Big Hill Jam 2021 Recap
Big Hill Jam 2021 went off last weekend, bringing together some of the top riders from motoclimb and freeride in an event that nobody will soon forget. Complete with a hillclimb event that served as round 3 of the 2021 IRC Tire Motoclimb Super Series, a pitbike Supercross race, Best Whip contest, Freestyle demo’s, and live music, this event had something for everyone and the lively crowd was treated to a major spectacle. I loaded up the Motion Pro van and made the 7 hour drive up from Sacramento, California to the Hill residence in Yoncalla, Oregon, bringing along my extended YZ450F hillclimb bike to compete in the Motoclimb event as well as a loaner EMX 14 electric pitbike from Electro & Co. to try my hand at the SX race (some may remember from previous blog posts that 3DP prints the battery boxes for these bikes). I’ve been racing pro hillclimbs for quite a few years now, and this was a major opportunity not just for myself but for the sport in general to have such a great platform to showcase what we’re all about, so we all wanted to make the most of it. What follows is a recap of how my weekend went, as well as some of the highlights of the event.
When I arrived Saturday morning and got my first look at the hill we would be facing, my first thoughts were that it was a little unorthodox. Here on the west coast we’re used to steeper, more technical hills that often have turns, ledges, and other natural obstacles in them. In this case, the hill was relatively smooth and not very steep, however it was still a bit technical due to a large road gap cut in about 1/3 of the way up, and as it turned out getting the drive to get over it was a lot more challenging than most of us thought it would be. In the Motoclimb Super Series 450cc class, we start with the full field of riders and send each one up the qualifying hill one at a time, trying to secure a top 32 fast time in order to qualify for the X-climb final. Every rider gets two runs at the hill, with only their lowest time (or highest footage in the event they don’t make it to the top) counting. Once qualifying has concluded, a single elimination bracket is formed and riders take to a slightly modified course head to head with the first rider to the top moving on to the next round. In this case, we ran our qualifying runs on Saturday and the X-climb final was run on Sunday.
I didn’t feel like I rode all that well in qualifying, but I was still able to secure a top 32 qualifying time and make it into the X-climb bracket on Sunday. A few of the freeride/moto guys decided to give the hillclimb a shot on their stock bikes and put in some extremely impressive rides, with names like Tyler Bereman, Jimmy “Hillsack” Hill, Gerad “Stankdog” Stanke, Derek Beckering, Josh & Justin Hill, and the multi-talented Ryan Sipes all making the final. It was a pretty surreal experience to be racing with those guys, and watching them take that hill on with their stock length bikes was a major testament to how talented these guys really are.
My X-climb experience started off with a major challenge right from the get-go when I had to line up against Justin Hill. The X-climb hill was also quite a bit different than anything us hillclimb guys are used to, with a Supercross style jump section to start things off, into a hip jump, and finally a wall before finally starting the hillclimb portion of the course. I knew there was pretty much no way I was going to be able to holeshot Justin and beat him through the SX section considering the large talent disparity present between us, but I reasoned that if I could just stay on his rear wheel then maybe I could make up the difference in the hillclimb portion since I was riding an extended bike and his was stock length. As it turned out things did tend to follow that script, he pulled a bit of a gap through the first section of the course, but luckily for me made a costly mistake on the hillclimb portion that allowed me to sneak by for the win. In round two I was up against by good friend and multi-time Great American Hillclimb champion Austin Teyler. Austin is a great all-around rider with an exciting style that’s a lot of fun to watch, so I knew this would be another major challenge. After pulling me a bit through the jump section he put in a perfect run through the hillclimb section of the course as well and took the victory, I had nothing for him this time but I’ll be back for the next one!
Pitbike SX racing was an interesting experience, and now that I’ve had the chance to try it I’m convinced this is how all pitbike tracks need to be set up! The course featured everything from peaked doubles to decent sized whoops, which paired well with the generally unpredictable and chaotic nature of putting rowdy adults on kids sized bikes and telling them the only rule was not to cut the track. After getting the bigger jumps nailed down the first couple laps the track quickly became one of the most fun I've ever ridden! I started the race off with a big holeshot and used the EMX power to get out to an early lead. Within the first couple laps I faded back to 3rd, then held that position until late in the race when a mechanical issue forced a DNF. The problem was my fault and not the bike's, but still very frustrating.