Inside History's 'Evel Live': Travis Pastrana Talks Recreating Three of Evel Knievel's Iconic Jumps (VIDEO)

Jim Halterman
Preview History

Meet Travis Pastrana, American pro motorsports icon and Nitro Circus ring leader. Pastrana is also the man who, this Sunday, is going to do his best to honor legendary daredevil Evel Knievel.

In the three-hour live event on the History Channel, Pastrana will be attempting three of Knievel's most dangerous feats in Las Vegas — breaking Knievel's record of jumping over 52 cars, another record-breaking jump over 16 full-size buses, and he hopes to be the first person to successfully jump the Caesar's Palace fountain, a stunt Knievel failed and almost died from.

As an added bonus, Pastrana is going to do it all while riding a modern day version of the motorcycle Knievel used. If Pastrana rides away from all three, he will be the only person to successfully beat two of Knievel’s distance records and land a jump over the fountain on a V-Twin motorcycle.

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Besides the epic jumps, the event will include live interview with family members of both Knievel and Pastrana, archival footage of Knievel's numerous jumps, as well as expert analysis.

TV Insider spoke with Pastrana about the jumps he's planning to do, and got more details about everything that goes into attempting these dangerous stunts.

Motorcycle technology has changed quite a bit since the days Evel Knievel did these stunts, but you are choosing to use a bike similar to the one he used. Why?

Travis Pastrana: This is a tribute to the stuntman who showed the world it was possible to fly a motorcycle and started the action sports movement. To recreate his stunts on a modern dirt bike wouldn’t have done justice to the difficulty and awesomeness of what Evel was able to accomplish.

What's been the biggest learning curve to the race bike you're planning on using? I'm guessing it's different from what you're used to riding.

This Indian Scout FTR 750 is twice as heavy and has one-third the suspension travel of a modern day motocross bike. The size of the motor (a V-Twin 750cc, as opposed to my regular 250cc MX bike) makes it difficult to balance the bike equally while standing up. And quite frankly, these bikes were not meant to be ridden standing up at any point. It’s also difficult to change the angle of the motorcycle after you take off. So, between its weight, suspension and balance, this bike is exponentially more difficult to fly.

What kind of planning goes into the jump? I’m guessing there's physical planning but is there also scientific planning?

Years and years of jumping everything from motorcycles to cars to snow mobiles to monster trucks have given Nitro Circus a solid base on what speeds go what distances. But the margin of error is very small when you have such a powerful motorcycle that can accelerate so quickly, and missing by two or more mph will end in catastrophe because of the lack of suspension.

On a scale of 1-10, how mental is what you're going to attempt? (1 being not mental at all, 10 being SUPER MENTAL!)

I would say it’s a 9. If I can keep my composure and hit all my marks, I will be successful. But if I focus too much on my speed and not enough on the ramp, I will miss the landing — and if I focus too much on the ramp and not enough on the speed, I will miss the landing. Of course, wind and heat will also play a factor in the motorcycle’s flight trajectory and power delivery.

You could've done one jump and been done with it but you're doing three iconic Evel jumps. What is it about each of these three jumps?

I wanted to recreate Evel’s most iconic jumps and it wouldn’t do him justice to do just one. Also, as technology and the world around us evolves, I think it’s important that this event not only tells the story of the original motorcycle stunt men from the '60s and '70s, but also keeps the younger generation interested in the entire program. These jumps get harder and harder as the night progresses, so with any luck, the crowd will see three successful jumps. But either way, it will be entertaining. 

What's your general prep the day of a jump/stunt? Any good luck charms or rituals you like to lean on?

I like to lean on the knowledge of solid preparation. Things get so hectic before any live event that it’s almost impossible to have a routine. That being said, it is nice to not have to over think the stunts to come.

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Have you spent a lot of time studying Evel's past jumps or do you prefer just tackling them your own way? 

I have studied Evel, but more his showmanship and presentation then his actual jumping. Evel was known because of his guts, because of his theatrics and because of his crashes. I would like to emulate the first two, but not the last one if I can help it!

Evel was also known for the outfits he wore during the jump. What's the plan for what you're wearing for the big jumps?

I went to Roland Sands to help me emulate Evel’s style as much as possible. I will have healed dress boots and white leathers just like the man himself. So awesome, but also horrifying to get the opportunity to literally live a day in Evel’s boots.

I'll be there in Vegas when you do the jumps. Once you're all done, will I more likely find you at a blackjack table or just finding a nice cold beer to celebrate? Or maybe both!

If I can complete all three jumps, I will try to finish like Evel usually started… With a strong drink of whiskey and ready for a good time!

Evel Live, Sunday, July 8, 5/6c, History Channel