From snowmobiles to shovels, the winter X Games has never gone without some good old racing in between all the extreme sport competitions. And for 2018, the Games debuted a solid addition to the slate on Sunday night: a motorcycle snow hill climb featuring riders racing each other up the belly of the Superpipe on highly modified Harley-Davidson Sportsters.
These aren’t your dad’s Harleys, of course—even if the gold medal did go to 47-year-old father of four Travis Whitlock, a perennial hill climb champion. The road-going Sportsters have essentially been rebuilt as dirt bikes, packing an elongated frame, swingarm off-road suspension, and a big old power boost. The competitors faced of in head-to-head heats, running up the slope while staying balanced on the curve of the gigantic halfpipe.
If you’re scoffing at the relatively shallow 18-degree angle of attack here, consider how hard it must be to balance the demands of traction and speed in this situation. Too much wheelspin and the back end will kick out; not enough, and you won’t be making it to the top.
With Whitlock capturing the gold, fellow Americans Logan Cipala and Austin Cardwell snagged the silver and bronze respectively.
Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing a repeat when the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in a couple weeks, which have never featured any sort of motorized activity. But if this has whet your appetite for the boutique world of professional motorcycle hill climb racing, consider booking a flight to Billings, Montana this summer, when the city will play host to the 100th Annual Great American Pro Championship Motorcycle Hill Climb.