With its jaw-dropping Colorado views, cliff-hanging corners and stunning 14,100-foot finish line, there's little doubt as to why the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is touted as an event that every racer should try at least once. Having competed in the exhibition class at Pikes Peak in 2007 aboard a CRF150R(Mini Rider, November '07), I was interested in hitting the mountain for a second time, though I found last year's race a bit...well, ceremonious. As fate would have it, I got my chance to do it again when a surprise entry opened up in the 250cc class, allowing me to drive straight from the Las Vegas EnduroCross to the foot of the mountain with little time to spare. Upon arrival in Colorado Springs, I was greeted by the usual display of pomp and pageantry that I had learned to expect at the race. But a bad experience with a particularly pompous, freestyler-hating race promoter threw my outlook into "half-empty" mode, and I suddenly began to look at the race with a whole new set of eyes. Throughout the following week, the cynic in me took to analyzing the various points of the event and decoding them from fable to fact. Being the compulsive journalist that I am, I even made a list of what I saw and cataloged the various points into the top misapprehensions and their respective realities. So without further ado, here's what I feel to be the real scoop on the illustrious "Race to the Clouds."Pre-Registration
Fable: According to the race organizers, the first step that a racer must take in conquering Pikes Peak is to fill out all the necessary registration paperwork. The process is simple, and all forms are available to fill out online.
Fact: I could probably buy a belt-fed machine gun without completing half as much paperwork as is required for Pikes Peak. Do they seriously need to know the address and phone number of where my bike will be staying during race week? Is that so we can call it if it sleeps in? And since when do you need a physical examination to race a motorcycle? Luckily, DR's own Dr. Tarlow put me through the express line at his office, but even then I refused to have blood drawn just so I could ride. Thus, the answer box on my entry form coinciding with blood type simply read N/A-which, as we all know, stands for "Needles/afraid."Tech Inspection
Fable: The PPIHC staff must complete a thorough, mandatory inspection of each race vehicle to make sure that it meets current safety standards and is suitable for high-altitude competition.
Fact: Either the tech guys don't like dirt bikes or they just didn't like me. Despite the fact that my bike had a brand-new air filter, clutch, brake pads, hand guards, levers, tires and jetting, I failed tech inspection and was told that my bike was unsuitable for competition because the plastic was "absolutely filthy." Excuse me, but is this a beauty pageant or a motorcycle race? Luckily, I passed tech the next morning with the help of some good ole spray polish, but that still didn't save me from the solid chewing-out I received from the event referee concerning my tire choice. Since when is a Dunlop 745 not DOT-approved?Practice
Fable: Practice at the mountain is a snap. Each of the three practice days are run promptly at first light, allowing competitors up to three hours to learn the course, pick out lines and tune their machines.
Fact: When you have to be on the bike at 5:30 a.m. sharp, waking up at 3:15 a.m. is considered oversleeping. Pikes Peak is as much an exercise in sleep deprivation as it's in riding skill, and the racers, mechanics and race organizers are so darn moody come race day you'd think there was pure estrogen seeping out of the mountain.Classes
Fable: The motorcycle portion of Pikes Peak is divided into several divisions. From 450cc supermoto bikes to custom sidecars and decked-out quads, all are welcome. There's even a 1200cc division for the really big bike riders, as well as a vintage class for those who still enjoy the classics.
Fact: Although all the motorcycle racers are split up into the aforementioned classes, everybody runs practice at the same time. Now, I'm not much for whining about getting passed or even roosted by another rider, but I will say that when I almost got run off the course by the visor-less Banshee pilot with a fused right thumb and "that crazy look" in his eyes, I truly feared for my life.Tuning
Fable: With the help of some quick jetting changes and a little advice from the many veterans of the event, it's easy to tune your bike to handle the rigors of extra high-altitude racing.
Fact: At 14,100 feet above sea level, nothing runs well. In fact, the common off-road bike will likely run like it has a dirty sock in the airboot. However, the trick isn't in getting it to run properly, but to keep it running without completely destroying the motor. Oh fuel injection, where art thou?