Vintage hill climb entertains Bike Week crowd in Laconia

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent
June 12. 2018 8:36PM
The checkered flag waves a vintage Norton motorcycle over the finish line during a historical exhibition of the original Tower Street hill climb. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

Tom Crompton of Bedford, pilots his 1917 Indian equipped with a sidecar up Tower Street in Weirs Beach on Tuesday as part of a historical exhibition of the original hill climb held in 1916. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA — A stable of 16 vintage and classic motorcycles and their riders entertained crowds during the 95th Annual Bike Week, being held June 9 through 17, when they tested their machines and their nerve against a steep hill Tuesday.

The event organized by the United States Classic Racing Association was a historical exhibition of the original Tower Street hill climb, dating back to 1916. Some of the vintage machinery competing included Vincent, Velocette and tank shift Indian motorcycles.

Tom Crompton of Bedford showcased his 1917 Indian motorcycle equipped with a sidecar. He obtained the rare bike in a trade for a 1940 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead.

“I just got it running a week ago Sunday,” said Crompton, who since retiring as a consultant in the health care industry has developed a passion for racing vintage motorcycles as a member of the USCRA.

Crompton said the rarest component on the Indian equipped with a 1,000 cc Powerplus engine is its original police speedometer that had special markings to allow a patrolling officer to pace and then ticket speed limit scofflaws.

Crompton also brought his 1938 Indian Scout, which he regularly races along the eastern seaboard, and piloted it on several speedy runs up Tower Street.

“There are some dangers involved but it’s a controlled situation with a calculated risk,” said Doug Donelan of Rockville Centre, N.Y. “It’s really exhilarating. There is no feeling like it. That’s why we all do it.”

A creative director for an advertising agency in New York City, Donelan was riding a 1968 Bultaco Metralla, a 250 cc Spanish-made motorcycle. He said the newest bike in the pack was a 1978 Moto Guzzi, with the majority being manufactured during the pre-World War II era.

“The Indian was the pride of New England made right in Springfield, Massachusetts,” Donelan said. “The Harleys are the real stars of the show, though, because of the noise and the tank shifters.”

Creighton Demarest of Hillsborough said he started racing motorcycles in 1979 but retired from the sport in 1999 to become a sidecar rider in vintage races. Demarest said he had no qualms about becoming a passenger because Bob Coy, the organizer of Tuesday’s expo and president of the USCRA, was driving.

Demarest donned his leathers and rode a 1963 BMW R27, a 250cc motorcycle, on the hill climb course.

“It’s such an awesome bike it just screams,” said Bailey Sisson, of Northfield, Mass., who blazed up the course aboard a bright yellow 1967 Triumph.

“It’s just great to see these old bikes make it up the hill,” said Sisson, who rides for Nova Motorcycles, a vintage repair shop in Turners Falls, Mass.

Larry Crowe, who was riding a 1964 BMW R60/2, said he was representing the motorcycle rider training program for the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles.

The state offers a variety of training programs to help motorcyclists learn new skills and take their riding to the next level, allowing them to race or participate in events like the hill climb.

Returning riders — those who rode, then left the sport for a career or to raise a family, and who then come back to it — are most likely to be involved in crashes, Crowe said. The state offers a variety of one-day courses including those designed to refresh skills and help riders stay safe.

“It’s really great seeing a crowd like this and the club is really happy to bring this to a really big motorcycle event,” Crowe said.


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