New Hampshire: Motorcyclists Invade Laconia for 83rd Year

New Hampshire’s ANNUAL MOTORCYCLE WEEK (2006) Approaches

In its 83rd year, Laconia Motorcycle Week 2006 is the United States’ oldest motorcycle event. It is also one of the largest gatherings of motorcycle enthusiasts, rivaling the nation’s largest and only other similar rally at Sturgis, South Dakota.  This is only fitting, since the inventor of the motorcycle, Sylvester Howard Roper, was born in Francestown, New Hampshire.

The current Laconia biker rally grew from a weekend gathering of motorcyclists to now more than 500,000 each year at its nine-day event. This year the event is held from June 10 to June 18, 2006, primarily at Weirs Beach, in Laconia, New Hampshire.

Annually held in June, this rally originated with the Loudon Classic motorcycle race which started in 1923, and the Gypsy Tour where many motorcyclists passed through Laconia. The New England Gypsy Tour reportedly began about 1916 when approximately 400 people gathered at Weirs Beach in Laconia. In 1917 this became the official location of the tour.

In the early days of the Loudon Classic, motorcycle events were scheduled, including races, shows and a motorcycle hill climb competition. In recent years vintage races are held in downtown Laconia, modern ones at the Loudon International Speedway, and the traditional weekend parties at Weirs Beach after the races.

Frank Baer was instrumental (among others) in bringing the 100-mile New England Gypsy Tour races to Laconia.  He was a racing competitor, race announcer, and motorcycle club founder. In 1950 he left employment with Indian (the motorcycle manufacturer) to become managing director of the Loudon park, and promoter of the races held there.  He died in 1984 at the age of 83. The Heart of New Hampshire web site has more history, covering the 60s up until today.

In the early days of motorcycling in New Hampshire, motorcyclists were admired, not feared.  It wasn’t until after World War II that these sports clubs began to take on names (with dispositions to match) such as the 40s “Hell’s Angels,” 50s “Vampires,” 70s local “Devils Disciples,” etc.  Groups such as these caused some uncomfortable moments at the Laconia races, with local officials even threatening a halt to the races.  Thankfully that did not happen.  Today these races are a family-oriented event.

To commemorate this year’s event, it is only fitting that I display even more vintage photographs that my father, Berwin Webster, took in the 1930s (when he was in his early 20s) of motorcycles, motorcyclists, and motorcycle races in the Weirs, Auburn MA and Keene NH. [See Vintage Motorcycle Photographs]  The photograph above was taken at ‘The Weirs’ in August 1936.

Before you look at the photographs, add the two following terms, “TT” and “Hill Climb” to your Motorcycle Glossary…

TT=Tourist Trophy Race. Some consider it the most dangerous sport in the entire world. The Tourist Trophy is a race which began in 1907, on the Isle of Man, off England’s west coast, and is still the most famous and demanding motorcycle race held in Europe. The earliest entered motorcycles were known as “touring machines,” giving the race its title. By 1911 when the race was moved to a 37.75 mile mountain circuit, the American-made Indian took the top three winning spots.

Hill Climb=The first motorcycle hill climb evidently took place near Boston in 1904 and similar events soon sprang up elsewhere.

If you have a New Hampshire  motorcycle story, either vintage or current, I welcome your comments.

Enjoy!

Janice

ALSO SEE:
New Hampshire’s Laconia Motorcycle Week 2007

Laconia Motorcycle Week Official Site

-Fritzie Baer-

Calendar of Events

Weirs Cam

Laconia Bike Week

-Gypsy Tour-

Other Tours

-Motorcycling History-

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