Travis Pastrana Begins “Evel Live” Practice

Will recreate three Knievel jumps on live TV in Vegas next month

Scout FTR750
With the Indian Scout FTR750 he’ll be riding (along with some of the ramps and a Greyhound bus—one of 16 that’ll be lined up side by side for the second jump) in the background, Travis Pastrana explains the concept behind his latest project.Mark Kariya

Travis Pastrana always goes big. When the History Channel approached him and the Nitro Circus crew about coming up with an idea for a televised special, it didn’t take long before the action sports star decided to pay homage to the late Evel Knievel by recreating not one, not two, but three of Knievel’s most famous jumps—and do them consecutively, about one hour apart, for a live TV show.

Yes, it’d likely be easier to hit all three jumps with his trusty RM-Z450, but the FTR750 is much more in keeping with the spirit of what Knievel did with his Harley XR750—just with a modern twist to take advantage of newer technology.Mark Kariya

To really do it justice, Pastrana wanted the entire package to take advantage of technological advances yet keep the same flavor Knievel created. That called for using a big V-twin dirt track bike, so it was easy to choose the limited-production Indian Scout FTR750 that’s dominated the American Flat Track scene since its introduction at the end of 2016. To make sure they had spares in case of crashes or other issues, they employed former racer and noted custom bike builder Roland Sands to set up four of the machines identically. (That’s probably more bikes than any of the race teams has, outside of the Indian factory squad.)

In order to practice and get the bikes and ramps set up correctly, Pastrana will spend this week at a private test in Southern California and Nitro Circus invited a few journalists to see what it’s all about. “I even feel like a sissy to start with [for practicing] because I know Evel wouldn’t have done that,” he admitted. But after he finishes dialing everything in this week, Pastrana will be so busy with rally car commitments that he won’t have time to ride until he sees the bike in Las Vegas for the event on July 8, the History Channel show starting at 5:00 p.m. PDT.

The FTR750 is a beautiful bike, though Roland Sands really didn’t get too crazy with the modifications, like tripling the suspension travel or adding a supercharger. “It wasn’t about increasing the performance as much as it was about modifying the performance for what the bikes had to do,” Sands explained.Mark Kariya

When asked how his parents reacted to his decision, Pastrana laughed and replied, “If it wasn’t Evel Knievel [we were paying tribute to], my dad would probably smack me upside the head and be like, ‘Dude! When’s enough, enough?’

“But he’s like, ‘All right, I get this. This is pretty cool.’

“I think that’s what’s cool about this: It’ll bring in my father’s generation and also, my kid’s generation and hopefully cover [everything] across the board.”

rubber-covered footpegs
AFT rules require rubber-covered footpegs. To handle the landings and fit Pastrana better, Sands lowered the mounting points and used larger MX-style pegs.Mark Kariya
fuel-injected, DOHC, 53-degree, 750cc V-twin pumps
The fuel-injected, DOHC, 53-degree, 750cc V-twin pumps out good power, but it’ll likely require dialing in the gearing. While Indian factory racer Brad Baker said that different internal gear ratios are available, that’s only for the top two gears so Pastrana will play with various sprocket combinations this week.Mark Kariya
roadrace champion
A roadrace champion in his life before starting his current career as a custom bike builder, Roland Sands is very familiar with the many aspects of modifying bikes to suit particular requirements for different tracks. He and his crew built four identical Indians—just in case.Mark Kariya
Pastrana-bend ProTaper
In addition to suspension and footpeg changes, Sands replaced the lower dirt track-style handlebar with a taller Pastrana-bend ProTaper as well as an electronic speedometer for Pastrana to glance at to ensure he’s going fast enough on his approaches.Mark Kariya
Öhlins fork
The conventional Öhlins fork is retained but revalved and resprung. Normally, the Scout FTR750 doesn’t run a front brake as those aren’t allowed in dirt track races except for the occasional TT so Sands sourced those from Brembo.Mark Kariya
landing ramps feature a slight curve
Interestingly, the landing ramps feature a slight curve for their entire distance in order to promote a more forgiving touchdown.Mark Kariya
Although a crew was still setting up the ramps when we visited, the scaffolding used can be rented and set up in Vegas, reducing transport headaches.Mark Kariya
Dave Mateus, the Global Head of Events for Nitro Circus
Dave Mateus, the Global Head of Events for Nitro Circus, shows drone footage from a flyby the crew did when they performed a site visit at Caesar’s Palace to verify physical dimensions. Since Knievel’s failed attempt there in 1967, they discovered a lot of construction and new building has taken place, drastically limiting both approach and landing distances. Also, it forces Pastrana to do the event-ending jump in the opposite direction from Knievel. (On the left and looking is professional dirt track racer Brad “The Bullet” Baker who’s very familiar with the FTR750 in its non-Pastrana configuration.)Mark Kariya
wear a full leather suit complete with cape
No motocross gear for Pastrana for this project. He’ll wear a full leather suit complete with cape, as well as the comparatively dainty style of boots similar to Knievel’s.Mark Kariya
Caesar’s Palace fountain jump
Since he’ll have more limited take-off distances—especially for the Caesar’s Palace fountain jump—Pastrana will need to launch hard off the line so he practiced getting the rear tire warm as well as getting a feel for the power, clutch, and available traction asphalt provides.Mark Kariya
verify practice runs via radar gun
As well as the onboard speedo, the Nitro Circus team will verify practice runs via radar gun.Mark Kariya