Wow! I was shocked today to learn that Evel Knievel passed away. I can't believe it! He just settled a law suit with Kayne West (not Kim West) over a parody-gone-bad in the last couple of days. Now, dead. I know that some of you guys out there (30 - 40+) were as influenced by Evel as I was. Who among us didn't dream of jumping something outrageous every time they threw a leg over their top tube? As a boy of 5 or so, I used to ramp my bike in the neighborhood alleys with all of my buddies. Big Wally, Little Wally, Brian Weedman, Adam Weedman, Wilbs, Mike Doherty, Scott Jones, even the neighborhood "wimp" Timmy Sadler, used to jump our bikes all day, every day, in the alleys surrounding our neighborhood. Each ramp growing another brick higher as the record jump grew longer. Until we actually made a ramp that somebody brainstormed in their garage one day. We made a double angled take-off platform (first stage about 30 degrees and a second stage at about 45) with a cross braced support at the front, instead of bricks piled up. This thing launched us to ever increasing personal bests at each turn. We only jumped air, until the day Little Wally said he would jump the hedges in front of Scott Wilbur's house! Outrageous! But do-able with the new ramp. So we set up the ramp at what we thought was a good distance to clear the bushes, but not too close that it would be easy or a for- sure jump. So we're all sitting on our bikes and LW goes back to his starting point. Somebody started chanting, "EVEL EVEL EVEL..." and he starts down the sidewalk toward the ramp. In true Evel fashion he did a run-bye and then back to the start. And the crowd goes wild! Then a run-up to the lip of the ramp to "see" what he had to do and where to land. I think someone fained having to leave at that point because they couldn't take the drama! Back to the launching point one last time and he did it for real. I remember his orange Yamaha Motobike (single seat, not banana) sailing silently through the air, slightly crossed up, and landing perfectly, a huge J skid following, and he just turns to us all and smiles! Awesome! No helmets in those days, your tolerance for pain was your helmet. Knee pads? Gloves? No way.
When you think about it, Evel was not so much a skilled jumper as he was just a ballsy showman. Who jumps a Harley over anything? That's a recipe for disaster! If he had ever jumped a Yamaha YZ 250 with massive suspension and wide bars he would have made every jump he tried. Bring out a dozen more buses and get that landing ramp the hell out of there! Iconic, crazy, full of piss and fire! What a role model. We all owe him some debt of gratitude for offering up his health and well-being to give us the thrills and spills that made us copy him. When Evel was on, you stopped all life and watched, heart in your throat, to see him try the impossible. Half of you wanting him to clean it, half wanting to see him rag-doll in slow motion. He looked much older and haggard than the 69 years he lived, but all of those x-rays probably took a few layers off of his skin! So next time you ride, offer up some thanks for Evel Knievel and go jump something with your bike! Later!