Robert Knievel, better known as Evel Knievel, captured what motorcycle culture is all about. His rebellious nature fueled his bold and ambitious career as a professional daredevil. “Evil Knievel” was the nickname a police officer gave him in jail one night after he crashed his motorcycle while trying to escape the fuzz. But fearing an association with the notorious motorcycle club Hells Angels, Knievel tweaked the spelling to “Evel Knievel.”
Here’s a look at the legend’s career and Knievel’s favorite Harley-Davidson.
Evel Knievel’s career as a professional daredevil
According to History, Evel Knievel tried a few jobs before officially performing stunts on his motorcycle. He briefly worked in sales and even played professional hockey. For a short time, Knievel was also involved in illegal animal poaching. However, soon he realized he wanted to pursue a career as a daredevil.
A daredevil show he attended when he was just 8 years old inspired much of Knievel’s passion for stunt driving. And in the late 1960s, his career began to gain traction. That led to his famous jump at Caesars Palace in 1967. The crash left Knievel with reportedly more than 40 broken bones and a coma that lasted 29 days, Time reports. Knievel often said, “Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble comes when you try to land it.” He understood those troubles all too well, but he never seemed to let them stop him.
Knievel’s record-breaking ways
Knievel seemed like he liked to go above and beyond when it came to his work. He set a record in 1973 when he jumped over 50 stacked cars. The memorable event took place at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
In 1975, Knievel took on a new challenge, and 90,000 fans showed up to watch the celebrity jump 13 buses. But the stunt in London’s Wembley Stadium didn’t go as planned. Knievel crashed again and found himself dealing with another set of painful injuries. It led the daredevil to announce his retirement. And according to History, it was dramatic. The day of the fateful crash, Knievel declared to the crowd: “I’ve got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I am through.” However, as many of his fans already know, the decision wouldn’t stick. Just three days after his unexpected announcement, the star revealed he changed his mind.
That October, Knievel set a new record when he successfully jumped 14 buses in Kings Island, Ohio. Throughout his career, the famous daredevil attempted 70-plus ramp-to-ramp jumps. And he almost always used a specific Harley-Davidson.
The Harley-Davidson XR-750
Only one Harley-Davidson was good enough for Evel Knievel. And that was the Harley-Davidson XR-750, Silodrome reports. The XR-750 was for racing, and somehow it ended up as Knievel’s go-to choice for stunts.
The bike’s V-twin engine and lightweight frame made it a great option for racers. But in hindsight, it makes sense why it would also work well for a daredevil. The small fuel tank and Ceriani front forks were just two of the Harley-Davidson XR-750’s trademarks.
For over five decades, the impressive motorcycle has dominated tracks and competition, HotCars reports. To this day, the Harley-Davidson XR-750 is associated with Knievel and his legendary career.