Harley-Davidson 1930 Hill Climber

In hill-climbing, riders launch their machines at impossibly steep hills. If riders make the summit then time decides the winner, but if no rider reaches the peak, then the one who has reached the highest point wins. A hill-climb bike appears simple, even if the reality is rather more complicated. The essential element is power, and in the case of this machine a methanol-burning eight-valve engine was enough in 1930 to make it a competitive bike. A long wheelbase and weight at the front to prevent the bike tipping over backward are both essential, as is grip, which is why this bike’s rear tire is wrapped in chains. This unrestored bike is typical of the ingenious hill-climbing machines of the period. The frame is from a JD model circa 1929, and the forks are from a 1928 45cu. in. bike. The engine cases are from a JDH, with JE model flywheels; special barrels and overhead-valve cylinder heads are from a single-cylinder Harley. Modern hill-climb racers still have a similar look to this rugged machine and the difficulty of trying to convert power into climbing ability remains the same. These crude facts belie the level of expertise involved in handling these machines, and once again it was Joe Petrali who took the honors for Harley-Davidson. Between 1932 and 1938, he won six national hill-climbing titles on a Harley. The Harley-Davidson race teams were easily recognizable by their orange and black jerseys. These colors would later be used as the livery for Harley’s racing bikes.
Harley-Davidson 1930 Hill Climber
Harley-Davidson 1930 Hill Climber

Harley-Davidson 1930 Hill Climber
• ENGINE Eight-valve, V-twin
• CAPACITY 74cu. in. (1213cc)
• POWER OUTPUT Not available
• TRANSMISSION Competition single-speed gearbox
• FRAME Tubular cradle
• SUSPENSION Leading-link forks, rigid rear
• WEIGHT 350lb (147kg) (est.)
• TOP SPEED Determined by the gearing chosen for the hill-climb course