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Pikes Peak: Diving Head First into My Bucket List

Featuresalexander

  PPIHC2014

“Diving head first into my bucket list” is basically what I tell people when they ask me what my plans are for the 2014 season.  At 40 years old, I am not getting any younger; so I better get busy.  My main goal is to race and finish near the top of my class at the Pikes Peak International Hill climb (even though I am a rookie for this event.) I have raced motorcycles since 2000, and I have always wanted to do a real road race, but this is one that I have wanted to do for a long time.  I have been researching and planning for this race for the last year; gathering information from friends that have raced it in previous years has been very helpful so far.  Chase Guthrie, who I race against in the NWGP and Superbikers2 Supermoto series, has been a wealth of knowledge, as well as Ryan Sweeney.  With everything from bike set up to lodging information; they have pointed me in the right direction.

First things first: coughing up the $700 for the entry fee.  I can honestly say that this 11 minutes of racing is the most expensive ever for me, but it will be well worth it (from what everyone has told me.) The next step was waiting for the acceptance email and gathering up all the things they require to race in the PPIHC.  This year, the rules have changed a little. They require an expert or pro license to compete.  This was not an issue for me, but I guess they are trying to weed out riders who do not qualify to race on the mountain.  Second was the physical required in order to make sure you are fit enough to compete.  Last, which was the most important for me, was the bike I would be racing this year.

I decided to sell my 2008 YZ450 race bike and make one of my street bikes my new racing steed.  The '08 Aprilia SXV 550 I have will fit into the classes I race here in the Midwest, as well as into the lightweight class for the PPIHC; so it was a no brainer.  I tore into the bike at the end of the 2013-riding season and sent the engine out to get a total teardown and refresh.  The guru that I sent it to was none other than Allen Noland, who owns and runs Noland Trans-World Cycle himself on the East Coast. Less than a week after I sent out the engine to Allen, he already had it ripped apart and told me what need to be replaced. Thankfully, not much needed to be done. He worked his magic and had the engine back in my hands in no time.  Any further questions I had on my race bike build; Allen was there to answer, help out, and explain to me exactly the reasoning behind what to do and not do.   gunshow

Through the winter I acquired parts for the new race bike build that I thought would help me the most.   As any racer will tell you, if the bike doesn’t handle well, it won’t matter how much power you have; it won’t make you go faster.  So I sourced out suspension first.  The hardest part was an aftermarket shock.  I found a one-off Ohlin’s shock that was for sale in the UK via the AF1 Aprilia forum.  I bought it, along with a couple of other goodies, and sent it straight out to Dave at Fast Bike Industries to have him refresh and re-spring it. When you buy used, you never quite know what you are going to get. Thank goodness I had Dave look at it, because the shock was in need of a servicing, and even needed parts replaced (since the last person who tore the shock apart didn’t know what he was doing when attempting to give it a refresh.) The next suspension purchase was a set of forks with a Sachs kit in them that were sprung for my weight. Along with aftermarket triples, exhaust, rims, brakes and a couple of bling pieces; I started to put the bike together. I am about 98% done with the build, and I am just waiting on a couple of last minute parts to arrive. I am hoping to have everything before my first local race so I can break it in and get as many local races in as possible. This way, I can get comfortable with the bike and get it dialed in.

Honestly, I can say that I am not nervous and haven’t felt any pressure about competing in this year’s PPIHC.  As the date nears though, I am sure I will feel the nerves.  I am really excited and think about it every day. No matter how much I think I am prepared, I will not know what to truly expect until I load up on June 22nd and head out with my mechanic and pit crew to Colorado to kick some ass on the mountain.