Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Clarifies Decision To Revert To One-Piece Handlebar Rule

pikespeak1Highlights from a PR from PPIHC.

Motorsports in general are inherently dangerous and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the most dangerous in the word. As the organizers of the PPIHC, an event that was founded in 1916 and will celebrate its 100th anniversary next summer, it is our responsibility to minimize risk while preserving the rich legacy of the Race to the Clouds. One way of minimizing these risks is by not allowing vehicles to compete in our race that we are not comfortable with.

The PPIHC’s decision to revert to a rule last used in 2012 that eliminates motorcycles manufactured with two-piece handlebars from competing in the 2016 race has captured the attention of readers, but with a few misconceptions. We wrote this release to eliminate any confusion. We appreciate everyone’s interest in the PPIHC and wanted to explain the history of motorcycle racing at Pikes Peak and reasoning behind why we decided to reestablish this rule for motorcycles participating in the Race to the Clouds.

In the picture below, the difference in riding position offered on motorcycles equipped with a one-piece handlebar (left) and motorcycles with clip-on handlebars (right)


The PPIHC is 100 percent committed to maintaining the Race to the Clouds as a premier two and four-wheeled racing event by honoring our rich history while developing and working to secure a sustainable and prosperous future. The PPIHC is one of, if not the most, unique motorsports events in the world with everything from sidecars, quads/ATVs, motorcycles, production vehicles, semi-trucks, and 1,400+ horsepower Unlimited and electric racers being able to compete in the same event on the same day.

If you look at the history of motorcycle racing at the PPIHC, the motorcycle program has been banned once due to an incident that injured three and once again after a fatality. There is no way for us to let everyone know how committed we are to preserving motorcycle racing at the PPIHC than through our actions to only acquire an insurance provider, in today’s litigious society, that would permit two-wheeled competition after two consecutive years of motorcycle competitor fatalities.

To clarify, nowhere in the PPIHC Rule Book does it state that sports bikes are not allowed to compete at the PPIHC. Competitors are more than welcome to apply for an invitation to compete in the PPIHC with a sports bike as long as it was produced by the manufacturer with one-piece handlebars and the original handlebars are used.

One key reason the PPIHC Race Committee and Board of Directors are only comfortable allowing motorcycles originally produced by manufacturers with top mounted one-piece handlebars is the vertical riding position and high vantage point these bikes encourage; motorcycles equipped with clip-on style handles encourage a crouched, horizontal riding position and low vantage point in comparison. The Pikes Peak Highway is an extremely unique race course with many crests and the potential for wildlife like deer, big horn sheep, and even bear to also be on the race course while riders ascend to the mountain’s summit. Due to limiting factors associated with a rider’s ability to see and react as early as possible to these and countless other unpredictable conditions found at Pikes Peak, the PPIHC is no longer comfortable with the riding position and vantage point associated with and encouraged by motorcycles equipped with two-piece clip-on style handles.

Another benefit to top mounted one-piece handlebars when reacting to unpredictable conditions is their length. In most cases, one-piece handlebars provide a considerably wider reach in comparison to clip-ons. Both handlebars and clip-ons are essentially levers and as levers get longer, less force is required to make them pivot at their fulcrum. When a rider needs to react to something quickly, having these typically longer handlebars makes it easier for them to do so.

The debate over what is better or safer in regards to top mounted one-piece handlebars and clip-ons is a matter of personal preference and comfort; while the PPIHC does understand this, we are only comfortable allowing competitors to compete with motorcycles originally produced by manufacturers with top mounted one-piece handlebars for the above reasons. We understand not all riders are comfortable on bikes with top mounted handlebars and do not want our competitors to be uncomfortable when competing in the PPIHC. Anyone that accepts an invitation to participate in the PPIHC, both on a motorcycle or in a car, needs to be comfortable with their vehicle; if they are not we respectfully ask them to decline the invitation.

PPIHC Motorcycle History

1916 – Motorcycles and sidecars compete in inaugural PPIHC race.
1954 – Motorcycle racing returns to the Hill Climb for the first time in 38 years.
1956 – Motorcycle racing is not included in the PPIHC racing program for the second time.
1971 – After a 16 year absence, motorcycle racing returns to the PPIHC and becomes an annual affair.
1976 – Three motorcycle competitors are injured in an incident at the summit on Race Day during the sixth consecutive year of two-wheeled competition. The incident lead to the third suspension of the motorcycle program starting with the 1977 race.
1980 – The motorcycle program is once again reinstated.
1982 – Motorcycle competitor Bill Gross Jr. dies during Race Day competition. Gross’ death marks the first Race Day fatality in 60 editions of the Hill Climb and the second death associated with the race. Gross’ death leads to the motorcycle program being suspended for a fourth time starting with the 1983 race.
1991 – Wally Dallenbach Sr. revives motorcycle competition at the PPIHC under the guise of his annual mountain motorcycle ride, the Colorado 500.
1992 – After a successful inaugural year of the Colorado 500 being affiliated with the PPIHC the ride is scheduled to bring two-wheeled racing back to America’s Mountain in ’92. The Colorado 500’s involvement in the PPIHC was canceled when the required number of entries had not been compiled by May 31st, suspending motorcycle racing at the hill climb for a fifth time. After hearing bikes will not return in ’92 Sonny Anderson and Bill Brokaw decide to take matters into their own hands. Anderson and Brokaw work with the American Motorcyclist Association to ensure insurance coverage for the motorcycle competition, the Hill Climb Association’s main reason for not including motorcycles in the race, and attract a field of 57 competitors in less than two months.
2013 – The PPIHC makes an addition to the PPIHC Rule Book that would allow motorcycles with two-piece clip-on style handles for the first time in the race’s 97 year history.
2014 – Motorcycle competitor Bobby Goodin dies after a Race Day crash at the summit on a bike utilizing two-pieced handlebars.
2015 – Motorcycle competitor Carl Sorensen dies after a practice day crash on a bike utilizing two-pieced handlebars. To avoid canceling the motorcycle program for the 100th Anniversary PPIHC race in 2016, the PPIHC’s Race Committee and Board of Directors votes to repeal the rule permitting two-piece clip-on style handles.

22 Responses to “Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Clarifies Decision To Revert To One-Piece Handlebar Rule”

  1. 1 Sharkey Dec 23rd, 2015 at 9:24 am

    “in today’s litigious society” Insert “America’s”. Should be no fuss; if a race organizer wants to ban something than do it. It’s in the organizers interest to do what they feel will most enhance the experience for the spectator and participant within the local legal confines.

  2. 2 Mike Dec 23rd, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Sounds like a lot of “let’s find every possible explanation to justify our ill-conceived initial decision”. This makes no sense. The handling and “vantage” point of a sportbike is good enough to go 200 mph around a twisty, curvy track, but not good enough to avoid a squirrel that runs out on the road during a pikes peak run? A bear or deer? Come on, when does that ever happen!

    I guess I better go out to the garage and rip the clip-ons off my sportbike and replace with a big flat bar so I can avoid potholes and cars on the street! I never realized how dangerous clip-ons were.

  3. 3 Woody's Dec 23rd, 2015 at 11:52 am

    What’s worse than a stupid decision? Doubling down and defending it.

  4. 4 Brandon Dec 23rd, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    The demonstration didn’t convince me.

  5. 5 aaron Dec 23rd, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    works for me… but then I’ve always been a streetfighter fan. I’m guessing this will bring a lot of ktm superdukes and aprilia tuonos next year?

  6. 6 Chris Dec 23rd, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    If not for safety, what other reason do the doubters suggest might be driving this? I’m open to the idea that there might be more going on, but what might that be if not what has been stated?

  7. 7 Troy Dec 23rd, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Going up the Peak is much different than going 200 on a ‘twisty, curvy track.’ I’ve driven up the Peak highway at 20 MPH and slower and it’s a harrowing experience due to the number of blind corners and the potential for wildlife. I can totally understand why the organizers would want riders to be in a more upright position – even an extra tenth of a second worth of visibility might be the difference between a full run and disaster.

  8. 8 BobS Dec 23rd, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory, but the numbers don’t lie. If they allowed clip-ons for two years (where’s that conspiracy?) and two riders with them DIED, and they decide to go back to not allowing them I don’t see a big deal.

  9. 9 18Bravo Dec 23rd, 2015 at 8:20 pm


  10. 10 Really? Dec 23rd, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Anyone else notice that they chose Project #156 for the “safe bike”, yet it crashed out in practice and in the race? The “Unsafe bike” #20 finished in 11th place overall which is very impressive. Even in that riding position it’s clearly more in rider ability than handlebar position.

  11. 11 nicker Dec 23rd, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    It should be painfully obvious by statements like:
    “…clip-ons are essentially levers and as levers get longer, less force is required…”

    Such yammering come from the clueless.
    -A- No “force” is required to steer a motorcycle. Take a look at any modern flat-tracker.
    -B- Flat bar seating position no-way precludes crouching. See flat-trackers down the back-stretch.
    -C- This race is no more dangerous than the Isle of Mann TT…. (where riders do get killed)
    -D- Machines aren’t the issue. Rider were killed in the 50’s with 50HP, as in the 2000s with 100 HP.
    -E- If they wanted a slower race they should have lobbied to not pave the road to the top.

    What you’re dealing with here is “Expectations.”
    The expectations of Americans to go through life with out risk.
    The expectation that we-all agree its “unfair” when unfortunate accidents happen.
    The expectation of lawyers to squeeze a buck out of deep pockets when any opportunity arises.
    The expectations of some to seek compensation where none is warranted.

    When was the last time someone litigated a racing accident at the Isle of Mann…???
    Look, motorcycling is dangerous, even more so when racing.
    As the man once said, “You pays you money and you takes your chances.”
    So suck it up.


  12. 12 Mark Dec 24th, 2015 at 7:12 am

    In 50 years around motorsports I have never read of such a naive, BS rule, “………one piece handlebar type motorcycles only?” For reasons of visibility of the rider?

  13. 13 TheToulousain Dec 24th, 2015 at 7:24 am

    It seems a rule is adopted to react because of 2 accidents. Which is not good. We don’t know how many accidents were prevented by handlebars and lower gravity centers (the photo shows a clear difference !).
    I prefer loosing control of my bike with a knee close to the ground, instead of a high side. Also,I don’t have a bike able to reach a 65° lean angle, but currently if I make a sharp turn, I still see the road : the curve is fully visible on my side, not on the other side of the tank. The only risk is during a very short time when we change from one side to the other.

    However, I may understand that race organizers can’t have repeated accidents with similar bike configurations. If the reason is real , the rate of death per number of motorcyle will be reduced … This will judge for us.

    …. May be the real reason is to find a way to lower the number of bikes and their speed. It’s a compromise between banning motorcycles and keeping them.
    A Kawasaki H2R 300HP and all 200+ HP bikes are sold with two pieces clip-ons only. If you put a one piece bar, then you have an issue with weight distribution.

  14. 14 Woody's Dec 24th, 2015 at 10:29 am

    This news just in, Isle of Man race limits riders to 48 HP and no less than 4 wheels. More details as soon as the United Nations signs off on it. ☺

  15. 15 Steal Your Face Dec 24th, 2015 at 11:52 am


    How many times are they going to eliminate Motorcycles from the race for 15 odd years, then bring them back, then reinstate, then ban, then reinstate.

    Can you say no-one with a clue might be on the board of directors or whatever bright minds make the decisions. Then change them and change them back over and over.

    The handlebar argument is weak at best. Even though I prefer an upright riding position, I wouldn’t push my “likes” on others. Safer? Doubt it.

  16. 16 GUNNEY67 Dec 24th, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I read it as this rule change allowed them to get the insurance, so some motorcycles can still race.They are adapting and over coming issues, so they can hold the best event they can. Good on them.

  17. 17 fuji Dec 24th, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Re ; Nicker- No “force” is required to steer a motorcycle. Take a look at any modern flat-tracker.

    .Where did you get this fallacy. Your way out of touch with your statement. Flat tracker for 13 years.

  18. 18 nicker Dec 25th, 2015 at 2:39 pm


    Take another good look at the “On Any Sunday” pics of Mert, “at speed,” sliding, tucked in……
    Some racers try to muscle their way around a track, the winners typically finesse their way around.
    Then some of us have spent enough time sliding around NorCal Fire roads to know how scooter work.

    No “falicy” there, just the way it is.
    Perhaps you need a little more time in the saddle…… 🙂


  19. 19 celtdad Dec 25th, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Having ridden Pikes Peak, I can attest to the fact that wild animals do end up on the roadway, I damn near had a deer take me out about 7 miles up the last time I rode up the hill. That said, I read that this change is insurance related. If insurance companies only look at the 2013 rule change, then 2 deaths related to said rule change, They’re going to drastically increase rates or refuse to insure.

  20. 20 fuji Dec 26th, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    -nicker-. watching to many movies and taking the side of being an expert.

  21. 21 nicker Dec 26th, 2015 at 9:46 pm


    Expert or break-in-biker, It is what it is……


  22. 22 Dean H Dec 28th, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    The reasoning is for insurance purposes for sure. They are doing their best to preserve motorcycles ability to compete at the Peak. Like the man said, “If you don’t like it, kindly decline the invitation to participate”

    Or better yet, instead of arguing, go start your own race.

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