Sixty seconds of madness
What it’s like to ride up the Goodwood Hillclimb course…
Our man Alan Dowds had the pleasure of riding Triumph’s Moto2 765 Street Triple up the hillclimb course at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend. Here’s what it’s like…
You do get some agreeable invites in this job. Like the one I had from the very nice Triumph Motorcycles PR person the week before the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Not only did she have a space on a bike for one of the guest rides up the hill. But said bike was the Street Triple 765 RS Moto2 Edition – the limited production bike that no other journalist has ridden, up till now.
I didn’t say yes straight away mind. I had a very busy week, and the slot I had was on the first day of the Festival. But after ten minutes of juggling my life around, I called Triumph back and said yes, I’ll come to ride your bike up the hill at 12:40pm on Thursday July 13th. Lucky for some…
Now, if you haven’t been to Goodwood, then it’s definitely worth going. That’s relative of course: if you live in Shetland or Hawaii then it’s less of a cut and dried decision obviously. There are a couple of things you should know though.
First, it’s a massive car event, like 95 per cent car stuff, five per cent bikes. Maybe less. When I arrived I had to make my way through about ten football fields’ worth of cars to find a motorcycle parking spot, and there were about five bikes there.
Then, I walked for half a mile through the festival site itself, and saw one tent with perhaps ten MotoGP and 500GP race bikes lined up. That, plus the tent where my steed for the day was parked next to seven or eight other road bikes, was it.
It’s no exaggeration to say I saw more Porsche GT3 RS supercars in the traffic jam outside than there were motorbikes at Goodwood.
So – if you hate fancy cars and fancy people, then it might not be ideal. But if you have even the slightest interest in four wheels, you’ll be in heaven. You genuinely see stuff you’ll come across no-where else, and lots of it, all in one place.
I wandered past a 200mph 1986 Porsche 959 – perhaps the most unobtainable Porker around, and the one lusted after by the likes of Bill Gates – and the next thing I saw was a KTM MotoGP bike being warmed up on the paddock stands right next to it. Surreal.
But my business today is elsewhere. I get myself down to the start line of the hillclimb course, where my Triumph is waiting for me. It’s a proper schlepp, over two pedestrian bridges that are absolutely rammed with punters, and of course, once I get there, I realise I have to walk back up the hill to the Drivers’ Club to sign on and have my kit scrutineered.
Luckily, I’d got down to Goodwood in lots of time, so there’s no stress as I wander round the scrum-like grounds in my Alpinestars leathers, dodging all the nicely-turned-out Festival fans. I grab a coffee while up at the Club, and spot Rowan Atkinson as he heads out, clad in his racing overalls for whatever megabucks Bundesliga-spec car he’s got lined up this morning.
Back at the Triumph tent, and I get a quick look at the bike. The Moto2 Edition of the Street Triple 765 RS is the fanciest they make, and is quite a rare beastie. Only 765 of each of two colour schemes have been made, and Triumph didn’t even have one on the official press riding launch earlier this season.
It’s got NIX30 Öhlins front forks and clip-on bars for a racier riding position, which is the main upgrade over the stock RS bike, together with some carbon fibre bodywork.
Priced at £13,795, it’s a premium piece of kit, and looks awesome here, even compared with all the specials and MotoGP racebikes around me.
We’re soon on the bike and at the start line, waiting for the off. But – as often happens here – there’s a holdup. One of the cars which had set off ahead of us has had a mishap it seems, and the sight of the ambulance heading up the course with blue lights flashing gives a sinking feeling all round.
Luckily no-one has been hurt, but the Hyundai driver went into the hay bales with some force, and it takes nearly two hours to clear it all up, and re-start the runs.
Now we’re on. I’ve been up this hill twice before, in 2018 on a Honda Fireblade and 2019 on an Aprilia RSV4, and I also had a quick look on YouTube a few days earlier. But I’m still largely in the dark about which way I’m going.
I vaguely remember a short straight, a right hander, then some wiggly bits in front of the grandstands, before you bear left up the hill and past more crowds then a woodlands finish up the top.
As I remember, you’re at the finish line in what feels like 30 seconds: but it’s as scary as anything I’ve done on a bike. There are tens of thousands of folk watching – so you want to go as quick as you can go to put on a show.
But though I’ve warmed the 765cc triple engine thoroughly, the tyres, brakes and suspension are all stone-cold on the little Triumph below me. There’s no facility for tyre warmers, and the bike hasn’t moved more than 100 yards before the start line. I’m about to put a lot of faith in the Pirelli Supercorsa SP V3 rubber, Öhlins suspension and Brembo brakes.
The starter waves me off, I give it an ‘andful and we’re away. A load of clutch slip to keep the revs pinned, and then the front wheel lifts up in a graceful, traction-controlled arc.
I’ve cunningly selected ‘Track’ mode, so the electronics have given me just enough rope to pull a modest minger off the line, yet (hopefully) not enough for me to hang myself on the first bend.
My hopes are not mislaid: the right-hander comes up fast, and I slam the front down and haul on the Brembo anchors like I mean it. There’s a hint of an appalled chirrup from the front Pirelli, as it’s unceremoniously heaved out of its cold slumber and put to work in association with the cornering ABS system.
I’ve misjudged both the angle of the corner and the power of the brakes, so am suddenly going too slowly, and hoik the throttle back open again. There’s a massive shove through my back end, much stronger than you’d expect from a middleweight supersports machine, and we’re back on track and heading up past the famous Goodwood car display.
I’m riding a bit like I’m on an unknown road, but the hay bales and direction arrows are making even the standard ‘vanishing point’ techniques tricky. I make it past the house and under the bridge without mishap though, and as things open up a little up the hill, I can get on the gas as hard as I like, and am whizzing towards the finish line, alive and unscathed. Phew.
There’s a nice Drivers’ club outpost at the top of the hill, so I can grab a fizzy water and a slice of pizza, making up for the two hours sat on the start line with no refreshment at all.
Then, we all trundle back down the hill, waving at the crowd, and my day is done. Parking up the 765 Moto2 Edition in the tent, I’m impressed, and don’t think I’d have had more fun on anything else.
The tiny, manageable chassis, grunty but not insane motor, and extensive electronic safety net were all spot-on for the short, torrid run up that legendary hill.
Later, I check out the stats for the hillclimb: it’s 1.17 miles long, with nine turns, and the altitude gain is 92.7 metres. The outright record is around 40 seconds in an F1 car or an electric prototype race car, so I guess I was riding for around a minute or so.
It’s a minute as intense as anything short of a top fuel drag race though: there’s an almost sky-diving feel about launching yourself along that short straight on a bone-cold motorbike heading into the great unknown. But it’s a most agreeable experience in the end…
The 2024 Goodwood Festival of Speed is on July 11-14th next year. Sign up for early tickets here: www.goodwood.com/motorsport/festival-of-speed/