Asphalt & Rubber is already off the mountain, and onto Indianapolis, but I am still wrapping up my coverage of the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The second-oldest motorsport race in the United States, Pikes Peak gets a bit less fanfare than America’s oldest race, the Indianapolis 500 (apropos to my current locale). In general, the hill climb is a campy affair that is full of privateers, with that statement being even more relevant in the motorcycle class. More of a car event, than a bike one, it is the two-wheeled riders who are the real heroes in my mind, as stakes for any crash on the mountain is met with higher stakes, as well as trees, jagged rocks, and long drops.

Ducati is ever-present at the mountain, and brings with it another level of media attention for the motorcycles. The hope this year was that the Italian brand would not continue to race itself to the clouds, as Triumph was expected to arrive in force as well, with rider Joe Kopp giving Carlin Dunne and Greg Tracy a run for their money. This hope failed to materialize, with the 1205cc class hosting four Ducatis in total: the two backed Multistradas, as well as two Streetfighter entries. Now with the fully-paved course to the top, there was a lot of speculation regarding what sort of entries we would see this year in the motorcycle classes, though PPIHC put the kibosh on that fairly quickly, slotting the proper road bikes in the “Exhibition Powersports” class.

Watching the bikes file through, one after another, during the practice sessions, it is clear Pikes Peak is a still a dirt bike race masquerading itself as a road course event. Supermotos and flat trackers rule the entry list; but more so, it is the style of the riders that gives it all away. Foot out with the bike pushed down and under was the status quo, with the occasional rider coming through with a knee out and the bike leaned over. I will probably explore this idea further later, but you can’t help but feel that Pikes Peak is in a transitional state. Stymied in its history, it will be curious to see if the event can evolve into something else. The road certainly has.

Photos: © 2012 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

  • Here’s a video that one of our MRA guys made of his motorcycle climb:

  • JoeKing

    it is clear Pikes Peak is a still a dirt bike race masquerading itself as a road course event.

    I believe it will remain that way because of the nature of the alot of stop & go hairpins lending themslves to wide bars, big torque, point & squirt bikes & riding style.

    I used to ride Angeles Crest on a converted 400 2-stroke MX bike with great success. Traditional 750-1000 sport bikes aren’t suited to 20-70mph riding as well as “dirt” bikes.

  • meatspin

    these guys look kinda slow compared to some actual RR footage i’ve seen from the UK. It’d be nice if they let actual racebikes onto the course.

  • They are going about half the speed, 75 mph average vs. 130 mph average. But, Pikes Peak is a much more technical and tight course compared to say, the Isle of Man TT.

  • Campisi

    Damn, I had just finished convincing myself that I don’t need to get myself a supermoto-style machine when these shots come along. Putting a foot out on a CB 400 confuses people for some reason.

  • T Shred

    The HD #884 is wearing a parachute?!?!? WTF is that all about?

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  • Shred, some of the drop-offs are pretty sheer. Going off the track in some sections could have you counting quite a while before hitting ground. A ‘chute could make the difference between injury and death.

  • The joke is that if you go off at The Bottomless Pit (the turn in the lead photo), you’ll starve before you hit the ground. There are some gnarly drops, but I suspect that’s not a parachute. ;)

  • Any chance of publishing photos of the Ducati street fighter bikes ?

  • Richard Gozinya

    Actually it is a parachute. Found a bit of background on it, and the guy wearing it, here.

  • Thanks for the link, Richard. That was a good read.

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  • T Shred

    So that article mentions that he’s wearing a parachute but doesn’t say why? If you slid off a cliff there would it really save you?

  • Richard Gozinya

    @ T Shred

    I think it’s part joke, part lucky charm.