Motorcycle Hill Climbing Dates Back to the Beginning of the (Last) Century

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September 27, 2010 | By: Scott Holton

I got to admit I was a little anxious when I received an assignment that has me writing about motorcycle hill climbs. Having been to a few such events over the years, I knew this activity required taking a motorcycle from the bottom of a steep hill and riding it over the top of the hill. That sounded simple enough, until I googled the topic to see if there was anything more that I could add to a brief report on this vertical activity.

And now, after an extensive Internet quest, I’m a bit surprised to discover that hill climbs have quite a history behind them. In fact, this sport has been around as long as motorcycles have been produced. Here’s a quote from The Legend Begins, The History of Harley-Davidson:

“1910 was a benchmark year for the Harley-Davidson company. The famed Bar and Shield logo is used for the first time. It is trademarked at the U.S. Patent office one year later. They added at least seven different first-place finishes to the record, all of which are captured at races, endurance contests and hill climbs across America. All seven winners are riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.”

Hill climbs in 1910? The fact that this quote details HD’s many early racing victories should come as no surprise. But the fact that hill climbs were an active part of the early, early 20th Century motorcycle community does surprise me. More research turned up the fact that the Cotton Motorcycle Co. competed in hill climbs back in 1913. And Triumph competed on these elevation ascents as early as 1905! I found enough information about early hill climbs to make me think that somebody could write a rather lengthy account about them.

For instance, did you know that Land Speed Racing legend Burt Monroe held hill climb records between 1926 and 1929? Of course you didn’t. But it’s true, according to a 1991 story I found on the Internet from New Zealand’s Veteran and Vintage Motoring Magazine. But enough about Googling and web surfing. You can get your thrills over hills at a number of events scheduled all over the country.

Here in Anamosa, Iowa, and just up the road in Dickeyville, Wis., we’ve got hill climbs sponsored by the Midwest Hillclimbers Association. Scheduled twice a year in each location, you can get your fill of “over the hill” without going too far from J&P Cycles’ world headquarters. The sport of hill climbing isn’t limited to the Midwest. The Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado and the “Widowmaker” in Utah are the best known of these vertical events.

Ever since man first climbed aboard a two-wheeler, we’ve been on a constant quest to conquer the other guy. And that competition has never been restricted to the straightaway.

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Comments (5)

My grandfather, William Frederick (Fred) (Capt) Cannon, was a motorcycle hill climb competitor in the Los Angeles area circa 1920.
Does anyone have any information on him for my family history?
Thank you,
(Alfred) Ray Cannon, (Jr)

Ditto previous with different address

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I am developing some pics from Rochester Ny hill climbs from the 70′s…. The Club my Father road with sponsored them in Egypt NY..

I use to ride with the easyriders who put the hill climb on in Egypt at kecks farm… do you remember this. 1978?

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