He prefers walls of dirt.
Shelton, 40, is known as a hill-climb racer, and the hobby of this Tracy-area California Highway Patrol officer epitomizes fun for riders who prefer vertical racing over horizontal tracks.
“I do it for fun,” he said. “I love anything with a motor.”
The owner of more than a dozen motorcycles used for trail riding and hill racing, Shelton’s favorites are his two hill climbing motorcycles used for the zero-to-700 cc class and the open-class exhibition races. Custom-made by his friend Garrett Law, the bikes include a YZ Yamaha chassis with a Suzuki 750 motor that can go 110 mph in second gear; and a Honda 250 chassis with a CR500 motor that runs on alcohol.
Shelton, an avid fan of motorcycles, acquired his first at the age of 10, but it wasn’t until his early 20s that he got into hill climbing. He said his hobby kicked into gear when he joined the CHP and found that he could afford to buy a racing motorcycle.
That, however, was not his first time around a hill climber. He had often helped on the pit crew for his racing buddies at Carnegie State Vehicular Recreational Area in the hills south of Tracy.
“I’m a product of Carnegie,” he said, adding that he took part in many of the park’s races promoted by Tracy’s George Horn. “That’s what we did. I just got addicted to it.”
Unlike street racing or motocross, in hill climbing a single rider maneuvers his motorcycle up dirt-covered hills one at a time to beat the clock or go a greater distance than any other rider.
“This is you against the hill,” he said.
Racing on natural terrain, Shelton said he would prefer to face a hill where nobody is able to reach the top, rather than a hill every rider conquers in 6 to 10 seconds.
As he revved his two racing motorcycles in the CHP garage Tuesday, the sound was deafening, echoing out of the bay. If the appearance of the motorcycles — each with an extended rear wheel and huge nub tires — hadn’t been enough to show off their power, the sound of the engines would have been.
Shelton makes it a point each year to race in four hill-climbing events at Carnegie, on Tesla-Corral Hollow roads between Tracy and Livermore, and in three out-of-state hill-climb competitions that include Utah’s Widowmaker and Montana’s Great American.
When it comes to recommending the sport, Shelton gave a wholehearted yes. He described hill climbing as a great way to keep young people off the streets, after the initial cost of equipment.
He said he already has his two nephews involved in hill climbing at the age of 10, and both plan to compete at the Widowmaker in late June.
“A Carnegie year pass is $50, and they have a class (race) for every make and size motorcycle you can think of,” he said. “It’s the best form of family racing.”