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Laconia Bike Week

 

Two-thousand-ten marks the 87th running of Laconia Bike Week, an annual event that got its start as a motorcycle competition in New Hampshire's state capital in 1923. For decades bikers, racers, cops and shopkeepers played nice and local commerce thrived. But in 1965 a fracas between constables and chopper freaks opened the jaundiced eye of mass-media to America's longest-running motorcycle hoedown, and the event was tainted forever.

 

DOWN-TOWN

 

Fatally blunt license-plate slogans aside ("Live Free or Die!"), New Hampshire is a motorcycle-friendly place to live. More bikes per capita are registered in New Hampshire than any other state. New England winters may be miserable, but the down time gives proud Yankees plenty of opportunity to build or mod their machines. When snowmobile season ends, these hungry throttle twisters are itching to ride.

"We've got customers who put a thousand miles on their shovelheads every weekend," New Hampshire-based bike builder Wayne Ahlquist explains. "The locals are just mental." Unbridaled passion mixed with a dose of cabin fever—everyone has swilled that cocktail at least once in his life. Surely there's more to Laconia than mere sensory deprivation, right? Last month I spoke with entrepreneurs in Laconia to find out what city officials and event promotors are doing right… or wrong. What I learned was sad.

 

lake-winnepasaukee

 

Exactly what attracts American wheelmen to this tiny New Hampshire town? Twisting two-lanes and dense forest form a labrynth of tarmac on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee and its surrounding bays and tributaries. These roads connect whistle stops, cottages, roadhouses and restaurants that spell F-U-N for tourists and locals alike. Given the opportunity to practice their capitalistic voodoo unfettered, the best and brightest of these small-business owners would happily provide all the food, shelter and entertainment any biker could dream of. Unfortunately, no one on the Laconia Bike Week board of trustees seems willing to make it that easy.

Grail at Knucklebuster.com gave ChopCult readers the bad news on our forum months ago. When I had lunch with him at a great little diner on one of Laconia's main drags, he was happy to elaborate. "We wanted to throw another Greasebag Jamboree at Laconia this year, but promotors and city officials imposed so many fees and regulations, it just wasn't possible. We're going to do something again, but where and when remains to be seen." Wayne Ahlquist explained the irony of Grail's dilemma. "We hosted the Greasebag in Acme's parking lot three years running with no sweat from the city. Then one day the city called me and said we had to buy special event permits to do anything on our own property during Bike Week. I asked them, 'What if I want to do a parking lot sale a week after Bike Week?' They said, 'No problem, and no fees.' What's up with that?"

It would seem simple greed is what's up with that.

 

LAZY-E-COTTAGES

 

Les at the Lazy E Motor Inn on Paugus Bay concurred. "The city told us anything we try to do for guests on our own property during Bike Week is subject to additional fees and new regulations. The economy isn't strong enough for tactics like that. Bike Week is around the corner and I've still got rooms available. We've been catering to bikers for years. This is the first time we're not fully booked months before the event."

 

COTTAGES-2

 

After hearing Les's tale of woe, I booked a cozy cabin at the Lazy E and chilled by the outdoor fire. My innkeeper's point was clear: bad times demand good ideas. Les is thinking like a smart, friendly businessman, but the city has tied his hands.

My next conversation was with an elderly businessman on Main Steet. The old-timer was hanging a sign on a lamp post.

"What is the town doing to help local businesses promote and capitalize on the event?" I asked.

"They're not doing a thing," was his dour reply.

"Okay then," I quizzed, "when will locals bars and restaurants start hanging "Welcome Biker!" banners over their doors?"

"Some of them will get around to it on day four."

While my Laconian friend lamented the state of affairs, I noticed a beautiful old movie house across from his shop. The Colonial Theatre would be a perfect place to host nightly biker flicks during the rally, or to offer guys like Tyler at Lowbrow Customs a place to screen DVD's. Unfortunately, promotors seem more concerned with permits and crowd control than with putting a welcome face on their moribund event.

 

THEATRE 2

 

 

STREET-SIGN

 

When all was said and done, I'm not sure if ignorance or apathy is to blame for the dearth of energy leading up to Bike Week. None of the downtrodden Laconians I met seemed to know or care. Could it be that after 87 years of hill climbs, hoedowns, build-offs, bike shows and wet t-shirt contests, this apple of the mainstream motorcycle community's eye has finally lost its shine?

 

DR-BUCKLE

 

I visited Dr. Buckle & Mr. Hide in northeast Laconia to hear their perspective on the dilemma, but the leather shop wasn't open. It was Memorial Day, after all, so the good doctor and his crazy alter ego were probably grilling burgers or watching the parade. If I was in the market for some biker-approved biker apparel, Dr. Buckle looked like the place to be. Two-hundred-fifty bucks for a custom-tailored jacket?

Maybe in 2011…


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Commented on 6-9-2010 At 01:59 pm
 

I live almost right around the corner from Laconia, only about a 20 minute ride. And I've never made it for bike week. Too many bullshit bikes and just too much bullshit. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE riding up there any other time of the year. Gorgeous roads and a lack of stop signals make it great riding but once the chrome starts rolling, I roll home. This year I was planning on getting up to the Greasebag for my first taste of biek week, however small it would have been, but now that the city has fucked that up I guess I'll just stay home. Although I'm thinking about making it for the hill climbs, if I feel like dealing with the traffic.

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 03:51 pm
 

thats a dam shame. seems like just about anything that gets to big eventually collapses in on itself...rallies, government, companies...such a tough situation. I'm moving to MD or VA in about a year and was looking forward to goin to laconia when i move up there. Probley will still go to check it out but will only be giving my business to the local shop owners...poor bastards someone needs to vote out those dumb ass politicians

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 03:51 pm
 

thats a dam shame. seems like just about anything that gets to big eventually collapses in on itself...rallies, government, companies...such a tough situation. I'm moving to MD or VA in about a year and was looking forward to goin to laconia when i move up there. Probley will still go to check it out but will only be giving my business to the local shop owners...poor bastards someone needs to vote out those dumb ass politicians

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 04:44 pm
 

Yeah I went last year to this event. It was a cool place to ride around the area even with the roads so fucked up.. It was so bad after the 3rd day up there I started hopin from dealer to dealer looking for a used street glide at the right price with no luck, but they did call a week later ready to deal. Anywho, the cops up there are dicks and they push the laws hard. So if you go act like a weekend rider... But they do have sum cool ass shit to check out... I recommend the hill climp.. a good bar to check out is the brokin spoke jus up the hill from the main gate...

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 05:03 pm
 

I've been four or five times. Every time I wondered why in the hell I went. It's a giant traffic jam every time. Hotter than hell with the humidity unless it's raining which is about half the time. Great place any other time though.

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 05:45 pm
 

laconia = stay away
any of the other 34 days a year during riding season = fantastic

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 05:46 pm
 

same shit happened here in SC with the Myrtle Beach bike week. I got a bike that would make the trip (ie: over 250cc) and had heard all the glorious tales of the event all my life so i was ready to go. only to find out that a city is going against state law where youre required to wear helmets only if youre under 21. after that, i saw what the city was doing to go against bikers, and talked to some locals when i took my wife up there for a nice weekend surprise. businesses have and are still closing and laying off people since there was a significant drop in revenue. so at this point, unless its a revenge run, or the like, fuck it. not worth going in my opinion.

id go to laconia, but only when there isnt a rally. same with the others, daytona etc... sucks riding to the events too, all the windsheer off the trailers...

seriously tho, whens the last time you needed an excuse to ride other than your bike runs?

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 06:25 pm
 

I have never gone to a bike event of that size, but i am going to the smoke out in two weeks. it will be my first and hopefully not my last. My problem is i don't drink and i hate crowds and chrome. i like to look and ride dirty bikes that are either owned because like me i would rather die than not have it or because it is what you do. I haven't gone to an event like laconia before because of the crap i have heard that goes along with it. Nobody ever talks about the riding they just talk about the drunken idiocy and the bitches. i like to ride so i don't care what happens to these events. My opinion....

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 07:45 pm
 

Plain and simply put this is why government at any level is totaly fucked in this country. Love my country, fear my government. It sures seems these days that they are definitely not looking out for the best interests of its people and this story is a great example of that. Great article!

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 09:49 pm
 

I have been to Laconia for bike week and two other times just for the weekend. I live a 10 hour bike ride away so this is not a trip we do without some thought. Laconia and the surrounding areas has to be on my top 10 list of nicest roads to ride and the scenery outside the Weirs beach area is tremendous. The last time we were there for bike week was 2007 and we stayed at a campground near the Kangamangas highway and the riding was great. Yea, the catalog biker, douchbag mentality around the Lobster Pound and some of the more popular tourist areas is there. But as with anything it is what you make of it. I look forward to the revised Greasebag whenever it is and maybe another trip to Laconia Bike week without me going to Weirs beach for the parking and just riding the great roads. Tim

Commented on 6-9-2010 At 10:59 pm
 

I live about 45 minutes from it and usually don't bother. Went a couple of times just wasn't impressed. I did make last years Greasebag and that was very cool. Great bikes, cool people. Hey Wayne do Greasebag the week after. I'm sure you'll get a crowd....

Commented on 6-10-2010 At 06:11 am
 

Greedy Liberalcrats douching the public once again.

Commented on 6-10-2010 At 03:32 pm
 

Was hoping to go the Greasebag this year... Laconia is a F'show

Commented on 6-10-2010 At 09:37 pm
 

greedy liberalcrat...

oh, wait... i'm not retarded

Commented on 6-10-2010 At 09:52 pm
 

The Greasebag is going to rise from the dead in 2011. We're forgoing setting up during bike week and doing it in July so we don't have to deal with the nonsense. Stay tuned, we're going to take over a little portion of that town with out own brand of idiocy and jackassery.

Commented on 6-11-2010 At 02:59 am
 

shit man i grew up in the shadow of NH bike week and never went. why you ask,
because i don't think hanging out with every harley riding dentist is a good time.
bike week and its tag along bull shit is just that. grease bag, though i have not
been seams to have its hart in the right place. did you ever wonder why bike weeks
in there current manifestation have lasted? image pumping money makers. in the end these soulless permutations of biker culture serve only the evil and not the outlaw.
independent spirit my ass, lemmings to the ledge.

-burn

Commented on 6-16-2010 At 01:12 am
 

All the big rallies are marketing-based & hyped chrome-polisher fests from what I've seen. I never did make Laconia, but do want to check out the hillclimbing sometime. Maybe after the permit fees drive everyone away...

Commented on 6-20-2010 At 05:37 pm
 

Just got back from laconia. Me and my buddy went and this was both of our fist time going so we didnt really know what to expect. It was indeed all older dudes with chromed out FLs ect. was not ANY sort of younger scene that we saw at all. VERY VERY few cool bikes. Dint see much crazy shit really (exept for a black bear running across the road right in front of us) there were literally cops everywhere. Did see a guy dump his CVO electra glide in the broken spoke parking lot that was pretty funny. Went swimming got wasted drove thru the woods no helmet laws. All in all for a three hour ride i would say it was a pretty fun weekend. Worth it.

Commented on 1-25-2012 At 12:22 am
 

i went to the smokeout last year down in NC and i have to say that it seems like rallies are starting to lose their edge. like a few people have said, it's just a bunch of chrome rolling down the roads. where are all the real deuche bags that make shit like that fun?! the camp ground was tame in comparison to years past according to the buddies i went with... but then again they made the trip worth the while. in the end, i think i'll stick to a few good buddies, gettin lost on the back roads, and stopping at some hole in the wall watering hole to enjoy that nice cold beer. that sounds better to me than any of these pay-out-your-ass main stream yuppy "bike rallies" any day of the week!

Commented on 1-25-2012 At 12:22 am
 

i went to the smokeout last year down in NC and i have to say that it seems like rallies are starting to lose their edge. like a few people have said, it's just a bunch of chrome rolling down the roads. where are all the real deuche bags that make shit like that fun?! the camp ground was tame in comparison to years past according to the buddies i went with... but then again they made the trip worth the while. in the end, i think i'll stick to a few good buddies, gettin lost on the back roads, and stopping at some hole in the wall watering hole to enjoy that nice cold beer. that sounds better to me than any of these pay-out-your-ass main stream yuppy "bike rallies" any day of the week!

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