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All You Need to Know About Motorcycle Stunt Riding

All You Need to Know About Motorcycle Stunt Riding

Motorcycle stunt riding is an adrenaline-pumping sport where motorcyclists engage in dangerous acrobatics stunts. This activity requires extreme skill and precision because even the slightest mistake can result in severe injury or death. After completing extensive training, professional stunt riders can perform at various events. With proper guidance from the expert riders, even an amateur rider can safely pull up the stunts.

This article provides a complete guide on motorcycle stunt riding.

1. Motorcycle Stunt Riding

Motorcycle stunt riding is a sport that requires extreme caution and safety precautions. Its basic principles involve performing stunts using either a motorcycle’s rear or front wheel. During the early 1800’s, motorcycle stunts were done on public roads and private venues. However, modern laws have limited public stunt displays on roads. Professional stunt riders perform gravity-defying stunts.

1.1 History

Motorcycle stunt riding has been popular since the 1800s. It was a permanent part of the wall of death. Motorcyclists used to enter a steel-banded sphere and ride in circles. The centripetal force helped keep the motorcyclists in constant motion while maintaining stability. This stunt is still commonly associated with the circus and is widely enjoyed. Since the 1970s, motorcycles and cars were both built for drag racing.

Nowadays, riding on one wheel, or doing a wheelie, is considered the easiest first stunt. However, due to motorcycles being heavier in the past, it was difficult to perform a wheelie and accidents were common.Motorcyclists used to perform acrobatic performances on their motorcycles.

In the 1980s, motorcycle stunt riding was introduced in the United States. Daniel J. Canary is credited for the invention of wheelies. He is called the Victorian inventor of the wheelie. His most famous stunt was performed on May 20, 1884. He rode a bicycle wheelie on the stairs of the U.S. Capitol building.

2. Motorcycle Stunt Riding Laws in the United States

There is a stark difference between stunt riding and freeriding. Freeriding involves performing stunts and tricks on open roads which is obviously dangerous for motorcyclists as well as the general public. However, there are certain laws when it comes to stunt riding. Motorcycle stunt riding is a widespread phenomenon in the United States and Europe. However, there are strict laws when it comes to stunt riding. Stunting on public roads is illegal. Often, riders perform dangerous stunts and record them. Later, these stunts are posted on social media with edgy hip-hop music. Law enforcement agencies look out for these videos to help them catch illegal stunt riders.

In the U.S., wheelies are banned on public roads, even if they are empty. Intentionally lifting the front wheel of the motorcycle is banned in the US on the roads which is generally frequented by the public.

3. Safety Equipment Needed for Stunt Riding

Listed below are safety equipment riders need to protect themselves when engaged in stunt riding. Following are the equipments necessary for stunt riding:

Safety Equipment Needed for Stunt Riding

3.1 Crash Cage

A motorcycle crash cage is made of aluminum or stainless steel. It is mounted to the lower frame, protecting the engine frame, and engine from scrapes. They also protect the rider from scraping against the ground during an accident. Make sure the crash cage fits on your motorcycle’s specific model to ensure a safer riding experience. Crash cages are best for novice stunt riders. They provide a more protective hands-on experience and safeguard the gas tank.

3.2 Front Upper Stay

The front upper stay is a bracket that supports the upper fairing and gauges. It can be an extra safety feature for a motorcycle with a full fairing.

3.3 Frame Sliders

Frame sliders protect the motorcycle frame from a sudden impact and are manufactured from aluminum, steel, polyethylene, plastic, and nylon. They protect the frame and fairing from cracking due to collision. While frame sliders are suited for stunt riding, is not an easy task. It provides equal damage to the motorcycle and the motorcyclist. Frame sliders are not built for off-roading.

3.4 Subcages

Subcages, or rear stunt pegs, protect the motorcycle’s subframe.

3.5 Handbrake

The handbrake is an important and necessary addition to your motorcycle. It extends the duration of stoppies. Handbrakes are handy especially when riders need to scrape when they are performing stoppies or high chair stunts. When riders cannot access the rear brake or are performing stunts like stoppies or high chairs.

3.6 Sprocket Kit

A sprocket kit is essential, especially for high chair wheelies. The bigger the sprocket, the easier it will be to perform stunts. This kit can help improve safety as it transfers the rotary motion between two shafts where gears aren’t compatible.

3.7 Round Bar

Round bars protect the engine and frame from scrapes.

3.8 Protective Gear

Protective Gear

Other protective gear includes a full-face helmet, high-top boots, gloves, glasses, back protector and riding suits.

4. Key Stunt Riding Techniques

Listed below is a list of key stunt riding techniques:

Key Stunt Riding Techniques

4.1 Wheelie

A wheelie is performed by lifting the motorcycle’s front wheel by either using the clutch or sheer force. As you lean your body backward, the entire weight of the bike will rest on the rear wheel. There are many variations of the wheelie. For example, the circle wheelie involves performing a wheelie while riding in a circle. It sounds interesting but it is very difficult. Move your body weight backwards for wheelies.

4.2 10 o'Clock and 12 o’Clock Wheelie

To perform a 10 o’clock wheelie, motorcyclists utilize the rear brake and pull the motorcycle to its maximum height. Then, you use the clutch to change gears and get into a wheelie. The only difference between the 10 o' clock and 12 o’clock wheelie is that the motorcycle is diagonal when doing the former, while the motorcycle is straight when doing the latter.
Other types of wheelies include:

  • Nac Nac
  • Can Can
  • High Chair Wheelie
  • One Handed Wheelie
  • Banana Split
  • Flamingo
  • Superman Wheelie

4.3 Stoppies

Stoppies, or front wheelies, are motorcycle stunts where the motorcycle’s entire weight of the motorcycle falls on the front wheel. You apply the front brake and slowly reduce brake pressure. Shift your body forward and constantly adjust your weight to maintain balance atop the front wheel. Maintaining the weight on the front wheel and positioning your body according to it is the main gist of performing a stoppie. Move your body weight forward for stoppiesThis allows you to ride your motorcycle a short distance on its front wheel. The following are variations of stoppies:

  • Tail Grab
  • Rolling Endo
  • Tank Stoppie
  • Crossed Over Stoppie
  • Skitch Stoppie
  • The Droppie
  • Sloppy Stoppie

4.4 Switchback Headstand

Video Credit: @Adam Zagalski

The switchback headstand is a difficult stunt since it requires you to perform a headstand on the motorcycle while doing a wheelie. You have to constantly balance your body on the motorcycle while upside down.

4.5 High Chair Circles

High chair circles are performed by placing both legs on the handlebars and your motorcycle resting on the rear wheel and balancing the breaks in order to ride the motorcycle. Make sure that rear tire pressure is reduced while performing this stunt. Use the throttle and handbrake to control how high your motorcycle is raised.

4.6. Christ

Video Credit: @StuntBurns

Christ involves standing on the gas tank. You can either stand on the dented gas tank or motorcycle seat. This stunt is easier to do when the motorcycle is traveling at high speed. Put your motorcycle in first gear, then put it in neutral before standing up on the gas tank. Make sure to place both feet on the gas tank at the same time. You can keep your hands on the handlebars to balance before standing straight in a fluid motion.

4.7 De Activator

The de activator is doing a backflip on a motorcycle. It is a form of freestyle motorcycle stunt riding. You ride with a full tank of gas while resting on the rear wheel. This stunt is often performed in motorcycle stunt shows. You then perform a big jump, perform the backflip while in the air, then land with the motorcycle upright.

4.8 Chainsaw

To perform a chainsaw, put your motorcycle in first gear and stand more towards the right. While at full throttle, suddenly release the clutch to help your motorcycle go in circles. Hold the handlebars tightly while turning them towards the left side. If the handle is not on the right side, you won't be able to hold your motorcycle

4.9 Power Slides and Burnouts

Power slides are performed by drifting on the rear wheel while controlling the throttle and rear brake. Burnouts are performed when the motorcycle frame is stationary while the wheels spin, causing smoke to be released. One disadvantage of burnouts is that the rear wheel wears out more quickly. Make sure that the front brake of the motorcycle is working or you risk your motorcycle being pushed around instead of drifting.

5. Prepare Your Motorcycle for Stunt Riding

Prepare Your Motorcycle for Stunt Riding

5.1 Select the Right Motorcycle

Selecting the right motorcycle acts as a solid base as your goal is to learn stunt riding, it is better to get sports bikes or supermotos due to them being lightweight. You should also consider getting a vehicle with a high power to weight ratio since they are easier to lift. One last factor to consider is that the motorcycle must have smooth throttle response.

5.2 Upgrade Your Motorcycle

If you previously owned a motorcycle and now want to become a stunt rider, you will need to upgrade your motorcycle. Add crash bars, handbrakes, round bars, sprocket kit and frame sliders to protect the more delicate parts of your motorcycle such as the engine and the frame. Handbrakes system allows you to extend your stoppies. Switch the clutch to a more heavy-duty one for smoother torque.

5.3 Performance Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your motorcycle will help you look out for and fix minor issues. Motorcycle tires often wear out faster while stunt riding, making tire inspection and replacement necessary. Check the brake pads and test how well the brakes work. Change out and refill oil while giving the engine and transmission proper care.

6. Working on Your Riding Skills

Working on Your Riding Skills

It is not that easy to go stunt riding as it seems it is. Stunt riders go for hours and hours of practice before performing dangerous and deadly stunts.

6.1 Consistent Practice and Training

Stunt riding is a never ending quest for perfection. Even professional stunt riders requires practicing a lot to ensure stunts are pulled off successfully. There is always room for improvement no matter how skilled you may think you are. Practicing and training regularly can help further improve your riding skills. Give enough time to riding starting from the basics such as wheelies and stoppies. You must spend a lot of time honing your skills, especially when starting with the basics.

6.2 Look for Instructors

It is difficult to learn stunt riding on your own. A helping hand will do you no damage. It is best to see advice from stunt riding instructors that are excelled in the task and have years of training and are receptive to passing their knowledge to others. There are certain motorcycle clubs that offer programs that teach stunt riding. Look out for these kind of programs since they may be led by professional stunt riders who provide practice sessions and teach valuable lessons

6.3 Importance of Body Positioning

Body position will help you keep balance and prevent you from falling off your motorcycle. Exercises will help improve your physical fitness. Try to practice keeping your posture straight and your body in place even when you experience a sudden jerk as you go over bumps while stunt riding.

7. Participation in Stunt Riding Events

Participation in Stunt Riding Events

When practicing for stunt riding, you can get more experience by participating in events that promote stunt riding. You will meet new people and learn new skills from them. When you feel that you have learned and practiced enough to perform stunts, try to sign up for any events in your area. It doesn’t matter that the events are bigger or smaller. Only your skills will provide you the deserved attention.

7.1 Networking in the Motorcycle Community

You can only perform in motorcycle stunt riding events if you are a professional with adequate understanding of how to perform multiple stunts. If you are an amateur stunt rider, you cannot take part in extremely dangerous stunts. In the meantime, you can join smaller events within the motorcycle community and meet other riders. Networking in the motorcycling community can help build connections and make it easier to enter exclusive events.

7.2 Local and International Events

Participating in local events may help you catch the attention of potential organizers that could offer you a chance to perform in international events. Different organizers, famous stunt riders, producers, and directors often visit local shows to look for new talent. Many producers and directors also come to such events where they need professional stunt riders for their films.

8. Significance of Mental and Physical Preparation

Significance of Mental and Physical Preparation

Stunt riding is not only a physical task, it also involves mental aptitude. Stunt riders need to simultaneously train their mind and body to complete the task

8.1 Brainstorming the Entire Stunt

Before performing a stunt, it is important to work out the entire sequence of events in your head. Brainstorming unlocks new talents and builds confidence. Even if you have practiced a stunt multiple times, visualizing how it is supposed to be done in your mind can help you consider what steps you can make to improve performance, safety, and efficiency. Brainstorming the whole process means that you live the whole moment in your head. Evaluating possible dangers and then eliminating for the smooth flow of the stunt.

8.2 Mental and Physical Coordination

To be a stunt rider, you must be able to balance mental and physical tasks. According to Brain Research, motorcycle riding provides mental and physical benefits. Motorcycle riding decreases your stress hormonal biomarkers by 25%. Your mind and body must be in sync to perform stunts and ignore distractions.

Also Read: Does Riding a Motorcycle Relieve Stress?

8.3 Expect the Unexpected

It is natural for stunt riders to feel afraid before performing stunts. You can help relieve stress by taking and checking all the necessary safety precautions and later checking them right before performing stunts. A common saying in the motorcycle stunt riding world, “Expect the unexpected”. Thoroughly practice your stunts to decrease the alienated feelings. It is common to feel afraid before your big stunt. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep before the big day and when the say arrives try to keep your nerves in focus.

9. Risk Management

Risk Management

Stunt riding is a sport or job where anything could happen any minute. Despite taking all the safety measures there is still a chance of risk. And that risk is of one’s life.

9.1 Take Safety Precautions

To reduce risk of injury, practice safety drills. As a stunt rider, you must know how and when to do controlled falls. Be prepared for failure so that you can act fast and minimize suffering injuries and get ready for the worst case scenarios. Make sure to wear protective gear to protect your body.

9.2 Risks vs. Rewards

Before performing a stunt, weigh the risks and. rewards. It will lay out the benefits and dangers in front of you. Do not go for unnecessary risks that provide no benefit for you. Instead, focus your energy on calculating what you will gain from those risks and if the rewards outweigh the risks enough with compromising your safety.

9.3 Importance of Insurance

Performing stunts in public places will get the attention of the authorities who may fine you. If you are performing in a circus or any public event, make sure to get permission from the local town or city government to avoid legal trouble. Insurance also provides some financial coverage in case of any mishaps during a stunt. With a great motor insurance policy, any damages caused to your vehicle will be covered by the insurance company. Even some states in the US require riders to have a motor insurance as it is a legal requirement.

10. Stereotypes in Motorcycle Stunt Riding World

Stereotypes in Motorcycle Stunt Riding World

10.1 Reckless Driving

Stunt riding is often seen as a negative and dangerous sport due to the belief that stunt riders behave recklessly. This is obviously not true since they are professionals who take precautions to ensure safety of themselves and the general public.

10.2 Breaking Laws

Motorcycle stunt riders are wrongfully called outlaws due to the expectation that individuals involved with such a reckless profession would likely break road laws. However, professional stunt riders always take safety measures. New stunt riders can make mistakes, but can be corrected with the proper guidance they correct their wrongdoings.

10.3 Lack of Training

It is assumed that stunt riders learn how to perform stunts on their own. However, the truth is that stunt riders undergo several training sessions supervised by instructors before they are permitted to perform stunts. Stunt riders deeply study every possibility of their stunt to minimize risk.

10.4 Gender Stereotypes

Video Credit: @Stuntexru

Though stunt riding was often seen as a male-centric sport where men are seen to perform dangerous stunts. More female riders have begun performing dangerous stunts in recent years. In the 2021 Stunt Riding World Championship, Sarah Lezito, a pro rider from France, won 12th place. She beat experienced men and claimed the position. Stunt riding is not a male-centereed profession. It gives equal opportunity to females as well. It is generally assumed that women are not a great part of the dangerous sport because of many hazard issues. On the other hand, women are proving their worth in this sport where riders like Lezito are the examples.

These stereotypes have created a bad image of stunt riding that has laid a negative effect on youth. It is expected from youth to become law-breaking citizens as they get more involved in these stunts. This is not true at all. People are sane enough to know what is good for them. With the recent Motorcycle World Championship tournaments, stunt riders are not labeled with false stereotypes.

11. Motorcycle Stunt Riding as a Full-Time Job

Motorcycle Stunt Riding as a Full-Time Job

Can you do a full-time job as a motorcycle stunt rider? This was a difficult question to answer in the 1800s when there wasn't much exposure to stunts, but today there are hundreds and thousands of stunt riders who are working professionally and earning a handsome salary. Motorcycle stunt riding is a legitimate sport. Promoting it in motor events will give it the international recognition it needs.

11.1 Movie Stunt Rider

You can become a stunt rider or stunt double for movies. Many actors and actresses do not perform dangerous stunts, requiring people sharing similar appearances to perform stunts for them. To become a movie stunt rider, you must demonstrate excellent body and mind coordination and split-second decision-making. There is a high demand for movie stunt riders to help reduce risk to expensive vehicles and famous stars.

11.2 How Much Do Stunt Riders Earn?

Stunt riders earn a handsome amount of money from dangerous stunts. The more dangerous a stunt is, the greater the prize money a stunt rider earns. But keep in mind that the risk levels will be insane for that prize money. If you are a movie stunt rider, the average earnings is between $52,000 to $78,000 for each job. The payments don’t come on a weekly or monthly basis. It is more of a project base work.

11.3 Physical Fitness - Most Important Aspect

Despite the wish of a motorcyclist to become a stunt rider, physical fitness is the most important aspect to look for before entering the dangerous sport. A stunt rider must go for strength training that builds muscles and power. Cardiovascular endurance is important as stunt riding can be hard on your body so going for aerobic exercises such as cycling and swimming will build stamina. A great body physique will help to control your motorcycle and keep you away from unwanted injuries.

12. Benefits of Motorcycle Stunt Riding

Motorcycle stunt riding is an excellent sport to showcase your talents and skills.

Benefits of Motorcycle Stunt Riding

12.1 Choreographing Your Stunts For Bigger Platforms

A well planned show will leave the audience stunned. This will earn you a ticket in bigger shows. Carefully choreograph your stunts so that they look presentable and attention-catching. Devise a proper sequence of the stunt followed by transitions. Practice those choreographed sessions so that there isn't a spec of uncertainty during the actual stunt. In this way the stunt rider would have gone through all the maneuvers.

12.2 Improves Skill and Creativity

Stunt riding requires a combination of skill and creativity. With every show, you learn how to take new and artistic approaches to stunts to leave the audience in awe, which can help make you more famous. There are many stunt riders who work in movies as their Hollywood stars stunt doubles. For example in Marvel Series, Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double was Heidi Moneymaker. Moneymaker played the stunt double of Johansson’s character, the Black Widow.

12.3 Connect with the Audience

Stunts can help stunt riders connect with their audience. Making eye contact and waving at them shows that you appreciate and acknowledge their cheering and presence. The more fans you get, the more you will be invited to showcase your skills at bigger events.

Also Read: 9 Best Motorcycles for Stunts

13. Where and How to Practice Stunt Riding?

Amateur stunt riders can practice at training grounds owned by stunt riding academies. It is illegal to practice in public places, such as parking areas or roads. You can also practice at abandoned grounds and places where there would be no objection by the government.

14. Famous Motorcycle Stunt Riders

14.1 Evel Knievel

Evel Knievel (1938 - 2007), known as Robert Craig Kneivel, was an American stunt rider. In his whole career, Knievel performed more than 75 motorcycle jumps. He was a professional daredevil who gained fame in the 1970s for his gravity-defying jumps. Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

“Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.”
(Evel Knievel)

14.2 Doug Domokos

Doug Domokos (1955 - 2000) was an American motorcycle stunt rider known as “The Wheelie King.” Domokos earned the nickname for his skill at performing wheelies that earned him his nickname. Domokos’s friend, Gene Ritchie, said, “[Domokos] loved crowds. If he could get four people to watch, he’d perform.” Domokos set a wheelie record of 145 miles at Talladega Speedway in Alabama, which earned him a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.

14.3 Eddie Kidd

Eddie Kid OBE is a former English motorcycle stunt rider. Kidd won the most famous stunt tournament, “The Daredevil Duel: Knievel vs. Kidd.”  The tournament was between Kidd and Evel Knievel’s son, Robbie Knievel. Though both riders jumped three times from their motorcycles, Kidd won the tournament by 6 ft. Both riders had to jump thrice from their motorcycle. As the re-match didn’t happen, the winner's belt is still with Kidd.

14.4 Chris Bromham

Chris Bromham is a Welsh stunt rider. He holds the current motorcycle jump obstacle world record by successfully jumping over 18 double-decker buses in 1983.

14.5 Kevin Carmichael

Kevin Carmichael

Photo Credit: @bennetts

Kevin Carmichael is a Britain stunt rider who won the European and World Championships, a title he gained in the 1990s. In 2016, he was actively involved in the press launch of Triumph’s new Speed Triple R.

14.6 Robbie Maddison

Robbie Maddison is an Australian stunt rider. Knievel was his hero and Madison strived to follow in the greatest daredevil’s footsteps. In 2007, Maddison jumped from 322 feet on a Red Bull ramp. Maddison's stunt earned him the chance to perform at the 2008 Arc de Triomphe in France. Maddison jumped from 96 feet and rolled a few times before landing on the ramp. After landing on the ramp, Maddison held the motorcycle up with one hand. It was the most glorifying and dangerous stunt Maddison had ever done.

14.7 Chris Pfeiffer

Chris Pfeiffer (1970 - 2022) was a German stunt rider who won the Red Bull Scramble award four times. Pfeiffer was the one who broke several Guinness World Records during his professional career. He also won the Motorcycle European Championship (2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010). Pfeiffer was known for his exceptional motorcycle control, especially when he landed on the ground after a high jump.

14.8 Travis Pastrana

Travis Pastrana is an American stunt performer who won gold medals in various events, including motocross, rally racing and NASCAR. He has suffered from many injuries during his motocross career, including a dislocated spine, a torn ACL and meniscus. He is currently the champion and is active and not easily scared by a few injuries.

"I don't remember most of the injuries, there have been too many."
(Travis Pastrana)

14.9 Sarah Vignot

Video Credit: @Stunt Freaks Team

Sarah Vignot, also known as Sarah Lezito, is a French stunt rider. She has performed stunts in various Hollywood movies like The Batman, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inferno, and others. She also won 12th place at the 2021 Stunt Riding World Championship. Vignot was a stunt double for Scarlett Johansson on an electric Harley in Avengers: Age of Ultron and also in the Black Widow.

15. FAQs

15.1 How to Do a Burnout with an Automatic Motorcycle?

Lock the front brake and rev the throttle. This will make it easier for the rear wheel to drift. Don’t start at full throttle or else you won’t be able to change the motorcycle’s speed.

15.2 Who Currently Holds the World Record of Motorcycle Jump Obstacle?

Chris Bromham is a Welsh motorcyclist stunt rider who currently holds the world record of motorcycle jump obstacle. He jumped over 18 double-decker buses and broke the previous record of 14.

15.3 What was the “The Great Escape” Stunt by Bud Ekins?

The Great Escape is a 1963 movie featuring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and many others. The actual stunt for the movie was performed by Bud Ekins where he jumped about 150 miles from the Swiss territory from a motorcycle not designed for such a dangerous jump.

15.4 What is the Importance of a 12 o'Clock Bar?

The 12 o'clock bar is attached to the motorcycle subframe, allowing riders to perform various stunts such as the ape hanger. It is a round bar that is designed for wheelies.

16. Conclusion

Motorcycle stunt riding is the act of performing gravity-defying stunts. It is an art of showmanship. Even though motorcycle stunts look mind-blowing, there is always this sense of grave danger. Stunt riders must go through a series of safety precautions and install additional parts to reduce risk of injury or death. You can learn stunts from a private instructor or at a stunt riding school. However, it is important to know stunt riding laws in the U.S. before doing stunts. Stunt riding is a mixture of skill and inventiveness. According to the Chicago-based motorcycle lawyers, “Motorcyclists can be punished with both fines and jail time in Illinois for wheelies and stunts”. There are numerous stunt riders who made history with their epic performances, such as Evel Knievel, Doug Domokos, and many others. Female stunt riders like Sarah Vignot are destroying the stereotype that motorcycle stunt riding is a male-oriented sport. It is important to know the risks and benefits of stunt riding. You can choreograph and record your stunts, and later use them to build connections. There are different motorcycle parts present on Viking Bags which you can install for better performance, such as sissy bars, fairing, handlebars, crash bars, sissy bar bags, and saddlebags.

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