough policemen around to keep that party mood in check, but Laconia 2011 did its best to keep tradition alive.