Ogemaw Hills Bike Week kicks off Sunday
West Branch, Mi 48661
WEST BRANCH — There will be plenty of events for bikers — and plenty of bikers to participate in them — as Ogemaw Hills Bike Week kicks off this Sunday.
Bike Week Chairman Kerry Klug called the event “a cornucopia of motorcycle fun and adventure.”
“It’s everything motorcycling,” Klug said.
The event kicks off July 14 with the AMA Pro Hill Climb at Bunting Sand and Gravel. This will be the third year the event has been part of the pro tour. And for those who may have attended the hill climb in the past, the professional bikes are much faster and bring an entirely new element to the event.
“Essentially, these are top fuel dragsters, going uphill on knobby tires,” Klug told the Herald. “They’re two-wheeled, nitro-burning rocket ships with upwards of 350 horsepower. They literally go from zero to 100 in three or four seconds.”
This year’s event may evolve even more, as Klug said there are plans to possibly add a tabletop jump to the start of climb.
“They’ll be hitting that before (climbing the hill),” Klug said. “They’ll have to hit it, land, and then we’re going to put a turn in on an angle, like 15 to 20 degrees. They’re doing this on other hills throughout the country.”
He said the change is designed to make the hill a little harder for the riders, as well as slow them down a little bit.
“They’re getting so powerful, and these guys are so good, they’re (climbing the hill) in three to four seconds,” Klug said. “It should add a lot more excitement to the event. It will make it more challenging to the riders.”
Klug said there are also plans to move the pits to allow fans to get closer to the track.
“It’s very exciting for the fans, because if everything works out, they’ll be able to stand on both sides of the track,” he said. “You’ll be standing there watching these guys sail through the air above your head.”
Klug said he hopes to have a good turnout for the event.
“I really hope that, in light of what just happened with our fireworks show, the hill climb would really enjoy as much local support as we could possibly muster for sure,” he said.
Other competition events throughout the week include the Bert Cummings Memorial Pro Flat Track Race at the Ogemaw County Fairgrounds July 17, and a motocross race at Stone Ridge MX July 20.
All the events center around the motorcycle rally portion of the event, which occurs at the fairgrounds all week long and includes many different motorcycle-related activities, concerts and other events. Klug said he expects a good crowd again this year.
“Last year we had around 4,000, give or take a couple of people,” he said. “We were growing at a pretty good average, but the past couple years the growth has slowed right down to almost a dead halt. But I think, in general, things have picked up a bit.”
He said he’s hoping to see an increase in attendance this year.
“We’re always prepared for a bigger crowd,” he said. “We’re easily prepared for a 5,000- to 6,000-person crowd. When the Harley dealers left, that’s what the numbers were at. That’s a nice manageable crowd. I honestly don’t ever see it going beyond that.”
Klug said the event has changed a lot over the years since it originally began as a Harley Owners Group rally. It’s now open to all motorcycles, and involves the different competition events. He said he expects the event to continue to change in the coming years.
“I think five years from now it will be a little bit different,” he said. “It will have a lot of the same elements as it has now. But as things change — everybody used to come sleep in tents. Now the people have been coming here for 25 years and they own toy haulers and don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore.”
He said he thinks the event is more far-reaching now as well, as the committee travels around the state all year to promote it. He said of the 4,000 or more people who will come to the fairgrounds next week, around 800 to 900 of them will be local people.
“Our next biggest demo is straight south of us — Bay City, Saginaw, Flint,” Klug said. “We’re seeing an increase from the Oakland County area. Then it breaks down to a smattering from every county from all over.”
Klug said there is a map at the fairgrounds, and every year the committee asks people to place a pin where they are from.
“We look back at where we did shows and how we’re promoting in these areas,” he said. “I would expect to see an increase with the group of custom bike builders that are joining us this year.”
He said the event has a little bit for everyone in the motorcycle community.
“We reach out to the motorcyclist,” Klug said. “We want to involve everyone that wants to come out, whether the entry-level motorcyclist to the person that enjoys the history and likes looking at the vintage bikes.”
Passes to the fairgrounds are $55 per person for July 14-21, $40 for July 18-21 or $25 for July 20 only. Tickets for the hill climb are $15, with kids 12 and younger free with a paid adult. Flat track tickets are $10 with kids 12 and younger free with a paid adult. Admission for the motocross is $10 with kids 7 and younger free with a paid adult.
For more information about Ogemaw Hills Bike Week, visit www.ogemawhillsbikeweek.com.