The roads less traveled
Routes you should know about (but probably don’t)
New Hampshire—It should come as no surprise that more people are spending Laconia Motorcycle Week riding the roads of New Hampshire than partying at the Weirs. During this week, specific routes are transformed into biker expressways—complete with traffic jams—while others remain practically deserted. It was a motorcycle traffic jam in Alton Bay that led to my discovery of Alton Mountain Road, and in the past five years, I’ve not encountered another bike while taking this road to Belmont.
Barnstead is the next town south of Alton. Route 126 goes southeast from Barnstead, over Parker Mountain and through Center Strafford to Route 202/9. From Center Strafford, Route 202A goes either south to Northwood or northeast to Rochester. I’ve encountered wild turkeys, a moose, deer, a coyote, geese and quail on this road during Bike Week, but never another motorcycle. I don’t recommend riding it after dusk (going to the flat-track races inRochester, for example) due to the abundance of wildlife.
There are a number of enjoyable roads to be found within the triangle formed by the New Hampshire cities of Concord, Manchester and Dover. Route 43 from Northwood to Candia is one, and South Road-Deerfield Road through Bear Brook State Park is another. I doubt you’ll see another motorcycle while on either of these. From Allentown (Route 28), cut over Palousawa Hill on North Pembroke Road to Route 106 in the capital city of Concord and then north to Loudon.
Route 153, the Wakefield/Milton Scenic and Cultural Byway, twists between a series of lakes and hills that are tucked away on the New Hampshire/Maine border. You will see other motorcycles on this highway between Sanbornville and Conway, but not so many that you’d suspect a major rally is taking place only 25 miles away.
Winona Road begins at the traffic light (Pease Road) on Route 104 in Meredith. This choice motorcycle road is no longer a secret, but it’s not crowded. This road ends in Ashland. Caution: There are a couple of very tricky blind corners that will put you into the oncoming lane before you can react.
Route 113 begins in Holderness and this narrow rural road runs around Squam Lake and through Center Sandwich, where a stop at the general store is recommended. In North Sandwich, continue straight onto Route 113A, which loops north through Wonalancet before rejoining Route 113 in Tamworth. Some beautiful views of the southern White Mountains can be seen along this road. East on Route 113 goes to Route 16 in Chocorua; west (actually south) goes to Route 25. These roads are heavily patrolled during Bike Week, so keep to the speed limit.
The town of Conway offers factory outlets, numerous restaurants, White Mountain Harley-Davidson and abundant, affordable lodging. It’s also a traffic bottleneck for those heading north to Crawford Notch (Route 302) or Pinkham Notch (Route 16). There are ways to circumvent the snarled traffic, and West Side Road is the most pleasant. The next left past the junction of Route 112/Kancamagus Highway is Washington Street (at the traffic light opposite the junction of Route 153). Do not bear right to go through the Saco River Covered Bridge; bear left and you’ll go through the Swift River Covered Bridge onto West Side Road. The first major right turn is River Road to Route 302/16 in North Conway. Take this to go to North Conway village or Hurricane Mountain Road. Continue straight on Old West Side Road past Cathedral Ledge (ride to the top for a spectacular view) and Diana’s Baths (cascades and swimming area) to the junction at Route 302 near the Attitash ski area. Go east (right) on Route 302 to Route 16 north; west (left) to ride through Crawford Notch.
Hurricane Mountain Road has some bad corners and it’s not difficult to “catch some air” coming over a couple of rises. Caution is advised when taking what might be the most popular road in the region for sportbike riders. It begins in Intervale immediately after Route 302/16 crosses the railroad tracks and ends at Green Hill Road. Continue left on Green Hill Road into North Fryeburg, Maine.
Route 113 from North Fryeburg to Route 2 just west of Gilead, Maine, is a beautiful touring road that leads through Evans Notch in the White Mountain National Forest. Although it becomes rather narrow within the notch, this is not a technically challenging road, but one for sedate cruising through gorgeous countryside.
Check out the Redstone rocket on the Warren green when launching yourself on one of the most popular sportbike roads in central New Hampshire. This segment of Route 118 runs over the Blue Ridge range between Warren and Route 112 west of North Woodstock. It’s a serpentine mountain road running through the national forest, and it’s rare to find an RV on this one. Combined with the Kancamagus Highway, it makes for a great afternoon ride.
South of Lake Sunapee, a network of fine touring roads can be found. Route 31 is one these. It begins at Route 9 west of Hillsborough at the homestead of Franklin Pierce (14th President of the United States) and runs through the village of Washington to Route 10 in Goshen. I prefer a bit of a detour, taking Center Road and East Washington Road to reach Route 31. In Goshen, continue on Route 10 through Newport to Grantham. Go right on Route 114/Grantham Road—it will go under I-89—to Springfield (don’t bother looking for a village). Bear left on Four Corners Road (if you pass the Springfield Public Library, turn around and take the first right) and when it Ts, go left to Route 4A. No matter whether you go left or right, this road leads to Route 4, which in turn brings you to either Route 11 to Laconia, Route 104 to Meredith, or Route 118 to North Woodstock and the Kancamagus Highway.
These are not the only roads worth riding. The region south of I-89 and west of I-93 is an amazing web of colonial-era roads where it becomes a delight to get lost in the act of exploration. There are some incredible tracks of semi-pavement and gravel that I wouldn’t hesitate to take a fully-loaded Road King over (slowly and carefully), such as Pinkham B/Dolly Copp Road between Route 16 and U.S. Route 2. The well-known, often-traveled roads—the Kancamagus Highway and the roads through all the major White Mountain notches—should not be ignored, but you don’t have to make a steady diet of them.
So turn off the GPS, make an arbitrary turn, and leave the pack behind to explore the Granite State on roads you should know about, but probably don’t.