100% Biker 185

100% Biker 185
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On 8th September 2014, it will be forty years since Evel Knievel failed in his attempt to leap the Snake River Canyon in Idaho on a steam-powered rocket.

Instead of sailing over the canyon as anticipated, the X-2 Skycycle’s parachute deployed too early, sending Knievel into the chasm, landing just feet from the river (Knievel said afterwards that, had he crashed in the water, he would surely have drowned).

Knievel vowed never to attempt the jump again, but it has exerted a magnetic pull on many others, even his son, Robbie, who followed in his footsteps as a daredevil, has spoken of making the leap. For years, a major snag lay not in the logistics of the leap, but its geography. Taking off from Twin Falls wasn’t the problem. Landing, however, was…

The north side of the canyon is state owned, controlled by the Idaho Department of Lands which, for some curious reason, was far from keen on the challenge and refused permission for a landing site to be used. But, with the 40th anniversary approaching, several groups voiced an interest in attempting the feat. One, a Texas motorcycle daredevil called ‘Big Ed’ Beckley eventually managed to persuade the IDL to lease him a landing site, albeit for a non-refundable payment of $943,000 which he hoped would be offset by the involvement of FOX TV. However, in June, FOX pulled the plug on televising Beckley’s attempt. On 9th August, Beckley announced that he would not be doing the Snake River Canyon jump this year, adding ‘who knows yet if we will ever do it.’

Another stuntman, Eddie Braun will, apparently, be trying the jump, riding a rocket built by the son of Bob Truax who was responsible for the X-2 Skycycle which fell to earth in 1974. Although a take-off ramp is under construction on the rim of the canyon, it remains to be seen as to whether Braun’s leap will take place.

And, while I wish both Eddie Braun and Scott Truax the best of luck, I rather hope that their attempt – and any others – to leap the canyon doesn’t happen. Technology has cantered on over the last four decades and it’s quite possible that a vehicle capable of safely making the jump could be built, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. Evel Knievel was a global figure, an instantly recognisable legend in a time in which our heroes were becoming smaller, and the Snake River Canyon jump, although it failed, was a marker in recent history, an event which still resonates today. For someone to achieve what he could not somehow diminishes Evel Knievel a little and by it, too, the fly-in-amber memories of a generation for whom he epitomised the idea of crazy, glorious daredevilry.