Most people learn to ride a motorcycle because they're looking for basic transportation, a bit of a thrill and a great hobby. Of course, there's always someone who takes things to extremes. Tooling around on a country road, meeting friends, going on charity rides and attending massive rallies that take over entire towns in North Dakota are not enough for these people. Nope, these overachievers have to make their leather-clad brethren look like slackers by setting motorcycle world records.
The nice thing about world records is there's one for pretty much everything. The nice thing about motorcycles is that there's a bike, trick, speed or style for pretty much every situation. So when you put motorcycles and world records together, you have a pretty much limitless supply of records to set. People all over their world (including a large number from India) have tried their hands at setting whatever motorcycle world records they can. Here are 10 odd, thrilling and mind-blowing motorcycle world records.
Proper headgear for safely riding a motorcycle is a helmet. But what's proper headgear for safely balancing a motorcycle on your head? Well, that's still open for debate. It's a question that most people haven't considered, but then again, most people aren't trying to set the world record for balancing a motorcycle on their head. Most people aren't so daring.
If you're Gerard Jessie, the only headgear you need for balancing a motorcycle on your head is the motorcycle itself. According to Record Setter, Jessie holds the current world record for balancing a motorcycle on a person's head. In the video of the feat, Jessie balances a small motorcycle on his head for 14.93 seconds. You might think a less-than-15-second balancing act sounds underwhelming, but remember that even the lightest bikes weigh about 300 pounds (136 kg). Want to take Jessie on? Start working on building those neck muscles and finding friends who don't mind if you drop their bikes.
Harley-Davidson owners have a reputation for being a little wild. Although their bikes are commonly called hogs, holding back one of Milwaukee, Wisconsin's famed V-twin machines isn't what most people think of when they imagine restraining a wild hog.
First, a little background. To restrain a motorcycle, you get on it, plant your feet on the ground, grab the handle bars and twist the throttle. The bike's rear wheel spins, and your job is to hang on for dear life while trying to keep the bike in place. This activity isn't great for your tires, but it is a popular contest at biker rallies. The current world record holder is Juli Moody, who restrained a running Harley for one minute, 4.53 seconds — then probably got a lot of drink offers [source: Record Setter]. And this isn't Moody's only motorcycle world record: She also holds the world record for being the woman who restrained two running motorcycles the longest and for the heaviest vehicle pulled by a female. Not surprisingly, Moody holds the world record for being the female with the largest bicep, too [sources: Record Setter, Record Setter].
You can get to a pretty high altitude by plane or helicopter, but that's way too easy. Walking, on the other hand, is way too hard. What's a semi-lazy record setter to do, especially if riding a mountain goat isn't up your alley? Get on a motorcycle, of course.
That's just what six members of the North Calcutta Disha Motorcycle Club did. They saddled up and rode 20,488 feet, 9 inches (6,245 meters) up the Changchemno Mountain Range near Marsemikla, India. Every member of the group rode on a Honda Hero. To prove they really did it, their claim was validated by GPS records and the Indian Border patrol [source: Guinness World Records].
Not only did the group have to contend with less-than-optimal roads, but they also had to deal with the shortcomings of motorcycle engines. Given how thin air is at higher altitudes and how temperamental most motorcycle engines can be about getting the right air and fuel mixture, this is an incredibly impressive achievement and much more challenging than riding a motorcycle up any hill you've ever encountered.
Doing a wheelie on a motorcycle is a risky stunt, but it also looks wicked cool and will impress everyone you know — think of how awesome it would be to bust out at your next block party. Wait, no, don't listen to us. Do not try to do a wheelie yourself. You'll probably fall on your rear end and wreck your bike. While doing a wheelie looks cool, learning how to do one generally makes most people look pretty stupid.
You'll look especially stupid doing a wheelie next to Yasuyuki Kudo, who holds the world record for the longest motorcycle wheelie. While most people are yelling for someone to hold their beer, Kudo gets down to business. In 1991, he did a 205.7-mile (331-kilometer) wheelie at the Japan Auto Research Institute [source: Fivella]. Considering most motorcycle riders need a coffee break after 100 miles (161 kilometers) or so in the saddle, Kudo's record is an impressive feat of endurance, skill and general toughness.
Those of us who write for HowStuffWorks are used to the good life: lavish parties with A-list celebrities, bountiful pay and perks like a chocolate fountain in the company kitchen (most of this sentence is made up). Still, there are things that are beyond even the charmed life of a HowStuffWorks scribe — things like the Ecosse Titanium Series Fe Ti XX.
The Fe Ti XX is the most expensive production bike in the world. Of course, we're using the term "production" loosely here: Only 13 of the motorcycles were made. Still, with a price tag of $300,000, it's not like you'll see the Fe Ti XX sitting outside your local biker bar on a Wednesday night. Nope, this is a bike for the 1 percent.
So, what does $300,000 get you on a motorcycle? A carbon-fiber body, Italian leather seat (because your butt would know the difference) and 225 horsepower. No word on whether Ecosse will throw in a free key chain if you buy the Titanium Series Fe Ti XX, but for $300,000 they probably figure you can afford to buy your own [source: Said].
For most Americans, a motorcycle is good for moving one or maybe two people. Three, if you have a sidecar (or if we're skinny, and let's be honest, most of us Americans aren't). In other countries, however, motorcycles do family car duty, and they do a fairly good job of keeping families and all their gear on the road. Still, if you're going for the world record for most people on one motorcycle, that bike is going to go way beyond family car status and have to pull commuter bus duty.
Not surprisingly, this record comes from a country where motorcycles are used more for basic transportation than hobbies, as they are in the United States. The world record for the most people on a single motorcycle is 56. Yes, 56 — eight times seven, more than half of a hundred, almost 60 people on a motorcycle. To be honest, I'm not sure if you could fit 56 Americans on most city buses. The record was set by the Indian Army Corps of Signals "Daredevils" Display Team in Jabalpur, India, back in 2013 [source: Guinness World Records].
The first rule of motorcycle riding for most people is "don't flip over." It's pretty hard to maintain control over your bike when you're upside down. Then again, that rule gets flipped on its head if you're a motorcycle stunt rider. If that's your job, you want to flip over as many times as you can.
The first double backflip on a motorcycle was completed by Travis Pastrana in the 2006 X Games, when he was competing in the Moto X Freestyle event. The double backflip was long considered a trick that no one would ever land, and as Pastrana told ESPN in 2014, there's a good reason for that. "The first thing you need to know about the double backflip is that is that there's just no way to bail out," Pastrana said. "If you bail out you're going down on your face with a motorcycle on top of you. You can't even take a second to spot your landing in between flips, because if you do you won't make it" [source: Bane].
It goes without saying that the double backflip is one trick you shouldn't try at home.
Motorcycles are so thrilling in part because when you're riding a bike, it feels like you're going faster than you are. You're connected to every bump, curve and bank in the road. You're out in the wind, exposed to the elements.
Unless you're going for a land speed record. Then you're likely to be inside a motorcycle that, to be honest, looks more like a hot dog than a bike.
That's the case Rocky Robinson found himself in when he set the world record for speed on a motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. On Sept. 25, 2010, Robinson rode his Top Oil-Ack Attack motorcycle into the history books at a blistering 376.363 miles per hour (605.697 kph) [source: Guinness World Records]. It's a good thing he was in an enclosed motorcycle, because good luck picking the bugs out of your teeth after that.
Robinson is no stranger to setting speed records. He has actually broken the land speed record on a motorcycle twice before, and he set all of his records in the span of four years.
Sure, you could set a 376-mile-per-hour land speed record, but sitting on a bike makes that way too easy. The real challenge is riding a bike that you're standing on.
We're only partially kidding. Controlling a motorcycle requires both feet (one to work the shifter, one to work the rear brake) and both hands (one to work the throttle, one to work the clutch and both to steer). It's kind of hard to use your feet to control a bike when you're standing on it, not to mention balancing while standing on a moving bike is a lot more challenging than balancing while sitting on a moving bike. That's what makes this record so impressive.
The world record for longest continuous ride while standing on a motorcycle is 16 kilometers, or about 9 miles. It was set by Captain Abhayjit Mehlawat of the Indian Army in 2013 [source: Guinness World Records]. (Are you seeing a pattern here? Indians really like getting some far-out motorcycle world records.)
When most of us think of doing things hands-free, we're thinking about talking on the phone in our cars or shouting instructions at Siri or Cortana. While modern technology hasn't quite delivered on the promise of easy-to-use hands-free gadgets, it's certainly easier to make a hands-free phone call than it is to ride a motorcycle with no hands. (You can insert your own obligatory "look ma!" joke here.)
The longest continuous motorcycle ride with no hands lasted for 222 kilometers, or 137.94 miles. The feat was accomplished by Marcello Sarandrea, an Italian man [source: Guinness World Records]. What's impressive about this record is not that he rode a motorcycle with no hands for almost 138 miles, but that he did it in Rome, Italy. Rome is not known as a city where it's easy to drive a car, let alone a motorcycle with no hands. We should give Mr. Sarandrea a round of applause. He'll probably join in — goodness knows he's probably not using his hands to steer his bike.
What does it take to put on Supercross, one of fastest, high-flying motorcycle races in the world? HowStuffWorks goes there to find out.
Author's Note: 10 Motorcycle World Records
The most surprising thing I learned in researching this is just how many motorcycle world records are held by people from India. As an American, it's easy to think that with our Marlon Brando motorcycle-cool biker aesthetic, we own the motorcycle and all the daring feats that go with it (Evel Knievel comes to mind). In much of the rest of the world, however, motorcycles aren't accessories or playthings — they're vital means of transport. When you think about it that way, some of these records aren't so surprising.
- Bane, Colin. "Travis Pastrana doubles up, doubles down." ESPN. April 28, 2014. (June 23, 2015) http://xgames.espn.go.com/xgames/events/2014/austin/article/10848703/twenty-years-20-firsts-travis-pastrana-double-backflip
- Fivella, Justin. "Guinness World Records: Two-wheeled Achievements." Super Streetbike. April 16, 2013. (June 23, 2015) http://www.superstreetbike.com/features/guinness-world-records-two-wheeled-achievements
- Guinness World Records. "Driving to highest altitude (motorcycle)." Guinness World Records. (June 23, 2015) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/driving-to-highest-altitude-(motorcycle)/
- Guinness World Records. "Longest continuous ride standing on the seat of a motorcycle." (June 23, 2015) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-continuous-ride-standing-on-the-seat-of-a-motorcycle
- Guinness World Records. "Longest non-stop motorcycle ride - no hands" (June 23, 2015) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-non-stop-motorcycle-ride-no-hands/
- Guinness World Records. "Most people on one motorcycle." (June 23, 2015) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-people-on-one-motorcycle
- Guinness World Records. "Motorcycle speed record (fastest motorcycle)." (June 23, 2015) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/motorcycle-speed-record-(fastest-motorcycle)
- Record Setter. "Longest Time Balancing A Motorcycle On Head." (June 23, 2015) https://recordsetter.com/world-record/balancing-motorcycle-head/41343
- Record Setter. "Longest Time Restraining A Running Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Using Hand Grip." (June 23, 2015) https://recordsetter.com/world-record/restraining-harley-davidson-motorcycle-from-moving-using-hand-grip/39436
- Said, Sammy. "The 10 Most Expensive Production Motorcycles." The Richest. June 25, 2013. (June 23, 2015) http://www.therichest.com/luxury/most-expensive/the-10-most-expensive-production-motorcycles/