It's an extreme sport that ruthlessly captures the heart and imagination of anyone who watches it. Ever since the first motorised bicycle was crafted, and the first rider took the chance to perform a painfully precise trick with their new machine, motorcycle stunts have entranced and inspired any who gaze upon the spectacle with nothing short of wonder and awe. There aren't many who can deny the flood of adrenaline that accompanies watching a hair-raising stunt being pulled off effortlessly, and these stunts continue to escalate in terms of both showmanship and technical difficulty every year. With this in mind, the article below is designed to get your imagination coursing with thoughts of petrol and rubber. Read on to discover some of the most impressive stunts, and most respected daredevils of today and times gone by.
No list of motorcycle stunt performers could be complete without mention of the king of motorcycle performance, Evel Knievel. As of 1999 he was a member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, and his talent has secured him a place as one of the most influential and well-loved icons of the 1970s. Throughout his 15 year career, he performed 75 ramp-to-ramp jumps and although not always successful (he suffered 433 broken bones over the course of his career), he was well loved by all who took the chance to see him.
Referred to warmly as 'The Wheelie King', Doug Domokos performed a wheelie for 145 miles at Talladega Speedway, which held the record for the longest wheelie from 1894 to 1992.
The Cytrix Display Team
The Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team, also known as The White Helmets, were a British military motorcycle stunt group who formed the legendary Cytrix Display Team after World War II. This team toured the country from 1947-1967, even venturing twice to the USA for several months at a time to perform. Although the team contained a variable cohort over its lifetime, the most constant members of the group included Neil Hack, Jet Jones, Basil Shelbourne and Ted Way. In stark contrast to the obsessive safety precautions taken by Evel Knievel, these stunt riders rode without leather suits or even helmets.
A selection of the most famous stunts performed by motorcycle riders is listed below:
Wheelie - wheelies traditionally include manoeuvres whereby the front wheel of the motorcycle is allowed to lift off the road, with the bike being powered and balanced by the back wheel only. There are several variations of the standard wheelie, the most impressive of which involves the rider hanging off the handlebars and giving the impression of being dragged along behind the bike. Perhaps better still, two or more performers may even perform a wheelie on the same bike!
Stoppie - a stoppie, or 'endo' occurs when the back wheel of the bike is lifted off the ground by braking hard as the bike moves at high speed. An exciting variation on the stoppie requiring tremendous skills and concentration, is referred to as a 'Biscuit Eater' and is performed with the rider's legs positioned over the handlebars.
Burnout - the burnout, so named because of the copious amounts of smoke it produces, is performed when the engine is revved and the brakes applied at the same time. This procedure causes the back wheels to spin, the friction heating them and causing the wheels to smoke. The 'suicide burnout' is a variation requiring great skill in which the driver stands in front of the bike while applying the brake and accelerator, a move in which any slip can result in severe injury. The 'chainsaw' manoeuvre involves the rider standing alongside the bike, which is positioned on its side on the ground, while holding the accelerator on the right handlebar, thus allowing the motorcycle to rotate freely around the rider. The 'merry-go-round' is a similar stunt.
Aerobatics - several aerobatic stunts are popular today, such as the hyperspin, which is similar to the chainsaw manoeuvre previously described. Switchback stunts, in which the motorcyclist sits backwards on the bike while driving forwards, are also well-loved. The cross position is performed with the rider standing upright on the seat, with arms extended as the bike moves, and can also be combined with the switchback position. One of the most impressive of these aerobatic performances is known as the de-activator, in which a wheelie is performed on an idling motorcycle, followed by the rider jumping off the back of the bike.