Freestyle MX, and action sports in general, have come a hell of a long way since the likes of Evel Knievel and his mates were jumping over school busses on Harley Davidsons. Though his daredevil feats might have been jaw dropping at the time, they‘re actually a bit lame compared to the kind of thing that goes on nowadays.
Backflips, front-flips and tricks you’ve never even heard of are ten-a-penny at any decent 21st century MX stunt show, so to really impress the baying crowds you’re going to have to go that step further. Go big or go home. And luckily for us, there are a handful of people who have gone that step further, and performed stunts that’d probably give Mr. Knievel a nosebleed just to think about. So step right up and bear witness to 44teeth.com’s Top Five Coolest Motorcycle Stunts of All Time. Oh, and before I forget, don’t try this at home, kids.
No 5. Bradley O’Neal base jumping off a bike
You might not have heard of this lad. I hadn’t until I saw a clip of him jumping off a sand dune, flat stick on a motocross bike. Before I realised what was going on I had a little panic because there was absolutely nowhere to land from that height. It was only when I saw his hand reach behind him and then heard a “whoosh” as a canopy opened above his head, that I realised what was happening. Brad, who’s a very handy motocross racer and not a bad skydiver either, decided to combine his passions and ‘base jump’ off his airborne MX bike.
Base jumping, if you’re not aware, is like sky diving but is usually done off bridges or tall buildings and is considered one of the most dangerous sports going. Rather than jumping out of a plane and leisurely deploying your ‘chute in freefall, base jumpers jump, then have to deploy quick smart (and hope they don’t have a malfunction, ‘coz there’s no time for one them bastards). Whilst O’Neil isn’t the first ever MX bike-base jumper, he is the first to do it on flat land off a ramp (as opposed to off a canyon cliff or into water). As you can imagine, the lad’s had a few smashes, broken backs, concussions etc, but that hasn’t put him off in the slightest. He just keep going harder and harder. Fair play, mate.
4. Robbie Maddison & Levi LaVallee jump The San Diego Bay
Maddison, or Maddo to his mates, has completed a bunch of seriously cool jumps on an MX bike. They include jumping onto the Arc de Triomphe (in Las Vagas, not the actual one) and then back off again; backflipping the gap of a partially opened Tower Bridge (in London, yes, the actual one) and clearing the 200ft (60 meter) Corinth Canal in Greece. But it’s the San Diego Bay tandem jump with Levi LaVallee (who did it on a snowmobile) that we like the best. The aim was to break the 400ft (122 meters) barrier, taking the record from Ryan Capes’ who held it for a jump of 390ft (119 meters).
Despite landing a 391ft jump during a practice run, come the night, cold, damp conditions meant a lack of traction and Maddo only managed 378ft (115 meters). So it wasn’t the longest jump ever landed, although it’s wasn’t far off and it was certainly the longest tandem one. The jump was part of Red Bull’s 2011 new year celebrations and was witnessed by a massive crowd who lapped it up. Even though it wasn’t the World Record breaking jump that they’d been promised. But it was still jolly impressive.
3. Robbie Knievel jumps Caesar’s Palace fountains (after Evel Knievel and Gary Wells couldn’t)
In 1967 Evel Knievel tried to jump over the famous fountains in front of Caesar’s Palace hotel in Las Vagas, and failed. He crushed his pelvis and femur, fractured his hip, wrist and both ankles and (rumour has it that) he was in a coma for 29 days. In short, he smashed himself to fuck. Then 13 years later Gary Wells had a go at the same jump. Gary missed the landing ramp completely and also smashed himself to fuck. So onlookers watched through gritted teeth when, in 1989, a 26-year-old Robbie Knievel (son of Evel) attempted the self-same 150ft jump; but he managed to land it safely.
In modern day standards, it’s not that spectacular, but we think it’s cool because it’s a stunt with a bit of history; and one that almost claimed a couple of lives. If you want spectacular though, fast forward to 2006, when Mike Metzger did the famous Caesars Palace fountain jump, but chucked a backflip in there for good measure. A no-doubt suitably impressed 67-year-old Evel Knievel watched from the side-lines.
2. Robbie Maddison rides on water
Maddo strikes again, this time he’s not flying through the air, he’s riding on water. You might have seen a hairy lad from Lincolnshire having a go at this on Channel 4, but if you have, I think we can all agree that he made a bit of a hash of it. Maddo, who is not only a shit-hot MX rider, is also a shit-hot surfer, made it happen. With a very special rear tyre and a surfboard-cum-pair-of-skis cleverly attached to the bottom of his KTM motocross bike, he can ride on water seemingly indefinitely. And the footage of him carving waves up with the best of the surfers is nothing short of incredible. He had a couple of scary near-drowned experiences whilst shooting his film ‘Pipe Dream’, but by the sounds of it, it was worth it – well the footage speaks for itself.
1. Josh Sheehan lands a triple Backflip
When Travis Pastrana had a go at landing the world’s first backflip, and Carey Hart actually managed it, 20 years ago (2000) the world of freestyle MX changed. It wasn’t long before they were both landing them, and so was every other man and his dog in the freestyle MX world. After not many years, all the tricks in the FMX trade were being combined with backflips. Including the backflip itself when in 2006, Pastrana landed a double backflip. Nine years later and with the help of Pastrana at his home ‘Pastranaland’ (a mecca for action sports), Josh Sheehan took the next step and attempted a triple backflip. After a ton of practice into a massive air bag and plenty of tweaks to the custom built 37ft take-off and landing ramps Sheehan decided it was ready to try and land it onto dirt.
He hit the ramp at 50mph, pinned the throttle and pulled the bars back as though his life depended on it (because it kinda did). The first loop was looped, then the second, then the third, then he landed with two wheels on the ground. It’s the first and last time that a triple flip has ever been attempted, never mind landed, and when asked, Sheehan said he said he doesn’t think it’s going to be part of any FMX shows any time soon. The triple backflip was way more than just another trick, it was a serious stunt that’s cemented Sheehan’s name in the record books for ever. And that’s why we think it’s the coolest motorcycle stunt of all time.