How many of these dangerous stunts have you seen before?
Watching someone jump their motorcycle even just a short distance can be exhilarating. It might be in part a way to vicariously experience doing something we ourselves either don’t dare or just plain can’t attempt. Even if we can jump a bike, seeing someone go further and higher than we ever have is an amazing experience.
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Sadly, not every record-breaking attempt goes without a hitch. Some even end in tragedy. Here are a few of these spectacular stunts which have inspired and horrified many.
Back on July 26, 2008, Ryan Capes attempted to set a new world record for the longest motorcycle jump. His attempt, which was staged at the Toes MX Park in Royal City, Washington involved Capes’ team laying 1480 feet of fresh asphalt as well as making modifications to his purpose-built bike. The attempt was a roaring success.
Capes was not only able to break the world record for distance jumped on a motorcycle at 390 feet and 4 inches, he also broke the record for height jumped on a motorcycle at 78 feet as well as the distance jumped over an open gap at 348 feet. The team wasn’t expecting Capes to fly so far, so he almost overshot the entire landing ramp.
The wind was blamed by Capes for his not hitting 400 feet on the jump. However, the man was head over heels about the fact Evel Knievel called him “the King of Distance Jumping.” Sadly, Capes died in May of 2020, although the cause was never announced by his family.
Shaking things up for New Year’s Eve in 2008, freestyle motocross rider Robbie Maddison showed off for the crowd at the New Year No Limits show in Las Vegas with a truly amazing jump. He successfully launched him and his bike onto a ten-story replica of the Arc de Triomphe outside the Paris Hotel and Casino, then dropped 60 feet onto a landing ramp.
This stunt was especially technically difficult. Not only did he have to make the jump up to the top of the structure, what was more difficult was dropping ten stories onto the landing ramp. If Maddison were to have leaned forward too much during the drop, he would’ve sent him and his bike pitching forward. Learning too far back would have sent rider and bike into a backwards spin. In either scenario, serious injury or death could easily have been the result. In addition, too little speed and he wouldn’t have been able to hit the landing ramp, too much speed and he would’ve overshot it.
On October 7, 1979 famous British daredevil Robin Winter-Smith attempted to set a world distance motorcycle jump record of 212 feet in Elstree, England. It would be his final motorcycle jump as the daredevil attempted to said over 30 Rolls-Royces. An experienced motorcycle jumper, he started his career with the world-famous British Army Team, later joining The Magnificent 7. The man was so good, he would do all of his jumps without the use of a landing ramp.
While Winter-Smith gained plenty of speed before hitting the takeoff ramp, he soared high into the air, losing momentum while over the cars. Tragically, he landed on the 28th Rolls-Royce, then crashed into the safety deck. Rushed to the hospital by ambulance, the man was pronounced dead on arrival. He was only 29 years old.
At the age of 28, stunt rider Alex Harvill had the singular vision of setting a new world record for motorcycle distance jumps. However, that dream was cut short when he died while practicing a 351-foot jump at the Moses Lake Airshow in Washington in June of 2021.
The practice jump was a mere 150 feet. For whatever reason, he didn’t have enough speed to make the distance, so he and his bike hit a dirt mound, throwing him over the handlebars. Witnesses said they saw his helmet fly off after the impact. It was truly a tragic accident which cut short a promising life.