We love a good old jaw dropping, death-defying stunt just as much as the next guy. And we’re not talking about popping an impressive wheelie on a smooth bit of track. Oh no. Think flaming hoops, (or fountains), dizzy heights and tanks full of hungry sharks. No matter what the riders are tackling, be it height, distance or gnarly obstacles, they are dancing with death, and we envy their skills and sheer bravery. But, with that being said, we’re happy to be sat firmly in the viewing seat, thanks.
Here are some of our favourite motorbike stunts.
We can’t say that we’ve ever looked up to admire a fountain and thought, “We really fancy jumping over that.” But Evel Knievel did. And no list would be complete without giving a mention to the true Godfather of the sport – if you can call it a sport.
Knievel did most of his stunts riding a Harley, which is not the typical bike of choice. He shot to stuntman fame in the 1960s at the same time that motorsport as a spectacle was gaining interest around the world.
And the 1967 Caesar’s Palace fountain jump, which is perhaps his most famous stunt, came about when Knievel was on a trip to Las Vegas to watch Dick Tiger compete in a middleweight title fight. He basically saw the fountains, liked the looked of them and decided to jump over them. As the story goes, Knievel’s pre-stunt preparation entailed a trip to the casino to place a $100 bet on the blackjack table (which he lost), followed by a shot of Wild Turkey whiskey from the bar.
Knievel’s doomed descent is enough to make anyone shudder (and is even more highlighted in this video thanks to slow motion). When the bike first hit the take-off ramp it began to decelerate unexpectedly which meant that Knievel came up short, landing on a ramp supported by a van. The handlebars were torn away from the biker’s grip and Knievel came down like a tonne of bricks. As well as a crushed femur and pelvis and multiple fractures, severe concussion left him in a coma for a reported 29 days.
Knievel defied doctors’ predictions that he wouldn’t walk without crutches again and, helped by his Caesar crash, he gained an iconic stuntman status.
Australian motorbike stunt rider Robbie ‘Maddo’ Maddison has a pretty impressive CV, especially after doubling-up as Daniel Craig for the recent James Bond film, Skyfall. In fact, Maddison won an SAF award for ‘Best Stunt Ensemble’ for the film. In 2007 and 2008, Maddison set three world records for distance jumping, reaching a whopping 350 feet.
Our favourite Maddison stunt has to be his crossing of Greece’s Corinth Canal. He covered over 278 feet crossing the canal, jumping 95 metres above the ground and clocking over 75mhp. His success landed him as the only FMX rider to successfully cross the Corinth Canal.
Our list had to feature Britain’s own Eddie Kidd, known for completing over 3,000 motorcycle stunts during his career. He was the stuntman for numerous Bond films, including The Living Daylights and GoldenEye. Harrison Ford’s stunts for the 1979 film Hanover Street were all carried out by Kidd, and at one point he jumped a 120 feet railway cutting at 90mph. Away from the movie screen, Eddie Kidd also jumped the Great Wall of China and jumped 80 feet across a 50 foot viaduct.
This video is Kidd’s world-record 14 double decker bus jump, set in April 1978.
We could watch this clip again and again…and again. At the 2006 X-Games, American motorsport competitor and stunt performer Travis Pastrana completed the first ever double backflip at the event. His stunt scored himself a record 98.60, the highest score ever achieved for the ‘Best Trick’ competition.
The build-up, the flashing lights and the sheer roar of the crowds as he lands. We love it.