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Declining Laconia Rally will be lucky to make it to 100 : Oldest motorcycle club in town reflects on history:125 years of biking Portsmouth Motorcycle Club

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The Laconia Daily Sun

To The Daily Sun,

Sunday marked the end of the 95th Laconia Motorcycle Rally, and there is a lot of talk about the upcoming 100th. I wonder if the rally will make it that far.

A little background on myself. I have been riding motorcycles since 1975, mostly road riding and touring. I have been in 26 states and every province of Canada on two wheels. I ride over 10,000 miles per year. I am a life member of the American Motorcycle Association (AMA), a member of the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association among many other groups. I am not a 1 percenter, or a 3% percenter and do not wear a vest by choice.

I have also attended various Laconia/Louden events since the mid-70s and have noticed a continuous decline in the variety and quality of events. Where has the AMA gone? In the1970s and 1980s the Camel Pro Series at Briarwood, and later NHIS were exciting multi class motorcycle racing with top flight teams and racers. Evidently the AMA no longer supports these events. There is road racing both week-ends of “Bike Week,” both are poorly promoted and difficult to find any information about times, classes events etc. This results in poorly attended, poorly executed, unprofessional events. These are the events that should be the anchors for Bike Week, and not treated like afterthoughts.

The AMA hill-climb event was little better; multiple times are listed for amateur and professional events, resulting in a large number of event-goers arriving just in time for a two hour break in the action. The event itself was disorganized, the announcer was rarely correct and the classes jumbled up, making the event difficult to follow. Add to this no seating, no shade and $4 for a bottle of water ($7 for a beer) made this an event to forget. It was also telling of the “make money” attitude of the sponsors, you could buy a lawn-chair for less money than the event T-shirt. At $20 a ticket the sponsors could do better.

Where are the vendors? Less than 10 years ago vendor tents would line Route 3 from the Broken Spoke to Weirs beach on both sides of the road. Now there is open space on Lakeside Avenue. The remaining vendors are the same old, tired junk, T-shirt and foul smelling cheap leather purveyors from 10 years ago. Giant turkey leg anyone?

The “required” stop at Harts/Laconia HD is much the same — fewer vendors, fewer people. The HD test ride center was away from the dealership at the Weir’s. The test rides at NHMS are a high-point of the whole rally, again, fewer manufacturers, and where was Moto Guzzi and Ducati?

The 2016 LaconiaFest music festival was a nightmare, but whatever happened to the music series at Meadowbrooke 2006? It died from lack of promotion.

What happened to North Conway’s “Rally in the Valley”? The last update on their web page was 2017.

In the mid 2000s, attendance was estimated as high as 400,000, this year the estimate was 250,000. There were vacancies at motels within a mile of the Weir’s, places that 10 years ago would be booked a year in advance!

Motorcyclist are “aging out,” we all notice this. Younger folk have not taken to our sport or lifestyle, for reasons of their own. We are a gray haired, limping shadow of the group we once were. The rally no longer speaks to us, we have all drank that one too many beers, had that “nearly fatal” sunburn and bought the T-shirt. The promoters don’t seem to see this, resulting in fewer vendors, fewer events and poor organization. Or maybe the sponsors and promoters do see this and are quietly “pulling the plug.”

As I said earlier, I have been attending Laconia/Louden events for almost 40 years. I have scheduled time-off to attend every year since 2005. This will not happen next year.

Don Kilgour

Haverhill, Mass.

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Kokomo

Howard County’s oldest motorcycle club is celebrating its 50th anniversary with three original charter members still holding strong.

Over the past half-century, the Road Knights has headed up countless events that have inspired camaraderie and raised money to support youth in the community. And according to charter member William Pendleton, the club stirred a love for riding in many people over the decades.

In the 50 years of our existence, we have been inspired by a lot of people as well as being inspirational to a lot of people. Some of the younger riders always tell us, when they would see us riding and leaving on a trip, they would say, ‘One day I’m going to buy a bike.’ That wish came true for a lot of people,” Pendleton said.

The group got its start in 1968 by the Reed and Hogan families after more and more people started buying motorcycles. Club meetings initially were held out of one of the Hogan family garages with Roy Reed serving as president and Clarence Grier serving as vice president. Three years later, the club officially was sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association.

A Kokomo icon, the late Bill Lipkey, was credited for helping the club get its first events going. Lipkey, who was the owner of Kokomo Speedway, worked with the Road Knights to put on field meets back in the ‘70s. The club would have a police escort, which usually was led by officers Carl Crowder and Bob Beeler, from North Locke Street to the Speedway.

One of our members used to have a racecar, so he loved speed,” said Pendleton.

That member, Sony Killerbrew, was the reason the club began having motorcycle drag races in 1982. Those races continued until 1994 when the club decided to simply have a bike night and fund raiser at the clubhouse instead to support sponsorships.

Road Knights has been sponsoring North Side Little League for 40 years, Carver Center basketball for several years, as well as sponsoring PAL football, other youth activities, and a different child each year to attend F.D. Reese Christian Academy.

Over the years, the club became a staple at festivals such as the Haynes-Apperson Festival where riders were a part of the annual parade and would “ride in different circles in our white parade uniforms.” The club also rode in the Tipton Pork Festival parade for many years.

While members have come and gone over the years, with some moving back to where they grew up or others passing away, three charter members remain. In addition to Pendleton, Roy Reed and Clarence Grier are 50-year members.

“You know, some of the guys are not with us anymore, but we still have plenty of those memories,” Pendleton said.

And proof is in the Road Knights’ clubhouse. The walls are plastered with countless photos showing the members from 50 years ago to today at places they’ve ridden and with people they’ve met.

Pendleton said the club was blessed over the years to have support from the city, as members once included Glen Lancaster and Bruce Reed of the Kokomo Fire Department and Nate Newsom and Norris Jones of the Kokomo Police Department.

“At some point, every biker has had a close call of an accident. Some people might say you were lucky. We know it was the grace of God. I can’t remember a time that we ever took a trip without saying a prayer. We made it because of God’s grace and mercy,” he said.

Boyd Kirby, the current president of Road Knights, said it’s an honor for the club to still be around today.

“In one way it’s an honor celebrating the 50th because we’re still here, and most of us are still in pretty good health that we’re able to carry this on,” Kirby said. “In order to be together as a unit for 50 years, it seems to be a joy, and like I said we’re still doing our thing.”

In addition to Pendleton, Kirby, Reed, and Greer, the other Road Knights members are Paul Reed, George Trevillon, Lee Gleaves, Ray Eddington, Richard McNeil, Daniel Beard, and James Garrett.

This month, another tradition continues for the club, the annual Father’s Day fish fry at the clubhouse, located at 711 N. Locke St. The event begins around 11 a.m. Friday, June 15, and runs through Saturday, June 16. The community is invited out for camaraderie and fish that’s been touted as some of the best around, thanks to “Chef” Kirby’s “secret” seasoning. A freewill donation will be taken.

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Portsmouth Daily

It started with 15 bicycle enthusiasts in 1893. Credit for being the founding father goes to Alex Glockner, a patriarch of Portsmouth’s Glockner family. In 1913, what was the Portsmouth Cycling Club became the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club. But it’s the 1893 date that seems to matter most.

With that date in mind, the American Motorcycle Association recognizes the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club as the oldest motorcycle club in the country.

Located since the 1940s in a converted home at the end of Front Street on Alexandria Point, the club will mark its 125th anniversary June 30 with a free party open to the public. The party will include barbecue and refreshments, along with vintage motorcycle and bicycle shows. Club vice president Joe McNeer says there will be a charge for food and drink, along with nominal fees to enter the bike shows. Plaques go to the winners, to be chosen by visitors. McNeer says the public is encouraged to enter bikes, motorized or otherwise, into the shows.

The club has plenty of history, certainly, and McNeer, 56, has plenty of history with the club. His grandfather was a member, and he joined some 25 years ago. “It’s been a big part of my life,” McNeer says. Son Tyler, 32, is, for now, a probationary member, but expects to become the club’s only third-generation legacy member soon. (Legacy or not, each would-be new member must pass a six-month probationary period, after which members will vote “yea” or “nay” on permanent membership.)

“I grew up down here for the most part,” Tyler McNeer says after returning from the club’s spring run, which included about 100 bikes. “Everyone here knows everyone. I grew up with these guys,” Tyler McNeer adds. The elder McNeer says wet weather over the weekend probably cut down on the number of participants for the spring run. Nevertheless, the club headquarters was packed with people and surrounded by bikes after the roughly 60-mile cruise. Everyone talked with for this story, of course, mentioned how much they enjoy riding and working on bikes. But each also mentioned the camaraderie of the group, and perhaps most importantly, the organization’s plentiful community involvement.

“We all get along; we have a great group of people,” says 14-year member Dan Thompson, adding what has kept him a member all this time is the club’s civic activities. “We love helping the community and people that need help.”

Thompson and others talked about toy runs at Christmas time, activities to support veterans and numerous other similar undertakings. The community help was the first thing mentioned about the club by member Keith Rose, who, with Thompson, was manning a table selling hats and patches, some commemorating the club’s quasiquicentennial (125 years), during the recent spring run.

“We give a lot to kids,” Rose says.

“You know these guys, some of them, might look a little rough,” Thompson continued. “It’s an image, but they are all good guys.”

Charles Seymore, 72, is acknowledged as the longest tenured member of the club, having joined in 1962 at the ripe old age of 16. (The club has since changed the minimum age for membership to 21.) Seymore says the club has given him memories and experiences he never would have otherwise. He mentions riding by waterfalls or cruising down twisting, turning country roads. The motorcycle club is generally for men only, but Seymore’s wife Sharon is one of four honorary female members. Charles Seymore says he still rides and intends to keep riding as much and as long as his health allows. The Seymores also mentioned the club’s community-minded activities as a huge positive.

Joe McNeer says there are hundreds of stories that can be told about the club’s 125 years. The inside of the club headquarters is a bit of a museum, with vintage photos, patches and riding gear from days gone by. There is even a bit of a story behind the club’s move to its current location. A former member sold the building to the group for a few dollars rather than see his wife gain it in a divorce, McNeer reveals. He adds that, unfortunately, a lot of club memorabilia was lost to a fire in 2001. The club reached out to the community asking anyone to step forward with club-related materials they might be willing to donate.

Portsmouth responded nicely, perhaps especially the Glockner family, McNeer continues. Not completely incidentally, the McNeers have a connection to the Glockners even beyond the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club.

In 1913, club founder Alex Glockner started a Harley-Davidson dealership in Portsmouth. That dealership later was sold to Harry McNeer, Joe McNeer’s grandfather. That business sort of morphed into the McNeer Motor Company, which, sitting off 10th Street, to this day caters to motorcycles of all types, with mechanical and customizing work. Tyler McNeer is not only following his father into the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club, but also is a mechanic working in the family business.

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