Travis Pastrana Triumphant Before His Biggest Audience Ever On Evel Live
Ever the showman, Travis Pastrana honored the legacy of childhood idol Robert “Evel” Knievel by successfully recreating in Las Vegas—while going one better, as any competitor would do—three of the legendary daredevil’s most iconic jumps during an unprecedented three-hour live broadcast on television’s History channel.
“Evel started out this whole stunt movement and the stunt movement led to more professional, if you will, where action sports came over,” Pastrana explained last month.
Starting out with a comparatively easy 140-foot leap over 52 crushed cars, he then upped the level of difficulty on the next two: a 190-foot jump over 16 Greyhound buses then the finale of bounding over the fountains at Caesars Palace Casino—where Knievel crashed spectacularly upon landing as ABC TV cameras caught it all in painful slow-motion.
While none would be considered particularly challenging for your average pro motocrosser or FMX rider on a current 450 (and remember that Mike Metzger backflipped his KX250 over the fountains a few years ago), Pastrana felt that wouldn’t be a fitting tribute. Instead—knowing that Knievel used a comparatively archaic by today’s standards Harley-Davidson XR750 dirt track machine for many of his jumps—the former motocross star chose something very similar but in a modern iteration: an Indian Scout FTR750. A 750cc V-twin like the Harley, it’s slightly lighter but significantly faster with fuel injection, dual overhead cams, and Öhlins suspension as standard.
But it’s still not a jumping machine from the factory, so Pastrana and the Nitro Circus crew enlisted custom bike builder Roland Sands (himself a former 250cc roadrace star) to tweak it a bit, which basically consisted of stiffening said suspension and making it ergonomically more suited to Pastrana and the task. (It still weighed about 100 pounds more and had about a third of the suspension that Pastrana’s RM-Z450 does.)
More than that, though, he helped recreate the Evel Knievel theme in the whole aesthetic ensemble, which Pastrana unveiled for the first time as the TV cameras rolled: a beautiful paint scheme with a white base overlaid by broad, bold blue stripes outlined in red and holding white stars.
Even Pastrana’s leather suit, boots, and helmet carried that theme—a striking contrast to the black leather outfit he’d worn while practicing last month in Southern California and which he also debuted on live TV.
That week of practice, by the way, was the only time Pastrana and company had to get things right, which Pastrana admitted is something Knievel didn’t have the luxury of doing before any of his big jumps. Without a big TV budget behind him, Knievel could only show up to a site, set ramps in place, and send it—simply hoping he’d make it.
As Pastrana confessed last month, “The ramps aren’t complete wedge-(shaped) jumps like he jumped and we are actually setting them up to practice. I even feel like a sissy to start with because I know Evel wouldn’t have done that!”
But after completing the trio of jumps before crowds estimated at 25,000 that included the Knievel family—and which he capped by removing his helmet, jogging back to the fountains, and belly-flopping in—Pastrana said, “Evel pushed himself and flew further on a motorcycle than anyone thought possible. So with this modern-day tribute, we wanted to bridge generations—from my parents’ generation who was inspired by Evel to the generation after me who may not know much about the original stuntmen who paved the way. History and Nitro Circus wanted to show just how incredible his accomplishments were. To be able do that in Las Vegas and at Caesars Palace where Evel’s legend was born is so awesome!”