This year was the 30th anniversary of Americade and I decided to celebrate by doing something I had never done before: staying in Lake George for the event. Living just two hours north of Lake George, I have always done Americade as a day trip, riding down and back the same day. Last year, I rode down and back three times during the week.
Staying in Lake George enabled me to take a demo ride, see Americade at night, and stay for late day events – all new for me.
Manufacturers demo rides are one of Americade’s big draws. The manufacturers hold ride sign-ups daily and the most popular sell out in the first hour of registration. The Ducati Diavel ride is so popular that riders start queuing at 7 a.m. – a full hour before registration begins. A friend of a friend in the Ducati booth got me onto the list for a ride on the Diavel, allowing me to skip the line and stroll in at 8:30 for my Ducati experience.
The Ducati Experience
After an espresso and a biscotti in the Ducati Café, our ride group is briefed on the beast we are about to ride. We learned it is fast and sexy, and riding it will improve our love life, status and power. That is a lot for a motorcycle, but the Diavel seems up to the task.
In the briefing, we’re told the demo route is long – close to an hour. It includes twisty sections with 35 Mph to 45 Mph curves and stretches of Adirondack, 55 Mph back roads. Our group heads out at a good pace, anxious to try the Diavel’s sport mode and unleash an unregulated 165 Hp with minimal traction control.
The Diavel proves to be an excellent motorcycle. The power is very easy to manage with plenty available at all times. The handling is exceedingly competent and stable, with steering inputs delivered through a wide bar. The seating position is a comfortable squat that doesn’t encourage much movement.
I am not sure if forty-five minutes on the Diavel is long enough to make me taller, richer or more handsome, but a pretty girl did give me a survey to fill out when I finished the ride. Riders looking for a good looking, high-powered, smooth handling motorcycle will find much to like in the Diavel.
Few visitors to Americade realize the event hosts a bike show with 29 classes, run back-to-back over four days. The event is held in near secrecy, in a dark tent behind the Fort William Henry Resort hotel. I asked directions to find the show and was pleased to find the Classics 1975 – 1987 competition about to start when I arrived.
Competitors must ride their bikes to the competition (though there is no rule concerning how far they must ride).
Robert Smith rode his 1978 Kawisaki KZ650 café racer from Albany NY to Lake George to compete. Smith finished his bike only two days before the competition. His ride to Lake George was his final test and it included a stretch at “the ton up”.
Robert Smith's 1978 KZ650
The Kawi has many hand-crafted bits, custom built by Smith. He quickly lets me know that he started his project before the popular TV series Café Racer first aired.
Dan Duffy from Chestnut Ridge NY also showed a 1978 Kawasaki – a KZ400. Although Duffy’s bike began life looking very similar to Smith’s, his approach to restoring his Kawi was completely different. Duffy's bike is true to its late-seventies, Japanese standard styling and is a tastefully done custom with unique paint and finishes.
> Dan Duffy's 1978 KZ400
Duffy found the bike on the side of the road with a free sign on it. “Free is for me!,” he said. “If I take it home and it runs, I'll restore it.” Much to his wife's dismay, the bike started up and he began a multi-year restoration project.
The two bikes are an interesting contrast of style and watching Smith and Duffy compare stories was a joy for me. Each admires bits of the others work and they commiserate on the trials of restoring a bike from abused to loved. They are true enthusiasts, pursuing motorcycling for pride and joy, not fame and fortune.
Photos; Show Bikes
My a-la-carte wristband enables me to see a trials bike demonstration by World Trials Champion Tommi Ahvala. Going into the show, I had modest expectations: how good can a trials show in a parking lot be? Trials riding should include rocks and natural features, not man-made ramps and structures.
It turns Ahvala’s show is good: very good!
Tommi Ahvala ripping it up
Ahvala is a showman, craftsman and athlete. He is his own DJ and MC -- all while riding. That trick alone is worthy of praise, but Ahvala's riding is exciting, precise and powerful. His ability to accelerate boldly in a small space with enough power to launch his bike off a ramp, shooting fifteen feet to the top of his trailer demonstrates skill and confidence. Watching him dance his bike 180 degrees on the top platform and then launch back down a ramp shows pure fearlessness and control.
At the end of his show, Ahalva signs autographs for young fans. He shows that despite his obvious abilities, he is humble enough to care about the people who appreciate him.
Photos: Tommi Ahvala
Each morning begins with the sound of bikes riding past my hotel and it makes me want to ride. The main drag in Lake George is crowded, but a short ride out of town leads to uncluttered, shady roads with good pavement and plenty of curves.
Riding through the cool morning air, groups of five or six bikes, flying the other way in a likeminded pursuit of a proper head-clearing, energize my ride.
On my last day at Americade, I ride up Prospect Mountain Road: a six-mile long, mountain road that leads to a peak overlooking Lake George and all of Americade. The road is well paved and easy to ride, with frequent pull-offs for sightseeing. Only motorcycles are allowed to ride to the summit -- car dwellers must use a hiking trail from a parking lot below.
Enjoying the view at one of the many pull-offs
View from the Summit of Prospect Mountain
Prospect Mountain Road is 500 feet south of the Lake George Forum on the right-hand side of the road. The road opens at 10 a.m and there is $5 toll per motorcycle. The ride is a peaceful change from the roar of Canada Street, with long, green views and little noise.
Americade at Night
The main street in Lake George, Canada Street, isn’t just a daytime scene. My hotel – like most in Lake George – is on Canada Street and I can walk easily to downtown and places to eat.
Light show on Canada Street
I hit the Adirondack Pub and Brewery with a friend for a fresh, local craft brewed Black IPA and a Catfish dish that is perfect mix of flavors and textures. After dinner, we head to a bar with Karaoke and watch a Ducati rep sing Tom Jones covers and a local growl out Metallica with James Hetfield intensity.
The next night, we head to Canada Street for a late night dessert. Bikes with LED’s lighting frames and wheels cruise the street, creating a spontaneous lightshow parade.
On to The Future
In 30 years Americade has grown from 2,000 participants to an estimated 50,000. Along the way, the event has added demo rides, activities and vendors and is looking for ways to attract new, young riders, while keeping its current clientele. Undoubtedly, this is a challenge.
Based on my unscientific survey of bikes at Americade, I noticed an increase in dual-sport and sport motorcycles this year – bikes generally favored by younger riders. I think this is a positive sign for the event. Americade’s multi-brand, “all bikes welcome” approach may be its key to continued success.
Friday was my last day at Americade and by Saturday I was back home. I stopped at Roadside Motorsports in Williston to pick-up a part and was surprised to see 15 or so young riders with sport bikes lined up in the parking lot. I asked one of the guys where they were headed: he said they were the 802 Riders and they were headed to Lake George to check out Americade.
I wonder if they had a good time? I bet they did.