GILFORD — Two brothers who are enjoying success in this year’s American Motorcycle Association Hill Climb series say the adrenaline-inducing sport is both highly addictive and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Nick Briggs, 25, and his older brother, Deryk Beaudoin, 31, both raised in Belmont, were at Gunstock yesterday to take part in the first-ever pro hill climb event at the county-owned recreation area.
“There’s nothing in the world more exciting than the rush you get from this,” said Briggs as he and his brother waited for the call to a driver’s meeting after the amateur portion of the hill climb concluded late Wednesday morning.
Beaudoin agreed. “When you’re sitting on top of a 300 horsepower motorcycle and you can feel the power surge when you accelerate up the hill, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
He won his first pro hill climb in 2015, the same year that Briggs captured the Pro Sport Championship division and decided to turn pro.
Both ride in the Extreme and Unlimited class, with Beaudoin riding a Kawasaki 636 and Kawasaki 1000, both powered by nitrous oxide fuel.
Briggs drives a Suzuki 700 and Suzuki 750, which are both powered by nitrous methane. He also drives a Yamaha 450.
The brothers say their bikes are typical street bikes with custom built frames that extend the wheelbase, changing the leverage so that it's easier to keep the front end down as they head up the hill. They use knobbed tires and have stronger rear shock absorbers than normal street bikes.
Beaudoin is currently in sixth place in the hill climb standings after a third place finish last weekend in Jefferson, Pennsylvania, and Briggs is eighth.
The brothers say that they are glad to see thus year’s Gunstock Hill Climb add a pro division and are glad to be back racing up the hill where they made their debuts as competitors more than 10 years ago.
The hill climb had an entirely new look this year, with professional drivers taking part and the starting line moved further back, into the infield area at the base of Gunstock Mountain Resort's 70-meter ski jump.
Ridge Runner Promotions of Canaan put on the event, which was revived last year after a five-year hiatus.
The hill climb was run at Gunstock from 1946 until 1962 and again from 1993 until 2011, when Ridge Runner Promotions and management of the resort failed to renew their contract.
At the height of its popularity in 2003, the hill climb attracted 12,000 spectators, but attendance declined sharply after the event was moved to the base of the Phelps trail in 2007.
For five years, Ridge Runner Promotions held a competition in the Pro Hill Climb Series sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association at the organization's site in Canaan.
That event is no longer held.
Kevin Barton of Enfield, who was a hill climber with Ridge Runners for 28 years, said that he was glad to see the event back at its former site at the ski jump hill.
“It’s so much better than it was at the other location,” said Barton, who used to do hill climb events with a four-stroke Yamaha GP 500 and once took a third place at Gunstock.
“The great thing about the ski slope is that the further you go up the slope, the steeper it becomes. It makes it really challenging to cut your throttle at the right time so you don’t over jump the landing spot.”
He recalled that Henry Farnsworth, founder of the Ridge Runners, suffered injuries at Gunstock nearly 15 years ago when he made a jump near the top and the throttle stuck, sending him into foam padding at the base of the ski jump tower.
“They had installed the padding at the speedway in Loudon after Kyle Petty died in crash during a practice session. But it didn’t work out so they donated it to Gunstock,” remembered Barton.
He was at the hill climb with his wife, Angel, and daughter, Nicole, and all three were enjoying the music from the Michael Vincent Band, a group with Lakes Region roots.
“”This is so good to hear the music and enjoy the atmosphere here. It’s great to see people having a good time,” Angel said.
She said that she’s always been a fan of the bike culture and really enjoyed it even more when the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week drew bigger crowds about 15 years ago.
“Those were the good old days,” she said, adding that she was always supportive of her husband’s hill climbing adventures.