Pushing extreme beyond the extremities
The DAY SUSPENSION gurus created a way for 250kg of bike and rider to survive a three-metre jump without catastrophe or castration, top riders created the double jump. The next day it was the triple jump, which in turn gave rise to Supercross.
By the time Robbie Maddison finished Year 10 at Kiama High School, being airborne on a motorcycle was second nature. Across the Pacific, Jose Yanez had already backflipped his mini motocrosser after years of BMX practice. In 2000, Carey Hart attempted the first backflip on a full-sized motocross bike, crashing in a less-than-perfect return to earth. A few months later Hart failed again, freefalling 15 metres with a thump heard across the stadium.
Across the USA, Freestyle Motocross (FMX) thrived and in what seems to be a tautological conundrum, Mike Metzger completed a back-to-back backflip. Style had replaced speed, Supercross had become moto-gymnastic exhibitions with fireworks, lots of female flesh, intriguing tattoos and a hint of disaster in the Kiss-of-Death Backflip.
Back at home in the back blocks of western Sydney, it was almost unnoticed when 23-year-old Robbie Maddison completed 13 backflips to win the X Games held at Wonderland. He joined the Crusty Demons, winning innumerable international FMX contests and breaking several Guinness World Records. On the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Maddo was in Vegas to replicate the stunt. But the fountains weren’t wide enough, so Maddo took to the local footy field, flying over 98 metres to a new world record.
He saved his best for the home crowd in Melbourne only a few months later. He broke his own record by three bike lengths, then did it again; setting a never-bettered record a bee’s-dick short of 107 metres. Never bettered that is, until he jumped across San Diego Bay several years later. Due to the damp conditions on take off and the mid-winter fog obscuring the far side of the bay, Maddo came up short of expectations but still increased the record to over 115 metres. Between these record-setting stunts Maddo won his share of FMX events and in Madrid won the best new trick contest with an ‘under flip one hander to side saddle lander’. (Don’t take it too hard if you’re not entirely sure exactly what this means – though you’d fail miserably as an FMX judge.)
On 1 January, 2009, Maddo was back in Las Vegas – the city of extreme everything, where too much money and too little taste has replicated many renowned cities, including Venice and Paris. The latter features a faux Eiffel Tower and a 10-storey replica of the Arc De Triomphe which Maddo planned to ‘jump’. The 39 metre flight up appeared tame. But in the video you can almost feel Robbie psyching himself up for the return. And the 24 metre freefall down to the ramp is the most death-defying stunt you’ll ever see on two wheels.
Six months later Maddo jumped London’s Tower Bridge and included a backflip; the stunt seemed more dangerous but was notable for the location more than technical aspects.
Having performed every stunt imaginable on terra firma, Maddo’s next foray has proven more controversial. Bolting skis on to a motocrosser begs the question: is Maddo’s mount still a moto or a paddle-powered jet ski?
In a stunt that went wrong in 2015, Maddo cheated death in the surf off Tahiti. Practice makes perfect – if you survive – and Maddo went on to conquer the waves and on still water, made a record ride of over 30km. By the time he rode his take on a wet-bike on Sydney Harbour last November, it all seemed a bit tame.
But we doubt Maddo’s done setting records yet: can you imagine a backflip over a four-metre swell at Maui? Or what about an ‘underflip one hander to side saddle lander’ in the pipeline?
By Peter Whitaker