The roots of the original motorcycle stunt shows are reaching far back into the early 1900s.
With the resurgence of classic motorcycles the past few years we have seen loads of scramblers, bobbers and desert sleds pouring out of modern motorcycle factories around the world but we’ve also seen vintage racing and exhibitions popularity grow as well. One particular type of show has been gaining momentum is the century old daredevil show known as the Wall of Death.
The Wall of Death is one of the original motorcycle stunt shows with its roots reaching far back into the early 1900s. At that time, just riding motorcycles was considered dangerous so when the first show took place at the Coney Island Amusement Park around 1911 it blew people’s minds. From then on there were hundreds of these shows popping up all around the world with North America and the UK hosting most of the truly popular shows. As with most trendy forms of entertainment, the allure of the Wall of Death diminished over time and it became more of a novelty act than a premier exhibition of speed and skill it once was.
Only a handful of these shows continued in recent years, mostly at carnivals and occasionally showing up at biker gatherings like Sturgis or other grass roots events. However, one of the few remaining shows still in full swing is the Ken Fox Wall of Death Troupe based out of Cambridge, England and his exhibitions are more popular than ever.
Ken Fox has been the heart and soul of the Original Wall of Death motorcycle exhibition for the past few decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Over those many years of riding and directing these events he has seen riders come and go but he has always managed to keep the Wall of Death relevant in his neck of the woods. An important angle in the entertainment business is to appeal to as many people as possible so Fox always likes to keep a few female riders on the Hell Riders Team because everyone likes seeing women doing crazy stuff. Below is a video offered up by Great Big Story about Fox’s popular lady rider, Kerrie Cameron that gives a peek into the mind of a Wall of Death rider.
While it never hurts to include some eye candy to go along with your death defying stunts, it also helps to get a little mainstream media attention pointed your way now and then. That’s exactly what happened for the Ken’s classic Troupe when Isle of Man TT racer turned Reality TV host, Guy Martin came into the picture. The premise of Martin’s UK-based show Speed is that he travels around the world trying to break long-standing world speed records. He’s pedaled man-powered planes, hurled down ski slopes on a sled, been the pilot of the Triumph Streamliner and recently set his sights on breaking the Wall of Death speed record. Martin wisely enlisted the aid of Ken Fox as he prepared for his attempt.
After running the numbers and calculating the forces required to beat the existing record, the crew from Fox’s Troupe helped the crew from Speed build a massive Wall of Death out of shipping containers so that Martin could make his run. After months of preparation and practice he pulled it off aboard a lightly modified modern Indian Scout but the followed that up a few minutes later by breaking that record aboard a 750 cc BSA Triple-powered bike that he built by hand in his garage, specifically for this event. We’ve included that video as well.
As you can see, the Wall of Death still has some appeal to both the motorcycle community as well as the general public. By being able to capture the danger of motorcycle riding with the daring feat of doing it in such a confined space the spectators can immerse themselves in the spectacle. They feel the rumble of the classic engines, the smell of the exhaust and the creaking of the Wall as they stand above it, peering down from the edge just inches away from the action.
Like we said, the Wall of Death exhibitions have been making a comeback so if these shows interest you at all we encourage you to keep an eye out for a show taking place near you. A quick search online showed quite a few coming up at regional events in the US and the Ken Fox events are always happening in the UK.