Pike's Peak International Hill Climb

As I sit here blankly staring at my too-small laptop screen, I am nearly 100% recovered from the Pike's Peak Hill Climb. What can be so strenuous about riding for 14 minutes up a big, wide road, you ask? Apparently nothing, except for the oxygen-less altitude, sleepless practice schedule and unavoidable pageantry that comes with racing a motorcycle the second-oldest car race in the nation. Still, the competition was close and the views were incredible.

As I sit here blankly staring at my too-small laptop screen, I am nearly 100% recovered from the Pike's Peak Hill Climb. What can be so strenuous about riding for 14 minutes up a big, wide road, you ask? Apparently nothing, except for the oxygen-less altitude, sleepless practice schedule and unavoidable pageantry that comes with racing a motorcycle the second-oldest car race in the nation. Still, the competition was close and the views were incredible. Having raced Pike's Peak on a 150cc machine last year, I felt the need to step it up for 2008 and move into the 250cc division. Seeing as I was planning on making tracks to Colorado from the Vegas Endurocross, my Suzuki RM250 woods bike seemed more than up to the challenge. One long drive, two trips through tech inspection and one long riders meeting later, I was finally ready for practice up the big hill. As I mentioned in the intro, practice at Pike's Peak is nuts. Since the mountain has to be open to tourists every day at 9am, the practice sessions go from first light--5:30 am or so--until 8:30am.

This doesn't sound hideous until you remember that you have to be in your gear for the riders meeting, which is 45 minutes from the band of hotels in town. Add in time to get coffee and unload the bike and we're talking a 2:30am wakeup call just to ride practice. Ouch! Fortunately, only getting three hours of sleep is more like taking a good nap than getting a bad night's worth of shut-eye, so it's not too difficult to adapt. But by the end of the week, most everyone is over the schedule. For the first day's practice session (taking place in the course's lower, 80% asphalt section), I rolled up to the line feeling pretty out of place. Compared to the leather-clad flat track riders in my class, I looked like I had just popped out of the woods nearby and was looking for the next trailhead. Oh, I'd ordered some Dunlop dual-purpose-type tires well in advance, but Mr. Murphy of Murphy's law fame had ensured that they didn't show up. Clad with full-on knobbies I made the best of the day, finding a few good lines and throwing down an okay qualifying time in the process. Still, I didn't have much for the road racers in my class. Day two's practice went much better, as I spent the entirety of the session snoring away listlessly while everyone else froze their tails off. I figured that sleeping in would do me more good than learning the course, so I simply unplugged the alarm and went back to sleep. Needless to say, I felt pretty good that day! Rested and hungry, I bucked up and made the trek up the mountain for the next morning's practice. Along with my buddies at Faulkner/ Livingston Racing (who had organized the trip), Race Tech's Paul Thede and the ever-so-talented Alexander Smith, the morning was a hoot and the practice was a blast. A nice rain had coated the upper section of the course with perfect (for a knobby) traction, and I was able to set some solid times whilst trying not to get roosted by the quads. Race day finally came, and after more than a few red flags for some of the cars, the motorcycle divisions finally took off. I was in the third or so class, and was happy to pull a holeshot as we disappeared from sight of the starting line. However, the knee-draggers in my class blew passed me after that and I was left to keep her on two wheels until the dirt section.

There, I made use of a few good (if not odd) lines and passed a few riders, but of more concern than the race was the view from the mountain. Each deadly corner had not only a vicious drop-off but also a solid view of the city, and after making my way through the checkers I was greeted by one of the better sights on the Front Range. I'd passed a few riders and ended up in sixth, though the results were second to the experience of just riding my dirt bike in a cool place. Apparently not everyone agreed as the rider who won my class got socked in the eye by second place, but I guess that is the way it goes for some people. All in all, the trip up the mountain was another good experience this year, and I'm psyched to say that I didn't fall off of any cliffs on my way to 14,110 feet. I've got some more goofy stories and anecdotes from the entire week, so stay tuned to an upcoming issue of Dirt Rider for the full scoop on the race. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a bit more sleep to catch up on…

Pike's Peak, knobby tires
Greg Tracy, Pike's Peak, Ducati
Pike's Peak, big rig