Over the Hill?

Story and photos by Ryan Leyba

Maw, I’m going hillclimbin’

This past week I was laying on my couch sipping a margarita and watching a half-naked Brooke Burke host Wild On E! in Brazil. I was just dreaming of getting to go somewhere else and doing something new. That was until I caught wind that MC was going to ride in this year’s good ol’ Great American Hillclimb championships in Billings, Montana. Hey, it may not be Brazil, but it was sure going to be wild. I had to be there! I finished off my cocktail and began to think. “What the hell is going on around here?!” Is it just me, or is hillclimbing the most lame and inbred “sport” ever invented? And what is McGrath doing participating in such a circus? First MC gets turned onto Supermoto; the hottest new thing to hit the streets since 50 cent. And now this? I love Jeremy Mcgrath and I support any decision he decides to make, but where is a brotha supposed to draw the line? I was about to find out.

Sick of traffic, smog and stupid people, I was ready to get out of Southern California and head up into the great natural wilderness of Montana to watch the world’s best rider try his hand at 400-foot hills and 10-foot long swingarms. I had reached my destination Saturday evening and headed straight to the hills, literally, to see what the weekend had in store for me and the MC. As I pulled up to the event, I felt like I was pulling into a battlefield from the civil war. All I could see were dead bodies laying for miles and miles. My heart started to race and I thought that I might be next, but to my surprise, it had turned out that I was just surrounded by 1000 blacked-out hillbillies. I guess that kind of stuff happens when Miller Lite is the main sponsor of an event like this. Hopping through the graveyard like a one-legged local, I peeped the day’s results and noticed that Jeremy had gotten a respectable 5th and 16th out of 200 riders. Not too bad considering his gear matched and he didn’t even have a mullet! As I hopped back to the truck I noticed some magazine guy face down in the grass with a media pass, so I jacked it for the next day’s festivities. Hot digity damn, I couldn’t wait!

Hey baby, that long swingarm of yours turns me on!

Sunday morning had arrived and I was stoked to go check somes of dis damn hillsclimbing stuffs out! Armed with my sawed-off Canon and plenty of ammo, I headed for the hills. I slipped into the pits and checked out the day’s lineup. In the 0-600cc class McGrath was the 100th rider out of 200, so I obviously had some time to kill. I decided that since I’d made the trek all the way up to the Big Sky country, I was going to soak up as much as humanly possible. I cruised around the pits and to tell you the truth, I thought I was in an interactive comedy club. I could not believe what I was seeing! And the crazy part was that it was no joke to these guys! From schoolbusboxvanmotorhome hybrids with countless confederate flags to Honda XR 80s with Harley engines, Suzuki shrouds and paddle tires complete with a purple Teletubby glued to the front fender. I felt like I had eaten frosted acid flakes with mushroom milk for breakfast.


I heard engines fire up and I knew that it was time for some action! As I watched the first wall warriors attempt the hill, I have to say that I was pretty impressed. The hill was steep and the good ol’ boys were charging hard, complete with straight backs and elbows that were dragging the ground on the way up. I believe that it states somewhere in the Hillclimber’s Rule Book that the riders have to go to a Gary Semics MX school and completely reverse everything that they’d learned. The riders were going one right after another racing the clock, but all that I could think of was all of the fans that were pouring in and since MC wasn’t up for a bit, I thought that I wwould go peep some of the crazy people.


Holy crap! I stuck out like a Razor scooter at the skatepark walking around that place. I strolled around and even mingled a bit with the country folks; some nice and some not so nice. Every single guy I talked to tried forcing a beer down my throat and every girl I talked to tried to show me her boobs! They sure knew how to make a Mexican feel good around here! The parking lot was cooler than the event itself!


“Next up, Jeremy McGrath,” said the announcer. “Uh oh, put down that beer bong and put your shirt back on, babe, I gotta job to do!” MC pulled up to the base of the hill ready for battle. People didn’t know what to think because his gear was from this century, his visor was up and so were his elbows. He got the green light and off he went. Charging the hill with as much grace as a hillclimber can have, he was rippin’ and the crowd was going crazy for McGrath. Even though he didn’t make it over the hill on that attempt, he did a damn good job carrying that swingarm as far as he did.



While there I realized a couple things. Jeremy McGrath is probably the biggest thing that has ever happened to the sport of hillclimbing in Billings, Montana, and hillclimbing in Billings, Montana is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to Jeremy McGrath. MC is the man and will always be the king of supercross, but I hope to hell I never have to witness such a horrific display ever again! Now back to the pits I go!


For video of Jeremy’s hillclimb adventures, go to the photos.video area, or click the video link on right column.