Pikes Peak is known as America’s Mountain, the peak that inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.” It stands 14,114 feet high and the road to the top twists and turns its way along 19 miles of jaw-dropping vistas and teeth-clenching drops over the side of the mountain, with few guardrails.
It is also home to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, an annual race of cars and motorcycles that has been going on since 1916.
So on a tight, twisty road like this, with a distance of 12.42 miles to cover (the race doesn’t start at the very bottom), how fast do you suppose the record time is to the top? Maybe 20 minutes? That would be an average of around 60 mph on a road with numerous switchbacks and posted speeds of 20 mph or less in a lot of places. Pretty dang fast, right? Well, what kind of rider are you?
No, the record that the real hot-shots aimed for years—and finally broke last year—was under 10 minutes. That’s right, an average speed on this road in the neighborhood of 120 miles an hour! Yikes! And the record currently sits at 9:51.278 minutes.
Now, that’s in a car. The fastest speed to date on a motorcycle is a measly 11:11.32, also set last year.
So what kinds of bikes do they run in this race? There’s a variety. Just looking at the 450 Pro division, in 2011 the top bike was a Kawasaki KXF. Winners other years in other divisions include the likes of the Yamaha YZ 250, the Suzuki RM250, and a ton of others.
Although the hill climb itself takes place on just one day, the entire week leading up to the race is given over to preparation. The cars and bikes are divided into numerous classes and every morning the road up the mountain is closed to tourist traffic early on. The mountain is divided into sections and each day different classes gather in different sections in the pre-dawn darkness to get a feel for that piece of the road. As soon as the sun starts to rise the runs begin, with everything to conclude by 9 a.m. so…