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> Hill climb (road based) - how to get started...

So you fancy some hillclimbing with your bike do you? Well you'll be pleased to hear that it is one of the cheepest forms of motorcycle racing going and it offers plenty of thrills!

As we mentioned before with one or two exceptions, motorcycle hillclimbing in the UK is conducted on twisty paved up-hill sections of single lane roads (usually on private property) and not on purpose-built tracks with friendly gravel run-off areas. The courses are often challenging, unforgiving, and in order to be successful in hillclimbing you'll need courage and excellent machine handling skills.

The bikes used in this sport vary, from ordinary road bikes to specialised lightweight hillclimb bikes with a low centre of gravity and oodles of torque.

The courses are usually about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile long and racing is conducted via timed sprints. This means you won't be bashing fairings with some maniac, but you will be racing against the clock.

Hillclimb checklist:
  Motorcycle: service & prepare
  Use a van or ride to hill?
  Helmet: quality only
  Leathers: 1 piece race
  Gloves: durable
  Back protector
  Boots: protect the tootsies
  Dogtags: optional
  Registration documents
  Selection of tools and tape
  Cash: entry fees, food, beer after
  Bring a friend: help & support
How to get started in Hillclimbing  

Its really easy to become involved in hillclimbing since just about any type of bike can be raced with very little preparation. Below lists some of the things you will need to sort out before they let you loose on the hillclimb roads.

Choose the bike and class
The classes: Generally speaking there are four main classes in hillclimb and each class is further divided by engine capacity

.Road Legal class: this class is ideal for those just entering the sport and you'll find just about anything racing in it, from large capacity sports bikes through to custom-styled cruisers.

Motocross class: Kawasaki KX 500's, Honda CR 500's with sticky road tyres just like supermotos. These bikes are damn powerful, light weight and very competitive.

Classic class: for classic bikes (i.e. pre 1965).

Special class: bikes purpose built for hill climbing. Light weight machines with loads of torque and a low centre of gravity

Preparation of your motorcycle

Most who initially get involved in hillclimbing do so through the 'Road Legal' Class. Bike preparation for the 'Road Legal' class is pretty simple. In order to be allowed to race in most hillclimbs you must ensure your bike is in good working order and as a rough guideline it should be capable of passing a standard MOT inspection.

All breakable glass and plastics (i.e. headlight, signal lights, mirrors...) must be taped up, infact we recommend you remove the mirrors all together beacuse we've found a roll with mirrors still mounted will often bend the uppers section of the fairing framework.

Oil plugs must be lock-wired. A basic lock wiring kit costs about 15 pounds (UK).

Any breather pipes must be connected to a catch tank.

To avoid dissapointment, before you set out to a participate in a hillclimb event, check with the organisors to check that your bike and equipment is suitable to race in their event.

 

Rider preparation - VERY IMPORTANT!

For God's sake don't scrip when it comes to protective wear. Before you by gear ask yourself "would this protect me if I was in a serious wipe-out?"

Stuff you'll need:

Proper one-piece leathers (in good condition)

Back protector: again quality matters.

Helmet which is ACU approved (with the gold stamp) and a road legal visor.

Good quality motorcycle boots.

Good leather gloves

Dogtags are optional but are a good idea. List your blood group

For more information read our feature on "Buying protective race wear"

Licences and entry fees

Entry fees and licence requirements can vary but you'll be pleased to hear the hillclimbing is still one of the cheepest forms of motorcycle racing currently on offer with some fees as little as 20 to 30 pounds (UK).

Usually you'll require two licences to compete in hillclimb, a 'National Hillclimb Association' licence and an 'ACU' licence (day licences are about 10 pounds or a full year approximately 40 pounds).

A few tips...

Before you set off to participate in a hillclimb event think about what would happen if you crash your bike durning the meeting. Can you afford to write your bike off? If not, consider purchasing a less expensive used sportsbike (possibly and older model or one that's already been crashed a few times).

If you ride the bike to the meeting you will be taking a risk that it might not be road-worthy for your journey home, so you might want to consider hiring a van or borrowing a motorcycle trailer. Like other dangerous sports, we recommend you bring a friend along with you - they are often a good source of advice and they will be there to assist you should you need it.

Prepair your bike well before you set out. Give your bike a thorough check and have serviced if it needs it. Ensure your brake pads have plenty life left in them and the brake lever feels solid and not spongy (bleed them if in doubt). Good tyres are vital. Soft compounds should do nicely but remember the sides of the tyres will not be a warm as you would like so don't push too hard into those corners. Ensure your tyres are scrubbed in before you get to the circuit

If you are competing with a roadworthy sports bike, bring some duct tape to put over the glass and plastic components which can shatter (i.e. headlight, licence plate, signals, mirrors...)

One of the tricky things about hillclimbing is running with cold tyres. Before you pull up to the start line you'll be on cold tyres (unless you have a tyre warmer that is). Consider warming the rear tyre with a bit of a burnout. You'll probably need someone to help support the back of the bike if you intend on warming the sides of the rear tyre. The front is a different matter - its possible to get some warmth into the centre of it by riding with the front brake on for a while but its not ideal. Just try not to push the front end too much or load the front tyre beyond its limit.

When you roll up to the start line remeber to control your adrenalin and don't go hell-for-leather on your first run. Take it relatively slow and easy on your first few runs and build up a good knowledge of the course and how your bike reacts with your chosen suspension set-up and tyre choice.

Since the starting line is on a hill, there will be a marshall available to put a block behind your rear tyre so you can release the front brake (so as not not roll back) and concentrate on a powerful and clean start. After the marshall gives to you the signal all is clear you will have a brief period to leave the line. The clock will start as soon as you break the light beam with your front tyre and the other light beam at the finish line will stop the clock logging your time.
Remember to check the bike over between runs and ensure it is mechanically fit and your are running at your own risk.
Other stuff...

Remember that some race meetings check registration documents, and serial numbers - so its worthwhile bringing your bikes documentation along.

For competition machines there is no recognised paperwork, but any receipts etc. showing that you legally purchased the major components can be useful.

Link: The National Hill Climb Association are the controlling body for motorcycle (tarmac based) hillclimbing in th UK. Their website is very informative and worth a look.
Getting to the hill
See photos: Thundersprint