A Brief History on Hill-Climb Motorcycles

Many argue that motorcycle hill-climbing got its start in the early 1900’s thanks to Indian Motorcycles. Taking a motorcycle from the bottom of a steep hill, up and over, was a way to prove the power and strength of that motorcycle, and it was the method used by Indian to show off their latest models. These displays were often done at some of the steepest hills in Springfield, Massachusetts and eventually drew a crowd. Soon enough it became a sport for thrill seekers, and motorcycle companies began manufacturing hill-climb-specific models to meet the growing market of racers. Triumph began competing in 1905, with Harley Davidson joining the races five years later. The sport and the specific bike models both thrived together, with racing creating a demand, and new hill-climb models drawing in new racers.

hill-climb harley davidson

The 1920’s saw the biggest boom of the sport, with more and more competitors in hill-climb races and more motorcycle companies manufacturing hill-climbers. The sport was particularly popular in Southern Orange County, with its ideal terrain. Unfortunately the sport’s popularity did begin to wane, especially with the rise and prominence of other forms of racing, like flat track. The sport almost died out altogether until 2008, when the Daytona Motorsport Group took over from AMA, creating a 21st century resurgence in hill climbing popularity.

As part of our commemoration of unique bikes over the past 100 years, The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition has on display a 1930 Harley Davidson Hill-climber. One of only thirty built, this unique bike was first introduced by Harley Davidson in 1929, during the height of hill-climbing popularity. This DAH with its overhead valve v-twin engine produces over 60 horsepower. First bought from the factory by Fred Deeley Jr, the bike was later gifted to Trev Deeley who had considerable success at hill-climb events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

hill-climb modern day