Evel Knievel is a legendary American motorcyclist who became an icon due to his death-defying stunts.
He made his first jump in 1966 at a modest festival in a small town in California. But within a handful of years he was jumping in front of thousands of people in stadiums across America and millions more on television.
His most memorable jumps came at iconic venues such as Madison Square Garden, Wembley Stadium and Caesars Palace – where he sustained serious injuries that almost claimed his life.
He died in 2007 at the age of 69, and four years later Kiddimoto started production of the Evel Knievel Hero balance bike.
Here we talk to Kelly Knievel, the oldest of Evel’s four children, about the incredible life of a man who “beat the hell out of death”.
Firstly, what was it like having one of the coolest people ever to walk (and jump!) the Earth as a Dad?
“It was complicated. I guess you could say my Dad was on a journey to live his life as big as his imagination and he brought us along for the ride.”
Watching his stunts must have been a nerve-wracking experience for you and the rest of your family…
“My Dad did not portray a death wish or express abject fear, and I think that attitude of self assurance just rubbed off on us. Not that we didn’t think it wasn’t dangerous or that he might get hurt. He used to say, “you have to be man enough to take the consequences.” It just seemed almost natural that when he crashed he always healed up.”
Evel took part in some extremely risky stunts, but what do you think was his most dangerous?
“All of them were dangerous. Hurtling yourself through the air on a 400 pound old school motorcycle (with no suspension to speak of) at 90 mph is just plain dangerous. Strapping yourself into a tin can of a rocket and trying to fly a mile over the Snake River canyon was dangerous. The man had nine lives and then some…”
Evel made a lot more jumps than he missed, but for some reason it’s the crashes that have endured in people’s minds. Why do you think that is?
“He jumped 175 times and crashed 12 or 13 I think. Have you seen the film of some of those crashes? They were spectacular. Especially the Caesar’s Palace and Wembley crashes. It is unbelievable that a man would crash that badly and live to jump another day…”
What do you think your Dad would have thought about the fact that there are kids all over the world riding around on Evel Knievel balance bikes and wearing Knievel helmets?
“He would love it – anything to get kids out doing stuff and learning to explore.”
What do you think young kids can learn off someone who was so famously determined?
“What we all need to learn – to push ourselves beyond our own boundaries of accomplishment.”
Finally, Kelly, what is it about your Dad’s life and legacy that makes the Evel Knievel legend so enduring?
“My dad was a pioneer, a real life super hero who’s own personal journey and discovery about himself and the extreme sport he invented kept the rest of us on the edge of our seats.”