I’m a huge Evel Knievel fan. I have posted a couple of times about the differences between the era of Evel Knievel and motorcycle jumping today. Without going into too much detail, and I could go on for days, the biggest differences between the days of Evel and today’s jumpers are 1) the bikes and 2) the ramps.
First, a quick word about the bikes. Evel jumped, for the most part, a Harley Davidson XR750 motorcycle. It was (and is) a bike that was never made for jumping; it was (and is) completely designed for racing. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, motorcycle jumpers began using motorcross bikes for their jumps – they are lighter and designed for airtime.
Second, a quick word about the ramps. Evel used traditional 10′ high take off ramps with a fairly small landing ramp. The ramps that jumpers use today are almost laughable; they are the size of an aircraft carrier. Case in point, take a look at the two YouTube videos below. The first is of Evel jumping in Portland in 1973. Pay special attention to the take-off and landing ramps. The second video is of Ryan Capes jumping this past year. Pay special attention to his take-off and landing ramps. The difference is staggering.
Now, I am in no way trying to ridicule Ryan Capes or any other modern jumper. These guys have great talent and are a great asset to the sport. It’s just that when people compare the achievements of older jumpers like Evel to today’s talent, they are comparing apples to oranges. They are two different sports.
That is why I have such great respect for Bubba Blackwell. He is a modern day jumper who uses the Harley Davidson XR750 for his jumps. Yep, the same bike Evel used. Blackwell is a great jumper who could easily be doing all the crazy modern stuff, but he instead prefers to break records on the XR750. So, you won’t see Blackwell traveling 300 feet with his bike. Could he if used another bike and different ramps? Yes. But he is using traditional ramps and the racing bike, which makes things much more difficult for jumping.
I was amazed to learn on Blackwell’s Facebook page that he will be attempting a 22 car jump using his XR750. The record was held by Evel at 19 cars until Bubba broke it in 1998 when he jumped 20 cars. In 2001 Bubba attempted a 22 car jump but came up short and suffered a devastating crash. In June of this year, Bubba will once again attempt a 22 car jump; the jump that almost ended his life in 2001. He will be using the XR750.
I will keep you posted. I know you will be holding your breath.