All the Way Up – Motorcycle Hillclimb History

Image by © Harley-Davidson Archives

It was 1937, and Hillclimb racing was a top attraction.

A brutal physical test, riders drew huge crowds and provided exciting theater in a series of race which pitted man against the machine – and the mountain.

In this image, Harold Seamans, racing for Harley-Davidson, took his 80 cubic inch bike to the top of Mt. Garfield in Muskegon, Michigan to win the Class B National Hillclimb Championship.

Featured in the September 1937 issue of The Enthusiast, this photo was one of many which captured the imagination of riders and non-riders alike. The battles riders like Seamans waged on the hill were undertaken on bikes stripped to the bone and powered by custom rear sprockets and often, tire chains to provide the necessary grip.

Back in the  early 1900s through the 1910s, Harley-Davidsons were the machines of choice.

Today, not so much…

At the Mount Garfield Hillclimb this year, only a single Harley-Davidson plied the hill, and it was not competitive. These days, hillclimb machines feature wildly extended swingarms, paddle tires and high-revving, lightweight engines to propel them to the top of the course in around six seconds.


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