The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been a staple of the U.S. racing scene for 97 years. A course unlike any other challenges racers with altitude, blind corners, and fast-changing weather. Any clean run up the mountain is impressive, but watching Rennie Scaysbrook on a factory-backed Aprilia Tuono 1100 fight his way to a class record is mesmerizing. It is also the last time we might see motorcycle on the mountain course.
The course is absolutely unforgiving. There are no run-off areas and many of the 156 corners lack guardrails. Taking a race car with a full roll cage is crazy enough, but the toughest of the Pikes Peak warriors saddle up on motorcycles and leave the start line to ascend the ribbon of pavement towards the 14,115-foot summit.
Rennie Scaysbrook was one such competitor this year, charging the course on an Aprilia Tuono 1100 as part of the heavyweight motorcycle class, and Cycle News put cameras onboard for all of us to ride along. Following the tragic loss of life over the years, the Pikes Peak race organizers tightened restrictions on the motorcycle categories and banned all motorcycles utilizing clip-on style handlebars. Since the 175-horsepower Tuono is a race-bred machine factory equipped with a one-piece handlebar, it was the perfect weapon for a record attack.
Watching the video highlights the smoothness of the riders attempting this grueling race. The full route is paved (a change that happened in 2011 with the finishing of the dirt sections at the top of the mountain) but the pavement bears the imperfections of a public road traversed by tourists for 99 percent of the year. The practice sessions are broken up so that there is no full run up the mountain until race day, and on race day, the weather can change quickly and effectively ruin a great run with a wall of rain or heavy fog hiding around a corner.
Fortunately, Scaysbrook got lucky with the weather and put together a 9:44.963 run up the mountain. The next rider up the mountain, multi-time champion Carlin Dunne, was on a pass to break the record before an accident in the final corners took him over the edge in a crash that claimed his life.
Which might explain Pikes Peak’s decision to have the motorcycles sit out the 2020 race. The organizers behind the race have taken the next step past limiting motorcycles to only models with one-piece handlebars and have moved to ban motorcycles from taking part in the historic race entirely. In statements from the organizers advised “…there will be no motorcycle program offered in 2020 so that race organizers can gather data and analytics to review more thoroughly the impact on the overall event in the absence of this program.”
So watch this video and bask in the skill these riders put on display, as well as the incredible risk they put themselves through in the name of competition. Because we are unlikely to see it again in the same form.