Electric motorcycles tackle 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb | The Driven
Cory West pikes peak
Source: Youtube/Pikes Peak

Six years ago I was fortunate to attend Intersolar in San Francisco. Whilst that was very cool, the highlight for me was getting to see and sit on a record breaking electric motorcycle, on display at one of the networking events.

This electric bike (the Lightning) had recently set a new land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats (charged via portable solar no less) and I interviewed Lightning CEO Richard Hatfield, delving into the ground breaking technology behind world’s fastest electric motorcycle.

Only a few months later, this bike was modified to race at the infamous Pikes Peak. It not only won, setting a new record in the process, the next best motorcycle was a full 20 seconds behind.

Whilst Lightning have switched focus to bringing a street version of this bike to market for an incredible $US13,000, Pikes Peak continues and this year great things happened again.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race is a run on a public road that climbs from 2,860m to 4,300m over a mere 20km and 156 bends once a year, and has done so since 1916.

Like all street based circuits, it has a tragic track record of injury and death that sadly accompanies humankind’s ceaseless attempts to push machines, technology and speed to the ultimate limit.

In 2019, four electric motorcycles entered the Pikes Peak Hill Climb joining 93 other competitors in a menagerie of factory and home made cars and motorcycles. Two of those bikes didn’t make it to the finish line but two did and proved some interesting things.

The University of Nottingham’s bike (featured in an interview last year here) finished in a highly credible 15th place overall, and 4th place in the motorcycle class. For a university based team on an essentially hand made bike with limited funding, that’s remarkable.

Twenty seven seconds and eight positions (overall) behind team UoN was a largely unmodified production electric street bike made by Zero Motorcycles. The new 2019 Zero SRF is the latest iteration by Santa Cruz based Zero Motorcycles and was piloted by rookie Cory West.

Beating 72 competitors up the mountain put the new SRF in the top 25% of all vehicles (and the eighth motorcycle overall) which is a pretty astounding result for an electric street bike run by a small private team (assisted but not officially run by Zero Motorcycles).

It really highlights just how far the technology has come and also how motorsport continuously improves the breed.  The new Zero SRF incorporates a host of enhancements that were lessons from previous high performance events the bikes had entered.

The Lightning’s 2013 record time of 10:00.694 remains safe for now however, with the UoN team coming in at 10:0019.04 and the Zero coming in at 10:46:233.

Notably, multiple Pikes Peak winner and motorcycling legend Carlin Dunne, who rode the Lightning to its record in 2013, was on his way to yet another record win this year on an all new factory special Ducati Streetfighter V4, but tragically became the seventh racer to die on the course when he crashed on the last bend before the finish line.

Godspeed Carlin Dunne.

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