Pikes Peak Ban on Sportbikes Is a Massive Mistake
The Drive’s motorsport photographer thinks the new prohibition on two-wheel speed could spell the end of Colorado’s legendary race.
News broke this week that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will ban sportbikes from competing, effective next year. It’s the latest in series of changes to the legendary Colorado racing venue, which paved the entirety of its dirt course in 2012, and implemented new crowd control measures last year. Here, motorsport photographer and The Drive contributor Jamey Price sounds off on the new sportbike prohibition at Pikes Peak.
I primarily cover car racing, but have a special place in my heart for motorcycles. Maybe it’s my passion for horses—I was a horse racing jockey not so long ago—and the similarities between those two disciples. There’s just an allure to about swinging your leg over something powerful, then charging headlong around a course at breakneck speed with no roll cage.
I first covered Pikes Peak with Ducati in 2012, the year bad boy Carlin Dunne and stuntman Greg Tracy conquered the course in less than 10 minutes—a first for motorcycles on the mountain, and a record that still stands today. Both guys rode with heart and soul, an epic feat of athleticism and bravery. I loved every second I spent at altitude, pointing my lens at the sportbikes that hurtled past me. Each rider has his own style and flair; as a photographer, that’s an incredible thing to witness and capture. You can see so clearly when riders push the limit of what a bike’s capable of doing, something that’s much harder to capture when photographing car racing.
Some won’t care about the sportbike ban. Others will see this as just another reason not to go back the mountain. But, to me, it just proves that Pikes Peak has lost its soul in the past few years. First with the paving, then the crowd control regulations. Pikes Peak’s board of directors has made a massive mistake here, one that could spell the end of the famed hill climb, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. How long before racecars are banned? How long before professional drivers are banned because they're too good and therefore too fast on the mountain course? How many years of dwindling crowds will it take?
Motorcycle racing is dangerous. Anyone who follows professional bike racing knows that. But it is also something very special. Those guys live on that edge of mortality, where you feel most alive and appreciate the world around you. It’s not reckless. It’s not careless. The brave are rewarded with glory and success. That’s how it should be. The choice to live as we wish, and die as we wish, is critical.
When and if I do return to Pikes Peak, I’ll miss seeing and hearing those bikes scream past, rider leaning out, one knee dragging the ground. That’s what Pikes Peak should be: heart and soul, athleticism and bravery.