The Straightliners Motorcycle Wheelie World Championship, held annually at Elvington Airfield in Northern England, is an event that avid riders and fans would hate to miss. Bikers wheelie along the 1km drag strip one by one, their aim being only to attain a world record. This year’s thrill-filled event was no different. This can be surmised by the fact that even the lowest score, held by Enda Wright, was a noteworthy 199.56kph.
However, the one rider that stood out from the thirty-plus participants was the Dutch daredevil Egbert van Popta, who set the One Kilometer Wheelie World Record by astonishingly staying balanced for the complete run at a staggering 343.388kph.
An On-Going Competition
Popta’s 213mph exit-speed in a kilometer, while hoisted on the back wheel, beat Gary Rothwell's previous record of 210mph from last year. The previous years have been an on-going rivalry dominated by these two bikers, facing each other off in their turbo-charged Suzuki Hayabusa. The duo battles it out on a regular basis for the top spot in the championship, their performances having evolved into a world record combat of sorts. The Dutch daredevil would have set the new world record with his first attempt had the front wheel of his bike not touched the ground before reaching the finish line. He redeemed himself in his second attempt, however, creating a new World Record in the process.
The Flying Dutchman’s Inspiration
From a very young age, Popta used to pedal his pushbike all over the neighborhood on a single wheel. He describes “doing things that few others dare to do” as the best feeling possible. He recounts his major inspiration to be Dave 'Dodge' Rogers. Popta discovered him while going through the Streetfighters magazine, amazed at how he took fast motorcycles and made them go even faster, making modifications for fast wheelies. He found this to be the ‘coolest thing on Earth’, and therefore knew what he wanted to do in life.
He professes that his own bike, a Hayabusa Turbo, is heavily modified. Popta personally handles most of the turbo parts and tuning for his bike, occasionally taking help from outside. All of the upgrades and modifications that he has done so far have led his bike to achieve a sweet 420bhp.
An Essential Combination of Techniques
According to Popta, every bike requires a different sort of handling in order to fully achieve its potential. For staying balanced on his current bike, he winds the throttle in order to lift the front, before feeding the power in. The Dutch daredevil may hold the fastest wheelie record for a kilometer but he finds it very difficult to stay balanced while going in a straight line, so he achieves it by adjusting his body weight.
Moreover, what really helps him while keeping the front wheel up is staying focused, which is vital while going as fast as he goes. He describes the trick to attaining such a high speed as keeping the front wheel extremely close to the tarmac without releasing it, something that comes with a great deal of practice. It’s safe to say that what Egbert van Popta does on the track is not for the faint of heart. It takes a huge deal of courage and technical prowess to achieve something like this.