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Original Issue


A Wheel Menace
In their search for space to practice stunts, extreme
motorcyclists have settled on U.S. highways

Shawn Cripple, like most other Americans, has his gripes about
reckless drivers. "With people on cellphones and not paying
attention," he says, "it's pretty dangerous out there." The
28-year-old computer technician, however, is selective in his
outrage. When it comes to flying down a highway at 160 mph on a
motorcycle, popping wheelies and stoppies, riding backward,
riding standing up on the gas pedal and "skiing" behind your
bike (shifting into neutral, sliding off the seat and grabbing
it with your hands while dragging your feet on the road),
Cripple is all for it. For the last year and a half, he and
approximately 50 other members of RecklessOp, a group of extreme
motorcyclists, have been pulling these stunts on the highways of
Ohio. The irony of his surname is not lost upon Cripple.

A mutant cousin of wildly popular motocross, extreme motorcycling,
which has its origins in Europe, got its start in Akron in the
mid-1990s with StarBoyz, a group of twentysomething street bikers
who gained a national cult following with their practice of seeing
who could pull off the best wheelie or stoppie (raising the back
wheel as high as possible after an abrupt stop). Soon they were appearing at local bike shows and hawking videos of their stunts.
Now extreme motorcycling events, in which riders are judged by the
difficulty and creativity of their tricks, attract up to 300 participants and as many as 8,000 spectators at drag strips in

Based in the Akron area and named for the first (and only) police
citation Cripple has received, RecklessOp was founded early last
year and is one of a growing number of groups that use highways
as a training ground for competitions. (Extreme riders have also
been spotted on highways in Michigan, California and Florida.)
"Ninety percent of what people are doing on the streets is
practice for competitions," says Cripple, who participates in
about half a dozen events a year. "No one can afford renting out
a drag strip [to practice on] for $3,000."

Practicing on major roads is, of course, illegal and perilous. In
February, while weaving through traffic at 100 mph on Route 8 in
Akron, Trey Horner, a friend of Cripple's, clipped the back end
of a truck and was pitched from his bike, whereupon he was run
over by a friend who had joined him for the ride. "One of these
days an innocent driver or a child is going to be killed," says
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, police captain John Conley. "We've known
about these groups in the area for years. They need to find a
controlled area where they can do this."

The Ohio police may soon get their wish. After a front-page story
on RecklessOp appeared in The Akron Beacon Journal in mid-July,
Dave Mayfield, who runs an area bail bond company, contacted
RecklessOp and offered the 2,950-foot runway of his private
airport to accommodate the group. "What these guys do on their
bikes is impressive," says Mayfield, a motorsports enthusiast who
spent two years in the early 1980s in Europe racing Formula Four
cars. "They take their sport very seriously. I just want to give
them a home."

Cripple and Mayfield are already planning a Labor Day blowout and
envision several more events at the airport, which is located 25
miles outside of Akron. Cripple, who says his riders will now
train on a regular basis on the runway rather than the highway,
has approached a number of local businesses for sponsorship and
hopes to start an umbrella organization for extreme motorcycle
groups around the country. "There's huge interest out there--it's
definitely an untapped sport," Cripple says. "Everyone on the
street is striving for the same thing, to be able to do what we
love for a living." --Albert Chen

For Real

He was a stupid kid. He was scared. He's sorry. Those were the
pleas for leniency in a New Mexico courtroom from moutain biking
godfather Richard Bannister, who eluded federal agents for
nearly three decades after skipping bail on a 1973 charge of
trafficking cocaine (SI, Dec. 3, 2001). U.S. District Court
Judge Bruce Black, however, was unmoved, sentencing Bannister,
61, to an eight-year prison term. Thus ended a 27-year run as a
fugitive that began when narcotics agents seized several wooden
statues containing 22 pounds of cocaine; Bannister had tried to
ferry the drugs from Bolivia to the U.S. "Some people may think
this was some great adventure," Bannister says. "But it was not
a great adventure. Not for me, anyway. I could never relax."

Peaks of at least 4,000 feet in the Adirondack High Peaks region
that ultramarathoner Ted Keizer summited during a three-day,
18-hour-and-14-minute span in late June. Known to trail hounds
as Cave Dog (, Keizer, 30, weathered rough, rough
conditions--torrential rains that reduced many of his routes to
a swampy goo--in completing his trek.

Good Surf

For more adventure, go to and check out these

--A closer look at the fugitive life of Richard Bannister
--Kayaking the Tuolumne and more Yosemite adventures
--Trail guide: U.S. National Parks info database

indoor Adventure

Blue Crush, Opens Aug. 16

Surfing flicks range from unforgettable (The Endless Summer) to
unfortunate (Point Break), but never has a major movie focused
solely on women's surfing. Blue Crush is the story of three women
(from left: Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth and Sanoe Lake) who
dream of conquering the male-dominated world of surfing on Oahu's
North Shore. Pro stars in the film include Rochelle Ballard
(Bosworth's double) and Megan Abubo (Rodriguez's double).

X Games VIII, Aug. 17-23, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2

Are you ready for some X Games? For the first time, the X Games
will air on prime-time network TV (Aug 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. on
ABC). While that broadcast will feature megastars Tony Hawk
(skateboarding vert doubles) and Travis Pastrana (moto X
freestyle), X diehards can also catch aggressive in-line
skating, wakeboarding and speed climbing on ESPN and ESPN2.

The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival and the Soul of
Adventure By Mark Jenkins, 222 pages

This 23-story collection is described as "a book about doing, not
watching." Wrong. It's about both. Jenkins does a lot--he kayaks
the Dardanelles and climbs the Matterhorn--but that raw material
alone wouldn't carry the book. These rich, well-rendered stories
succeed because as Jenkins paddles against the current or rappels
through a storm, his writer's eye is working all the while.

COLOR PHOTO: KEN LOVE/THE AKRON BEACON JOURNAL HIT THE ROAD Cripple says RecklessOp pulls its stunts on Ohio's Route 8 because it cannot afford private space.

COLOR PHOTO: KEN LOVE/THE AKRON BEACON JOURNAL TEMPTING FATE?Despite his surname, Cripple has avoided major injury.


COLOR PHOTO: DONALD COURCHESNE/AP Wipeout SLAM-DUNKEDCan-Am/Pro stock boat racer Christopher Thomson watched his hopes of victory plummet when he was pitched into Saint Francois Bay during last month's Valleyfield Regatta near Montreal.