Your Honda CBR 1000RR is frighteningly fast down the back straight of your local roadrace track, isn’t it? The rev-happy motor is thrilling as the tach needle points further to the right. What about putting that motor in a dirt bike chassis with an extended swingarm and riding it straight-up a hillside? Hillsides so steep, track staff use ropes to help them climb the hill while on foot.
This type of Hill Climb racing started after WW II. The winner is determined by the one to make it to the top or the quickest to the top if there is more than one finisher (not many sporting events today have that type of condition to determine a winner).
There are 3 classes in the national hill climb events:
• Open Exhibition class (701cc – whatever your imagination can build)
Most racers in the 450 class use stock motocross bikes with extended swingarms and paddle rear tires. This is a fairly inexpensive introduction to the sport.
— Custom Honda CBR 954 Open class Hill Climb by Curt Winter, BTR. —
The 700 class is similar. Many racers use the CR 500’s, KX 500’s or some of the bigger KTM thumpers on nitrous.
The Open Exhibition is the most intriguing and is capturing a growing fan base – for good reason. Most of these bikes are custom built, using engines from street bikes. (late model sportbike engines or old, but trusty, KZ1000’s, British twins, big-inch HD’s, etc. You name it, and you might be entertained by a rider using the engine to climb a hill.)
The current AMA Champion, Tiger Strank, won his seventh AMA Hillclimb national title on a Yamaha R6-powered hillclimb bike.
Fuel type also varies in the Open class where alcohol or nitro methane is sometimes used. Bikes running nitro can make as much as 240 HP!
Although the bikes are stunning, the courageous riders take their machines to another level, literally and figuratively. Tuning these bikes is not as easy as going to your local track and running a bunch of laps until you have dialed in the bike setup. It is difficult to find a hill worthy of testing your bike. In addition, many of these bikes are designed for close course competition, so going to a state riding park is not an option. Most testing is done at the event on race day, and getting the proper set up is tough as the hill changes from one run to the next. This only adds to the excitement of hill climbing. This sport has an equivalent level of “extreme” as motocross free-style. Hillclimb should be included in the X-Games.
Look for an event this spring or winter in some states.
(Note from kneeslider: Doug’s article points to a sport I’ve had very little exposure to and considering what some of these guys are running, it looks like a hoot! The open class looks a little crazy, … I like it.)
Photo credit for top photo: Peterson Family Racing via MotorcycleUSA