Back in 1984, Utah's famous Widowmaker Hill Climb was in its twenty-first year. At that point, more than 6,000 souls had braved the 1,500 foot climb through sagebrush, cactus, loose soil, and stones the size of your head. Only four had ever gone up and over the summit. In June of that year, 249
madmen intrepid souls in various racing classes lined up at the bottom of the hill to have a go at it.
The race was filmed, edited, mixed, and broadcast with the highest production values 1984 could offer. Somewhere along the line someone transferred the broadcast from VHS to digital and uploaded it to YouTube where our colleagues over at Silodrome found it. Someone sent it to me this morning and I immediately fell down a hill climb-related internet rabbit hole. You all have got to check this out.
This video shows a single class of racing—I'm not entirely sure what the classes are here—consisting of 36 competitors. Color commentary is provided by announcer Mike Scott and 1965 AMA North American hill climb champ Ted Otto. They give the viewer a precis of the rules, introduce some riders, then it's off to the races. There are some real characters in this race, and the bikes are pretty amazing. I expected to only watch a few minutes then skip around to various points to get a general feel for it, but I ended up watching the whole thing. Twice.
WARNING: I was not prepared for the weapons-grade nostalgia brought on by watching this video. It is supremely 80s, from the canned music to the short-shorts and from the totally radical hot purple graphics to the mustaches. I swear, everyone's dad is in this, and it rules. The only thing I didn't care for was the fact that whoever transferred this to digital and uploaded it left the commercials out. I wanted some authentic mid-80s television marketing to go along with my local public access racing action!
So, if you can spare a half an hour today check this out. If only for the kid with a prosthetic leg—a previous winner—who has to be tied to his bike and the one dude with a 180-foot run. It's radical.