Any kid growing up in the 60s and 70s idolized motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. From his first televised jump in 1967, to his regular appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, to a Saturday morning cartoon, it seemed Evel was everywhere.
And as a kid, of course, anything worth watching was worth imitating. The fact that Evel was to eventually hold the Guinness world record for broken bones (433) didn’t dissuade my group of neighborhood kids from creating our own jumps. Of course we rode Schwinn Sting-Rays, not motorcycles. The ramp was an old piece of plywood. And the cars were made by Tonka. But in our twelve-year-old minds we soared over Caesar’s Palace as we slipped the surly bonds of Earth.
And when bad weather forced us inside, the fun didn’t stop. My best friend’s Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle kept us entertained for hours as we built increasingly treacherous jumps for the 7” plastic Evel to majestically conquer.
It worked something like this: Build a cardboard ramp, crank up the “energizer” which spins up the internal motorcycle gyro. Then watch Evel barrel across the kitchen floor, hit the makeshift ramp at full speed, and fly over whatever obstacles we had cobbled together. Generally this included a mix of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, trucks, and buses. But when those became too mundane we graduated to action figures, LEGOs… and even entire football fields. The Stunt Cycle made short work of them all (with varying degrees of success).
Sadly, I never did manage to convince my parents to buy me my own Stunt Cycle, so I had to be content with whatever friend happened to have one. But that ends today. California Creations has reissued the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle in all its glory. And I’m the proud owner of two of them.
So now the quest begins. What can I find for Evel to jump? How fast and far can I make him go? And how long before he hits veers off course, hits a wall, and breaks into a dozen pieces?
The real Evel Knievel survived more than 75 jumps before retiring at age 39. Let’s hope my plastic replica lasts half as long.