Big plans for New Year's Eve? Watching the ball drop on Dick Clark’s New Year's Rocking Eve? For 25-year-old Australian Robbie Maddison, he’s got other plans. He’ll be attempting to set a new world record for distance jumping aboard a Service Honda CR500 in front of the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as part of the Red Bull Experiment. Maddison’s feat was supposed to run in conjunction with Rhys Millen’s attempt to back-flip an off-road racing truck, but unfortunately Rhys suffered a training accident and will not be able to perform the stunt. Regardless, if you want to witness the Red Bull Experiment live, tune into ESPN on New Year’s Eve. For more information, check out www.redbullexperiment.com. We decided to give Robbie a call today to see how his preparations are going for the big jump.
Racer X: First of all Robbie, time is winding down for the big day where you’re going to jump 300 feet on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. How are you handling the pressure so far?
Robbie Maddison: Oh, good man, good. I’ve done quite a bit of practice and the bike has had a lot of work done to it. It has a Pro Circuit motor and Race Tech suspension. We had some trick wheels built for it and braced up the frame, so I have 100 percent faith in my equipment, and I’m getting some good speeds of over 100 mph out of it, so I know I only have to go around 98 mph to clear the gap, so we’re good to go on that.
Why did you choose a two-stroke 500cc opposed to a 450cc four-stroke?
Well, I don’t really spend too much time on the four-strokes. I’ve ridden a 450 and I love it, but that’s just doing motos at the track. I’ve noticed that when I have been on a 450, they’re known to kind of make some weird noises. I guess I’m just not used to the 450—that’s what it comes down to. I just went for the biggest, gnarliest motor I can get because I knew the venue is in a confined space and I only have a certain amount of room to get up to max speed and I want to do it as quick as possible, so I went for the biggest motor I can get.
Do you have a speedometer?
No, I just listen to the motor.
How do you practice jumping a 300-foot gap?
Well, we built a landing ramp that is 35-foot tall and has 150-foot landing surface. So I’ve been jumping on that and they built that exact ramp in Vegas for the jump. I’ve done quite a few practice runs and test jumps, and I’m already almost jumping a football field now, so on New Year's Eve I’m going to go another 30 feet further, but it is getting a bit scary at this stage.
Oh yeah, I feel confident, for sure. It would be stupid to step into something like this without working it all out, but on that night the ramp will be bigger and it’s going to be a one-jump, one-hit thing—there’s no time to practice in Vegas. It’s a little scary having a week off in between, but I know I can do it. There’s always a risk doing big jumps like this, but it’s just like hitting a triple for the first time on a supercross track.
But that’s the equivalent of five supercross triples at once, with thousands of screaming people in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve! Anyways, who conjured up this whole idea?
Well, it was my idea to jump a football field, and then I was talking to the guys at Red Bull about some goals I had, and that was one that really kind of jumped out at them, and one thing led to another and before I knew it we had a chance to do it in Vegas. So it all just came about really quickly, and it’s been a goal of mine for a long time.
I understand you were a big fan of Evel Knievel.
Yeah, as a kid, the first kind of motorcycle jumps I saw was Evel and Robbie Knievel, and that’s really what captivated me as a kid. And then I went into the racing scene and became a huge fan of AMA Supercross, but my first inspiration was from seeing those guys jump the big gaps, and I always done similar stuff myself my whole life. I was always the kid in the neighborhood jumping my BMX bike the furthest, and supercrosses on 80s and 125s I’d always go out and do all of the jumps first. So, I’ve kind of got a knack for jumping, and now I’m going for the biggest one period.
Yeah, I have the 125cc world record, which is a 221-foot jump, and the Guinness World Record for the longest jump with a trick, and that was a 246-foot jump.
When you’re in the air that long, what do you think about?
When I come off the ramp, it’s almost like time stands still. My eyes focus in on the landing and I’m staring at that ramp like an eagle, making sure that I’m getting the right height. Once I get to max height I can pretty much judge where I’m going to land. For the first half of the ride, it’s all about holding tight, wondering if I’m going to make it. After that I guess the pressure relieves and I adjust the bike for landing. I pull the clutch in a bit, tap the rear brake, then let the clutch out and give the motor a rev. I like to fly in with the nose a little bit higher and touch down rear wheel first. There’s a lot growing through my mind, but it’s all just about just making sure the flight is perfect.
You’ve been really close with Red Bull for the past few years and you even did some rehabbing back at their facility in Austria after you injured your knee. How was that?
It was great. I’ve been a Red Bull athlete for over four years now, and they’ve been so great to me. It’s always tackling bigger goals, but this year I had setback and they helped me out with that. I went to Austria and we used their Diagnostic Training Center (DTC), and it’s meant for athlete performance training and making athletes peak at their highest level, but they also have the equipment to nurture their wounded soldiers. So I went there and they did a lot of rehabilitation and circulation work in my leg and got the swelling down really quickly. It was just nice to have that knowledge and professional level of people working with me to get me back on the bike and ready to do this jump.
This is pretty much as big as it gets for me, as far as the viewership and exposure that’s going to be generated. From here someone is going to come and challenge me with the distance, and it’s just a matter of jumping further than everyone else, and I’m confident that I can keep up that end of the bargain. But for next year it’s back to trying to get that X Games gold medal, winning the Red Bull X-Fighters championship and being the number one guy on the Dew Actions Sports Tour.
I’m sure you have a ton of great people supporting you in all of your endeavors, so do you want to give them a mention?
Yeah, I want to first of all thank Red Bull and ESPN for their help. Broc Glover and Dunlop, Donnie Emler from FMF, the Lake Elsinore Motocross Park for letting me train there, Brian Deegan and all of the guys from the Metal Mulisha, and obviously my fiancée Amy, she’s had to put up with the grumpy side of me! But I couldn’t do it without all of them!
Good luck, Robbie, we’ll all be watching you on New Year’s Eve!
Thank you, Billy!