Riders settling in at NHMS for the 96th Laconia Motorcycle Week

  • Raymond Brault (left) and his wife, Denise, get ready to go for a ride on Wednesday from their camping site at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Raymond Brault (left) helps his friend and RV neighbor Paul Dumont mount a new chrome light on Dumont’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Wednesday. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire Motor Speedway unveiled its new flat dirt track on June 6. Courtesy of NHMS

Monitor staff
Published: 6/13/2019 2:50:41 PM
Modified: 6/13/2019 2:50:31 PM

Bike Week is in full swing in the Granite State, an economic boon for local businesses with as many as 300,000 riders expected to pass through the state by the end of the week.

Now in its 96th year, Laconia Motorcycle Week continues to draw visitors from across the country and north of the border in Canada. While most of the action is in Laconia, some riders are setting up their home base for the week in the Concord area.

Raymond Brault, of Maple Grove, Quebec, has been coming down to New Hampshire for Bike Week since 1964. For many of those years, he and his wife, Denise, stayed in hotel rooms and camping grounds around the Lakes Region or farther north in Conway.

This year, they brought their camper down to Loudon and have been set up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since last Thursday. 

“The camping here is very nice,” Denise said. “We have a nice spot here, it’s near the washroom and everything, and it’s very clean.”

Visitors were still trickling in through the speedway’s main gate Wednesday, but NHMS General Manager David McGrath said about 600 campers have reserved spots on the property for this weekend.

“We’re up year over year in terms of both revenue and campers, so there’s been a big bump for sure,” he said.

McGrath, a motorcycle enthusiast himself who was out on a ride in the Seacoast on Wednesday, said the speedway opened additional camping space for the weekend, including in the track’s infield.

The speedway has long been part of the annual week-long celebration of all things bikes by hosting a series of motorcycle races across its property and on its road course, which incorporates part of the track’s 1-mile oval.

The annual Loudon Classic, held on the track’s road course each June during Motorcycle Week, is the longest-running motorcycle race in the U.S., according to NHMS.

Earlier this month, the speedway unveiled its new flat track, a quarter-mile dirt oval located on the southern end of the property behind the North East Motor Sports Museum.

The speedway broke ground on the flat track in the fall after a Merrimack County Superior Court judge ruled that NHMS could use that portion of the property for events outside of the main racetrack. Neighbors in the area had sued when the track announced it would hold a country music festival in its southern parking lot. They appealed to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the Superior Court judge’s ruling in February.

“It allows us to use our property in ways it’s never been allowed to be used,” McGrath said.

The first race to ever be held on the track is set for Saturday afternoon when riders in the American Flat Track series face off. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online. The series is divided into two division between single- and twin-cylinder bikes. Gates open at noon with practice runs and individual heats throughout the afternoon before culminating the singles main event at 6 p.m. and the twin main event at 6:30 p.m.

The flat track also means more races on the card when NASCAR rolls through Loudon in July. Legends and midget cars will race on the dirt track under the lights that Friday night, July 19, to open the weekend.

But this week, the focus remains centered on two wheels instead of four. McGrath described the set-up at the speedway as “Motorcycle Nirvana.”

Some visitors on Wednesday morning took demo rides on Harley-Davidson, Yamaha and Indian motorcycles in one of the parking lots outside the south end of the track.

Others relaxed and sipped their morning coffee near their campers while getting ready for the day’s ride. Raymond Brault helped his friends and RV neighbors, Paul Dumont and Paule Dussault, install a new a chrome accessory on the front of his white Harley.

They weren’t sure where they were going to ride for the day, but they knew it was their last before heading home to Canada on Thursday. They spent the last six days riding down to the Seacoast and up into the White Mountains. The Braults said they spent some time visiting Concord on Tuesday.

They’ve been to other Motorcycle Weeks around the country, such as Daytona Beach, but Laconia’s bike week is their regular trip.

(Nick Stoico can be reached 369-3321, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)


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