Motorcycle Daredevil Robbie Knievel Did His Father Proud

The first time I ever saw Robbie Knievel in action was his televised 1989 Caesar’s Palace fountains jump, in tribute to his world famous father, “Evel”. Unlike his dad, Robbie successfully completed the jump without crashing. Evel had attempted the jump in 1967, and we’ve all seen the slo-mo footage of his ill-fated landing and subsequent bone-crunching tumble down the ramp, head over heels. 22 years later, April 14, his son Robbie stuck the landing, rolled to a stop, and tearfully announced, “That was for you, Dad.” I remember thinking, “He’s a chip off the old block.”

The Caesar’s Palace jump that cemented Robbie Knievel as the legend his father was. Photo Getty Images.

Robbie would go on to enjoy quite the career himself as a motorcycle daredevil jumper, making over 340 successful leaps and setting 20 world records. He replicated and even surpassed a number of Evel’s feats, most notably the Caesar’s Palace fountain jump. For most of his career, Robbie “Kaptain” Knievel rode a modified Honda CR500 motocross machine, lighter and more maneuverable than the Harley-Davidson XR-750 flat tracker his father used. Robbie set jumping records over limousines, busses, Humvees, and semis, many of which still stand today.

Robbie jumping 21 military Humvees at Texas Motor Speedway, June 7, 2008. Photo Bo Nash, Flickr.

What I found notable in recalling Robbie’s career were the spectacular performance jumps he made. I remember watching his February 4, 1999 tower-to-tower jump between the two 13-story Jockey Club buildings in Las Vegas, throwing the bike into bales of hay brought up to help him avoid careening off the other side of the landing tower. A few months later, on international television, Knievel jumped his motorcycle across a 228 ft ravine of the Grand Canyon, breaking his leg upon crashing after the successful landing. He was certainly following in his famed father’s footsteps, jumps and breaks alike.

Robbie aloft during his Grand Canyon jump. Photo John Gurzinski AFP.

I think my favorite feat of his, however, came in the Y2K year. On February 23, “The Kaptain” vaulted over a moving locomotive at the Park Depot in Palestine, Texas. The train was chugging forward at 30 mph, and Robbie hit the facing ramp at 80 mph. With Knievel airborne, fireworks spouting flames skyward, the locomotive struck and obliterated his launch ramp while he was soaring over the train, then successfully stuck the landing on the return ramp adjacent to the tracks beyond. FOX Live ran exclusive coverage of the leap. It was spectacular, and can be found on several YouTube channels.

Screen capture of Knievel airborne over the onrushing train. Footage FOX Live.

Robbie continued into the 2000s, jumping 15 trucks at the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, OR in ‘03, from one floating barge to another in late March of ‘06 down In Jacksonville, FL, and paying tribute to his father in July 2006 at the Evel Knievel Days in Butte, Montana by jumping the Batmobile, four giant flamethrowers, and a ‘59 Harley-Davidson. He honored the military and American veterans with jumps on the deck of the USS Intrepid over Navy aircraft in 2004 and over Army vehicles in Raleigh, NC in 2007, among others.

Robbie jumping multiple aircraft on the USS Intrepid, July 30, 2004. Photo Stuart Ramson/AP.

Robbie Knievel kept sending it into 2011, performing his last jump on October 29 of that year, 150 ft over a line of tracker trailer trucks. His father Evel had passed away in 2007, and Robbie lived up to the name he carried, honoring his dad all the way through his own final jump. Evel had been inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, and Robbie fittingly followed him in August 2007, just a few months before his father’s death in November. He did his father proud.

Robbie contracted pancreatic cancer in late 2022, and it claimed his life not long after the first of the year, breathing his last on January 13 in Reno, Nevada, surrounded by family. He was 60 years old, which I’ll turn later this year. The jumping Knievels are gone, but their legacy will long endure.

Rob

*Cover photo by Zak Hussein, PA Images, via Getty Images.

Robbie flying high. Photo Frank Micelotta/Getty Images.

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