Not to disparage India’s Border Security Force (BSF) or the country’s national bird, but what is this peacockery? In news reports of Barack Obama attending India’s annual Republic Day parade, I repeatedly heard or read terminology such as “daredevil stunts,” and “dare-devilish manoeuvres.” These descriptions were in regards to the motorcycle performances during the parade by the Janbaz that can more appropriately be described as an elaborately dressed motorcycle drill team demonstration.

Known as the Dare Devils, the Indian moto-acrobats certainly deserve recognition for their ability to balance a multitudinous human cargo atop Royal Enfield motorbikes (see world records below), but describing their feats as daredevilish seems, at least to me, a little hyperbolic, as well as undermining to the essence of being a daredevil.

Google “motorcycle daredevil” and the Wikipedia page for the godfather of moto-showmanship and self-imposed physical carnage, Evel Knievel, is the first hit. Described there as “one of the greatest American icons of the 1970s,” his popularity transcended our generally closed-loop world of two-wheel enthusiasts. Images of Knievel’s bravado was fodder for everything from toys to movie screens. The flipside of Knievel’s daredevil career was one of pain and suffering, rest and recovery. For fracturing more than 433 bones, Knievel earned a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records as “most bones broken in a lifetime.” Ouch!

Not that breaking bones is a prerequisite of being a daredevil, but the profession is, for the most part, inseparable from occasional injurious outcomes. If it’s not dangerous and somewhat life threatening, it’s not daredevilish.

Type “motorcycle” into the Guinness Book of World Records website’s search engine and you’ll get 127 results (not all of which are germane). To India’s credit, the country does own the Most People On One Motorcycle entry with 52, as well as Largest Human Motorcycle Pyramid, with 201 on ten motorcycles. Good for them, although I think it’d be more entertaining to see Most Goats On One Motorcycle. However, I don’t deem any of these as daredevil worthy.

Of the 127, there’s non-daredevil entries such as these:

  • Most Consecutive Yoga Positions On A Motorcycle (another measure of India’s perverse sense of daredevilry)
  • Loudest Motorcycle Audio System (143 decibels by some dude in Russia)
  • Largest Parade Of Motorcycles With Sidecars (317 in Beijing, China – I didn’t realize sidecars are a thing in China)

020915-tomfoolery-daredevils-Yoga

Some truly daredevilish stuff such as these:

  • Longest Motorcycle Ride Through A Tunnel Of Fire (395 ft. last year in South Africa by Enrico Schoeman and André de Kock)
  • Fastest Speed Riding Backwards On A Motorcycle (Dave Koates from the UK reached 151.7 MPH)
  • Highest Tightrope Crossed On A Motorcycle (Mustafa Danger from Morocco rode a motorcycle on a steel cable suspended 426 feet high, for 2,185 feet)

020915-tomfoolery-daredevils-Longest_Fire_Ride

And then there’s this guy. Travis Pastrana owns 10 Guinness Book Of World Records and probably stands as the modern equivalent to Evel Knievel (with less broken bones to his credit):

  • First Double Backflip On A Motorcycle
  • Longest Tandem Motorcycle Backflip
  • Longest Motorcycle Backflip (engine off)
  • Most Motorcycle Backflips In 30 Seconds
  • Lowest Motorcycle Backflip
  • Highest Motocross Bunny Hop
  • Fastest ATV Side-Wheelie
  • Longest Tandem ATV Ramp Jump
  • Longest Pickup Truck Ramp Jump
  • Longest Ramp Jump Car

A few of those records were made aboard four-wheelers, but Knievel piloted a steam-powered rocket, so there’s that. Comparatively, though, Knievel’s only remaining Guinness Record entry is for his amassing of broken bones, which is the result of improper stunting preparation, not actual motorcycle daredevil achievements.

Is Pastrana a better daredevil than OG Knievel? Evel certainly has the edge when it comes to name recognition, showmanship, marketing and legendary feats of stoutheartedness in front of record crowds, but Travis has world-record proof of successful moto-daredevilry.

Or, maybe it’s the suit. Evel’s got a cool one, Pastrana does not. According to the website www.cyclejumpers.com there’s quite a few daredevils with cool suits, of which I’ve not heard of most them. Maybe it’s not the suit. But I know I can dress up as Evel Knievel for halloween and be recognized, not so much with Pastrana.

Evel Knievel’s Rival Gary Davis

Knievel or Pastrana, both these guys are heroes. The world is always in need of heroes. To become a hero and the world’s greatest daredevil, take Knievel’s showmanship and marketing skills, combine those with Pastrana’s world record success rate, and don’t forget the suit. Or, you can become the SpongeBob SquarePants of daredevilry and go the yoga route.

  • michael franklin

    How about me, I ride on the los angeles freeways, that has to be at least as dangerous as any of those other things.

    • Old MOron

      But it’s still safer than riding freeways in other states, because in Hell A we are allowed to split lanes!

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    As an Oaklander, I’m deeply ashamed we don’t boast the loudest motorcycle sound system. We’re slipping.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      Not to worry. Oakland has so many other things for which to be proud.

  • Vivek

    Hi Tom, I am from India and no offence taken. Just a minor correction though, this is not Indian Army’s Corps of Signals but the Border Security Force (BSF) as seen in the image, which is a central police force responsible for manning the international border. The Corps of Signals and the Military Police too have similar riding groups, but not this one

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      I originally had it written saying BSF instead of ACS, but further research led me to believe I was incorrect. Thanks for the clarification, I’ll edit the text.

  • Chester Nodier
    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      Ha! So he does. I’ll remove the lunch box comment.

  • motorock

    I guess you have your definition of “dare-devilry”. I bet none of the “true daredevils” you speak of could do what these army officers did- esp when this is not the only thing they do 365 days a year. This is a hobby, a past-time. Evel , Pastrana etc are all professionals in their sport- these brave soldiers are not. And to risk their life and limb on one of the lamest motorcycles to be continued to be built the way they were in 1950s, it is a true daredevil stunt in its own. Also, they do more than just formations- this was chosen due to the nature of the parade. A little google search would show you fire rings and ladders and other tom-foolery that you are looking for. I think as long as its on two wheels doing things normal folks cannot pull off, its quite a feat in itself. Why the hate?