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Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado Springs with K&N's Justin Rastegar

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K&N employee Justin Rastegar pits before his run up Pike's.
K&N employee Justin Rastegar pits before his run up Pike's.
Throughout my life, Motorcycle riding has taken me to some pretty cool places. When I decided to go to Pikes Peak International hill climb, I really did not know what to expect. All I really knew is that Pike is an iconic race, the second oldest in America. The road to the peak is now mostly paved, but there is still a high level of danger with sudden turns and huge drop offs. I knew a few facts about the mountain, but that's all I was going off of when I left my home in southern California.
When all of Colorado Springs comes out to support the race it looks like a Fan Fest.
When all of Colorado Springs comes out to support the race it looks like a Fan Fest.


At K&N Engineering, I work as a product specialist, doing tech support, working at shows and helping with marketing and sales. While I love my job, it doesn't exactly prepare you for a race at 14,000 feet. Sitting at a desk at sea level doesn't get you into the best shape of your life. I typically ride motorcycles at sea level and while I consider myself a competent rider, I had never rode on asphalt or at high altitude. To prepare for this, I rode at a local go cart track in the weeks prior to get used to sliding on the asphalt and prepare for the 114 plus twists to come.

My plan was to head out of California over a week early to visit some of K&N dealers on the way. That would give me time to get used to Colorado's high altitude and try and adjust to the environment; so I thought. The moment I got to the Rockies, I got a headache and felt sick. I started off my week at tech inspection with a total rejection. My tires were wrong, my brake pads were too worn and my helmet was not up to their standards. My dreams, a flawless race to the clouds, was fading fast at this point, when I spent most of my budgeted money just to pass tech. Our riders' meetings was just as demotivating with talk of deaths on the mountain and other lethal mistakes that rookies like myself had made in the past. Three days of practice, prior to the race, were allocated to help prepare riders on their journey up the summit. On the first day of practice, I ended up going down hard on the asphalt because my front tire washed out. This stunned me and also brought me back down to reality that this race was for real!
K&N sponsored rider Destin Cantrell also did some altitude climbing of his own at Fan Fest.
K&N sponsored rider Destin Cantrell also did some altitude climbing of his own at Fan Fest.


The next few days of practice I took it a little slower, getting used to how far I could push a bike on the road. Sliding the backend of the bike out with 100% traction was a new feeling for me. I made it a point to try and learn the course as best as possible and make sure that when race day came I could push it without being caught off guard. As I got closer to the top of the mountain, my 2010 450 with 55 hp felt like it had the power of a moped. Although this loss in power annoyed me, it also helped keep my speed down where the biggest cliffs and drop offs were. There are a few turns on the course, such as engineer's corner, where you come from a high speed straight into a hairpin with little to no warning. It is turns like engineers that you really need to learn, or you will go off the mountain like many other people did during the course of the week. The Friday before the race, the strip in downtown Colorado Springs shuts down to celebrate the race in the annual fan fest. This event really calmed my nerves and made me realize how laid back and cool this race actually was.
To reach the top of Pikes Peak you must first overcome some brutal twists and turns.
To reach the top of Pikes Peak you must first overcome some brutal twists and turns.


When race day Sunday rolled around, the nerves were back as I waited from 4 am until 2 pm, until my class was starting to line up. As cars began to rocket up the peak, the radio blasted news of massive crashes, oil on the track and vehicles on fire. The cars all go up before the bikes to smooth out the course with rocks, oil and other pieces of metal the big boxes leave behind. Right before my class was about to go out, they shut down the course to clear a fatal injury off the track. This gave me a good hour to think about all the possibilities of crashing that could happen to me. I had to eventually shake myself out of that negative state of mind as the bikes began to fire up again. I had qualified near the back of the pack, so I made it a personal goal to get the best time out of my grid.

When the flag dropped, I held it on and still got beat into the first turn. The Kawasaki that I now closely followed wasn't pulling away from me, so I knew I could make a move. Around the same turn I crashed on in practice, I hit the paint strip and before I knew it, it felt like my rear tire was in ahead of the front. I brought it back and reminded myself to run a smart race. I passed the leader soon after and almost forgot about engineer's corner. I went off the course, but lucky for me number 2 followed me in my mistake. Once I hit the last bit of dirt left on the course, I took off and lead my grid all the way to the top.

The feeling of crossing that finish line was one of the best feelings I have ever felt. Maybe it was just the altitude, but looking down at the great plains and fellow rocky mountain peaks and knowing I had just ridden as hard as I could to this point was an out-of-body feeling. I would recommend this race to anyone on two or four wheels that had ever driven up a mountain road and enjoyed it. It was truly a one-of-a-kind race experience.

Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.

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K&N Engineering in Riverside California is the world's leading manufacturer of washable performance air filters and air intake systems. K&N invented the reusable high flow cotton air filter in 1969 and has been perfecting the technology ever since. K&N is a world class filtration company selling air filters, oil filters, and intakes in over 30 countries. K&N sells over 5,000 products designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and industrial applications. From their Million Mile Warranty to their Consumer Protection Pledge, K&N stands behind their products and their consumers 100%. The distinctive K&N logo represents performance from one of the original performance companies. For more information, visit knfilters.com.