How many new motorcyclists did Evel Knievel inspire? Everyone I’ve ever known who rides now, says that Knievel was one of their childhood heros. We all saw him on TV, crashing over and over. He is arguably one of the world's most famous motorcyclists.
I was surprised to learn that of his 168 career jumps, he only crashed (I know, “only”) nineteen times, but that is what gained him his notoriety.
And now, you can go visit the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka, Kansas. You can see a timeline of all the terrible ideas that brought him to fame. You can marvel all over again at all of the jumps he successfully made, and which as a result were not so exciting or televised.
Those of us who were casual fans might be surprised at the extent of the planning that went into each event; the museum lays out all the more famous ones. You can read and wander through the exhibit that displays walls full of event planning, testing, promotions, photos, and memorabilia.
Gallery: Evel Knievel Museum
The director of the museum, Brad Zimmerman, says “Evel Knievel was an original. And to a lot of people, young people, he was a super hero. True dare devil. Seat of the pants. Not much science. Just I can do this, so I'm going to do it. If you look at most of his motorcycles, they did not have speedometers on them.”
And you, too, can feel that seat-of-your pants thrill with the “4D Virtual Reality Jump Experience” wherein you wear virtual reality glasses and sit on a bike mounted to Knievel’s jump ramp! I don’t know of any kid, or child at heart, who would not love this.
One full wall of the museum is totally dedicated to Knievel’s branded products. “He had everything from barbeque sauce, to motor oil, to toys, pinball machines, slot machines, bicycles, you name it, they were putting Evel's name on it,” says Zimmerman. Lots of us had those Evel Knievel toys as kids! If you find yourself around Topeka go find this place and relive your childhood.