LACONIA — The Lakes Region has lots of people who can put together a motorcycle, and Doug Frederick and Bob Fay are certainly among them. Both have been motorcycle builders for years, but this spring they each have rolled something unique, for them, out of their respective shops.
In his small Lakeport garage — not far from where he worked as a dam operator for the Department of Environmental Services for more than three decades — Fay has built many motorcycles. He raced some of them, too. He raced in motocross events back when they were called “scrambles,” and he did flat-track racing. He also built bikes for quarter-mile drag strips.
“There is nothing like the thrill of shifting through the gears, getting on the throttle and hearing that noise,” he said of his racing days.
He’s finding a different kind of joy this Laconia Motorcycle Week, one that’s nearly silent.
Fay’s newest creation is an electric motorcycle that he built using an old rolling chassis and a kit he ordered online. He started with an old Enduro-style chassis from a Rokon motorcycle that he saved from the scrapyard 25 years ago. Then he spent the last 18 months — off and on — removing the engine, transmission and gas tank, and replacing them with batteries, an electric motor and circuit boards.
“Aside from the drivetrain, it’s still a Rokon,” he said.
The New Hampshire-based company is now known for two-wheel-drive motorcycles, but the chassis he used was made during the company’s foray into off-road, rear-wheel-drive racing
“It goes down the road pretty nice,” Fay said, noting that he didn’t have to mess with the bike’s brakes or chassis. “As far as handling and braking, it’s pretty sweet.”
The motorcycle, which runs on a 48-volt system, stores electricity in four deep-cycle batteries that are mounted where the engine normally would be found, and a motor spins a chain fixed to a single gear on the rear wheel. The circuit boards are mounted under a false fuselage.
“You pull up to a stop light, cars nowadays are quiet, there’s no sound,” Fay said. “This electric motor is like a power drill — all the power is available instantly, on acceleration. It’s really neat.”
He’s not about to turn any heads at the drag strip, though. He has a top speed of about 43 miles per hour, so limited because of the gearing he chose.
The farthest he’s taken it on a single charge is 18 miles — enough for him to get to Weirs Beach and back. He would take it into Meredith if he could find a place to charge it while he’s there. He can plug into any 120-volt outlet, and a few hours should be enough to charge it up, perhaps as much as six hours if the batteries were really depleted.
Fay has enjoyed the conversations with strangers that the bike has sparked this Motorcycle Week. While it might lack some of the volume that conventional motorcycles are known for, he said it’s a novel experience to hear more of the rest of the world while motorcycling.
“Everything else around you is available for your sensory perception,” he said.
A bike against bullying
“In my whole life, I’ve been against bullying,” said Doug Frederick. He had a career as a police officer in Hartford, Connecticut, and he said his job as an officer was to stand up against bullies. He also taught in Hartford, where he encouraged his students to do the same.
Now, he sees some of the ills of society as symptoms of young people who don’t have the tools to stand up for themselves.
“The whole drug epidemic, the teen suicides, break your heart,” he said.
Frederick is known to the Meredith community as the one-time owner and operator of the American Police Motorcycle Museum, which he operated on Route 3 for several years. There, he displayed a jaw-dropping collection of antique police motorcycles, many of which were close to 100 years old, all restored to like-new running condition by Frederick.
After disputes with Town Hall, Frederick closed his museum and sold the property — it’s currently being renovated into a brewery — and he plans to sell his New Hampton home and re-open his museum somewhere out-of-state.
He still has a lot of fond feelings for New Hampshire, though, and he wants to leave a parting gift. That forget-me-not is a fully restored 1970 BSA motorcycle, which Frederick has used as a vehicle for anti-bullying messages.
He is hoping to find an organization that he can give the bike to, and have it displayed for young people to see.
“The whole message kids need to hear is, don’t be afraid to speak up,” he said.
“I’d like this bike to never leave New Hampshire, it’s my way of saying thank you,” Frederick said. “If I get one kid not to use a needle, not to hurt themselves, it’s all worthwhile.”