by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Games People Play is a new feature on Museum Director Musings that will look at sports, games and other competitive activities found in greater Los Angeles before 1930.
The debut offering takes in a combination of technological advancement and novelty that often marked the Roaring Twenties–in this case, climbing steep hillsides by motorcycle.
The photos here are dated 1925 and the location is somewhere in the Tujunga area at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains east of San Fernando. Whether this was some kind of organized, sanctioned event or a loosely developed one is not known, but there sure was plenty of interest judging by the number of cars parked down in the canyon bottom and the numbers of people gathering in and around the location.
Whatever the situation, hill-climbing by motorcycle was a phenomenon by the mid 1920s and there was even a national event at El Cerrito, north of Berkeley in 1928 (see here for a blog post on climbs at El Cerrito and Oakland with some great photos.)
Another website (click here) points out that the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) had rules for hill climbing contests as early as 1925, when the Tujunga event was held.
Motor Sport magazine ran an article in its November 1925 issue about motorcycle hill climbing (see here for the text on the magazine’s website.)
Meanwhile, in Buckinghamshire, England, the Kop Hill Climb was a going concern for both cars and motorcycles from 1910 to 1925 until a fatality led to its demise, but the event was revived in 1999 and is still going strong (check out the site here for more info).
Today, there are lots of designated off-roading sites for all kinds of vehicles looking for fun and adventure off-highway, but these didn’t exist 90 years ago, so thrill-seekers took to the hills to get their adrenalin rush.
Naturally, this still happens today and the indications are very obvious whenever riders try out their skills in the hills–even if to the chagrin of those who decry the damage left behind. The machines are better, helmets and clothing are better suited for safety, and the riders are certainly more skilled compared to what is seen in these photos!