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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Japanese Motorcyclist Does 500km Wheelie

I’m no daredevil—blind ninja lawyer or cliff-diver.

I have done my fair share of daredevil things, however. I have driven my car at speeds far too fast to be safe. I have run across the subway tracks to reach the other side of the station… I have even run through the train tunnels to reach the next train station—but all in my stupid, stupid youth.

I did, as an adult, climb atop the railings on the seventh floor of my apartment building in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan in order to jump up and reach the roof and then pull myself and camera equipment up to take spectacular photographs.

As a kid, I would fearlessly ride my 12-speed bicycle in a wheelie down some 80+ steps.

I even stupidly purchased a motorcycle while in Japan, and after a 10-minute lesson thought I was good enough to drive it about town. I forget how many times I nearly died while riding it that first and only day, but certainly recall it pulling away from me, dumping me off the back as I held onto the throttle while it tried to fly through the plate glass window of my poor building superintendent’s office.

That near wheelie on a motorcycle was enough for me. After I managed to get the bike under”control” I parked it and then sold it later that week, smart enough to know that Andrew and motorcycles don’t mix—and this is coming from a guy who’s driven over 240 kph or about 150mph.

I don’t think any of that qualifies me as a daredevil—just someone incredibly stupid and incredibly lucky to still be alive with all my faculties (such as they are), with the only fearless thing I have done recently is volunteer to be a Select baseball coach.

Which brings me to Japanese motorcyclist Abe Masaru (surname first) the so-called Japanese “Wheelie King”, who decided he would try and break the 26-year-old endurance wheelie record set by fellow Japanese countryman Kudo Yasuyuki (surname first) who had performed a wheelie for 331.02 kilometers (205.69 miles) in 1991.

Did Abe (pronounced ah-bay) do it? Well, d’uh… didn’t you read the headline? And why would I write about someone failing to beat a record?

Kidding aside, Abe did indeed smash the record with a 500 kilometer (310 mile) one-wheeled run… a run that took 13 oh-my-back hours to complete.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull - love that stuff!
To be exact, the record for a motorcycle wheelie is now: 500.5322 kilometers

He performed the feat on a 125cc 4-stroke Yamaha Jog 125 scooter… I suppose because it was light… pretty much working the throttle and brake and balancing his body for the entire 13 hours.

What’s the longest you’ve ever held a wheelie on a bicycle? For me it was nearly a minute when I went down that staircase in a valley… it’s weird… when I did it, it was like there was no way I was going to not do it… I didn’t concentrate on anything… I just zoned and did it.

Abe did his in 13 hours, as mentioned, performing the wheelie at a constant speed of about 40 kph (25 mph) around a short oval track at the Kawaguchi Auto Race facility in Saitama, Japan.

But Andrew… I know that you get great mileage from a motorcycle, but 13 hours worth?

Yup… Abe refueled, ate and drank while pulling back on the scooter… and I assumed peed, but let’s no go there. The last thing you want to do while doing a 500 kilometer wheelie is to lose concentration because you are trying not to think about how badly you have to pee. Okay, I went there. Abe, too.

When he hit the 500 kilometer mark, Abe touched the front wheel down, stopped and… barely able to hold the machine upright, collapsed over it in back-wrenching exhaustion.

How tough was it?

Abe said that only two hours in, the back pain kicked in, forcing him to take painkillers.

He had figured he would need them at the six hour mark…

And yet, the back pain got worse and worse as the wheelie-run continued.

Former two-time 125cc world champion Aoki Haruchika (surname first) arrived four hours in to lend Abe support.

Aoki notes: “I would never be able to perform wheelies with control on a weak 4-stroke 125cc scooter. This course is also known as being especially windy.

“The vehicles on the course can be engulfed in powerful wind. With the slopes on the track, I think just holding a wheelie is difficult enough.”

Abe and the scooter. Photo courtesy of Red Bull.
Abe, though, powered by practice runs of over 10 hours and a pre-race visit to see Kudo for motivation (which involved 22 hours straight driving) carried on bravely.

Aged 33, the same as Kudo when he set his own record, Abe finally passed his compatriot’s mark at 3:28pm - eight hours, 18 minutes and 43 seconds in.

He raised his left arm in victory and pointed to the sky to huge cheers from the assembled crowd.

After 12 hours, Abe was crying out in pain and shouting, “It hurts! I hate this! I want to stop,” followed by words of encouragement to himself, “You got this, don’t stop!”

He continued on… but eventually the back pain actually made Abe stop 100 kilometers (62 miles) before his stated goal of 600 kilometers (373 miles).

The distance is what it would be if you traveled from Los Angeles to San Francisco in California. or New York City to Pittsburgh or London UK to Cologne Germany.

Says Abe: "I thought if I was going to try and break the record, then I would have to post unattainable numbers that would leave people totally speechless.

"That was the most pain I've ever felt. Both of my arms were numb from the pain and I had lost feeling in them. My vision was blurred ... I was only partially conscious. I was completely dehydrated. I'd never experienced that before."

Anyway you slice, that is a wheelie impressive daredevil feat.
Andrew Joseph
All photos courtesy of Red Bull. Red Bull is a proud sponsor of many exciting sports... I have to mention that I love their airplane races!

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