HELL ON TWO KRAZY WHEELS | VINTAGE EVEL KNIEVEL IN HIS HARLEY HEYDAY

Evel Knievel shared a long and colorful history with Harley-Davidson– professing that his very first motorcycle was a Harley that he stole when he was just 13 yrs old. Legend has it in 1960, Evel Knievel strapped his day-old son Kelly to his back for the boy’s first motorcycle ride. The 22-year-old Robert (not yet the larger-than-life Evel) Knievel fishtailed the brand new Harley on their maiden ride home from the maternity ward to the family trailer in Butte, Montana. He was so shaken by almost wrecking with his newborn baby in-tow that he promptly sold the bike.

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A great shot of Evel Knievel showcasing the beauty of his white leathers with navy and red trim. Knievel was buried in a leather jacket like the one you see here when he passed away in 2007. Pal Matthew McConaughey offered this eulogy– “He’s forever in flight now. He doesn’t have to come back down. He doesn’t have to land.” And yes, McConaughey was probably stoned. A bit of an odd pairing if ever there was one, but I ask you– Who doesn’t love Evel Knievel? 

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Evel Knievel

The iconic daredevil Evel Knievel poised on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Knievel’s surviving 1972 Harley-Davidson XR-750 is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Knievel also donated a leather jumpsuit, cape, and boots that he wore during jumps. –Photo by Ralph Crane

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Evel Knievel pulling a wheelie on his epic Harley-Davidson XR-750 stunt motorcycle of steel, alloy, and fiberglass that weighed-in at about 300 lbs. The Harley had enough power that it could be geared to allow Evel to take-off from a dead stop in 4th so that he could approach the ramp and build speed without shifting, eliminating the risk of missing a gear. It’s also been suggested that Evel’s throttle was setup by his mechanics to turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. That way when he landed the throttle would roll off to idle, instead of wide open– because the impact of landing made his wrists and hands roll in the counter-clockwise direction of the grip. 

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“I guess I thought I was Elvis Presley. But I’ll tell ya something–

all Elvis did was stand on a stage and play a guitar.

He never fell off on that pavement at no 80 mph.”

– Evel Knievel

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1975 — Evel Knievel on his Harley-Davidson XR-750 gearing-up for the Wembley stadium bus jump.

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evel knievel harley xr-750

Evel Knievel outside the Harley-Davidson factory with a trio of bikes.  via

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evel knievel autograph

Evel Knievel signing an autograph for a young fan – Hell, who wasn’t a fan of Evel’s back then?!

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1975 — Evel Knievel promo shot on his Harley-Davidson XR-750  for the Wembley stadium bus jump.

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evel knievel roger reiman harley-davidson

1973 — Evel Knievel and AMA Hall of Famer Roger Reiman,who in later years became Evel’s head mechanic in-charge of his stable of Harley-Davidson XR-750 stunt bikes.

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1970s shot of badass daredevil stuntman Evel Knievel on his Harley-Davidson XR-750 motorcycle.

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evel knievel color harley-davidson

Great shot of Evel Knievel in white leathers on his Harley-Davidson XR-750 motorcycle.

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1975 — Evel Knievel on his Harley-Davidson XR-750 gearing-up for the Wembley stadium bus jump.

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1975 — Evel Knieve’famous  motorcycle jump of 13 Greyhound buses at Wembley stadium, UK.

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1975 — Evel Knievel, on his Harley-Davidson XR-750, jumping 140 feet at 90 mph over 13 buses at Wembley stadium. He barely cleared the last bus, and crashed on landing. Knievel suffered a broken hand, pelvis, and compressed vertebrae.  –Photo by David Ashdown / Keystone / Getty Images

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1975 — Stuntman Evel Knievel crashing his Harley-Davidson XR-750 motorcycle on landing following a successful 90 mph jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium.

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1975 — Evel Knievel crashed on landing following a successful 90 mph jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium. Knievel promptly announced to the crowd that he was done– there would be no more jumps. Still shaken, he stated to the crowd that they were “the last people in the world who will ever see me jump. I will never, ever, ever, ever jump again. I am through”. Injuries and all, Evel Knievel stood and insisted to be taken off his stretcher and walk out of the stadium. Once out of the stadium he was placed back onto a stretcher, loaded into an ambulance, and then rushed to the hospital. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Evel Knievel worcester 1976

1976 — So much for no more jumps! Here’s Evel Knievel successfully jumping 10 vans at Worcester, Massachusetts on his H-D XR-750. 

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1977 — Evel Knievel loading his .38 Smith & Wesson handgun in a New York City hotel room. After receiving kidnapping threats against his children Evel began sleeping with the loaded gun every night.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED: EVEL KNIEVEL | For Esquire magazine, 2007

You can fall many times in life, but you’re never a failure as long as you try to get up.

Loving someone doesn’t mean that you can love her for six days and then beat the crap out of her on the seventh.

Women are the root of all evil. I ought to know. I’m Evel.

This country has become a nation of the government, by the government, and for the government. Our politicians are destroying us. We need a revolt!

When you’re mad at someone, it’s probably best not to break his arm with a baseball bat.

Heaven is a place you can go and drink a lot of draft beer and it don’t make you fat. You can cheat on your wife and she don’t get mad. You get a beautiful female chauffeur with nice, hard tits — real ones. There are motorcycle jumps you never miss. You don’t need a tee time.

Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.

The Internal Revenue Service is more ruthless than the Gestapo. Abolish the IRS! Stamp out organized crime!

I don’t believe in hell. I don’t believe in gods or Jesus Christ or sacred cows. I don’t believe in that big, fat-assed Buddha. Show me one piece of Noah’s ark. Show me one piece of the tablets that Moses was supposed to have brought down from the mountain. People need a crutch. They need to make up stories. I don’t want to do that.

You can be famous for a lot of things. You can be a Nobel-prize winner. You can be the fattest guy in the world. You can be the guy with the smallest penis. Whatever it is, enjoy it. It don’t last forever.

One day you’re a hero, the next day you’re gone.

People say they take responsibility for their own actions all the time, but that don’t mean they really do.

I think that all of these so-called born-again Christians should ask their preachers why they don’t hand out organ-donor cards. If you donated a kidney or a heart or an eye or whatever to your fellow man to keep him alive, you couldn’t be closer to God than that.

You can’t forbid children to do things that are available to them at every turn. God told Eve, “Don’t give the apple to Adam,” and look what happened. It’s in our nature to want the things we see.

If God ever gives this world an enema, he’ll stick the tube in the Lincoln Tunnel and he’ll flush everybody in New York City clear across the Atlantic. And that would just be a start.

We must tax the churches. Freedom of religion is bullshit when it’s tax-free.

You are the master of your own ship, pal. There are lots of people who fall into troubled waters and don’t have the guts or the knowledge or the ability to make it to shore. They have nobody to blame but themselves.

I’ve done everything in the world I’ve ever wanted to do except kill somebody. There are a couple of guys I know who need shooting. They represent the rectums of humanity.

If you don’t know about pain and trouble, you’re in sad shape. They make you appreciate life.

Everything in moderation is okay, except Wild Turkey.

If a guy hasn’t got any gamble in him, he isn’t worth a crap.

RELATED TSY POSTS:

EVEL KNIEVEL | TRIUMPH OVER THE FOUNTAINS AT CAESARS PALACE

TSY’s FAVE FIVE ON SOUTHSIDERS MC | ICONIC BIKES THAT MADE HISTORY

HARLEY-DAVIDSON | AMERICAN IRON, INGENUITY & PERSEVERANCE

HARLEY-DAVIDSON | AMERICAN IRON, INGENUITY & PERSEVERANCE, PT. II

HOG WILD OVER HARLEY-DAVIDSON | THE “HOG BOYS” OF EARLY H-D HISTORY

RALPH “SONNY” BARGER | AN OUTLAW’S TALE OF HARLEYS, HIGHWAYS & HELL

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12 thoughts on “HELL ON TWO KRAZY WHEELS | VINTAGE EVEL KNIEVEL IN HIS HARLEY HEYDAY

  1. You go quiet for a while than whallop some fantastic posts in recent days one after the other. This is my favorite site. Some wonderful memories. Did you take something Selvedge Yard??? Thank you.I hope you know how much we appreciate the efforts you go to.

  2. Yeah, I used to like him more before I read his comments about “hard tits” and cheating on his wife. Thug indeed. A lot of these really famous guys had egos the size of Texas. I guess sometimes that’s what it takes. He was pretty entertaining, though. Selvedge Yard is my absolute favorite site.

    • Ego, miles and miles of ego. But like you said~ to do what he did, that’s what it took.

      And thanks for the kind words!

  3. JP- Back in the early 60’s, I had relatives in Butte. Evel was just a regular guy around town. He always was an extreme type “A”, but you would see him and the family in all the places normal folks would go. Thanks, again, for encapsulating a period in time for an aging Boomer.

  4. He may have had some different views, but at least he had the guts to say them. He may have been wrong, but hey that’s life. He sure had guts; much more than many people to try the things he did. I love his views on government and the IRS. He is absolutely right. How could you disagree with those views…well if you have been living under a rock or in a cave. I do not see eye to eye with all his views, but he went for it in life. Cannot be all bad doing that. I am a boomer too, and just had my first “bad” crash after 48 years of riding bikes. I was blessed to walk away with some minor injuries. Keep up the great posts JP your are fantastic!!!

  5. I’m guessing the captions come with the pictures, but I’m pretty sure “1975 — Evel Knieve’famous motorcycle jump of 13 Greyhound buses at Wembley stadium, UK.” means London buses, not Greyhound.

    Great article. In the UK, Richard Hammond (Top Gear) made a documentary and spent some time with him near the end of his life. He was in a bad way, but worth a watch.

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