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.
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 rode several brands of bikes during his career. He started-off on a 350cc Honda, switched to a 750cc Norton in 1966, then Triumph from 1966-1968, Laverda 750cc American Eagle from December 1969 to April 1970, and in December 1970 Harley-Davidson became Knievel’s sponsor and he began riding an XR-750– the bike he is most commonly associated with. Knievel has often said that his Triumph was by far the best bike he ever jumped with– “The Harley’s got a little too much torque when it comes to jumping,” according to him.
San Francisco, 1967– Evel Knievel’s ’67 Triumph Bonneville 650 T120 TT Special jump bike– love the “Color Me Lucky” paint job.
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Pictured above is daredevil Robert “Evel” Knievel on his Harley davidson, 1971.
If you were a boy growing up in the 70s, then this guy was probably at the top of your hero list. Man, one of the best Christmas gifts I ever got as a kid was the Evel Knievel action figure and motorcycle that I’d launch across the room- off ramps- down the stairs- off the porch- wherever. I completely idolized him. And how great was the white leather stars-and-stripes stunt suit? He was like an awesome combination of The Fonz and Captain America.
The other cool thing about him is that Evel Knievel never backed out of a jump, never made excuses, and never showed any fear. He had to know some jumps were going to end badly- didn’t matter. If he said he’d do it, he did it. He had 433 broken bones during the course of his career to show for it.
Sadly he passed away on November 30, 2007, but his legend will definitely live on for a long time to come.
I found his classic jumps on YouTube today and introduced him to my boys. The verdict was– Whoa, awesome!