Photos by Connor Brown
The infamous “Wall-Of-Death” performance showcases stuntmen and women defying gravity nearly 12 feet in the air completely perpendicular to the ground. The arena includes a 14-foot wooden cylinder ranging from about 20 to 36 feet in diameter. Drivers whirl past spectators on go-carts and antique motorcycles as they grab dollar bills from generous patrons’ outstretched hands.
Variations of the “Wall-Of-Death” performance have been around since the early 1900s, the first carnival motordrome appearing at Coney Island amusement park (New York) in 1911. The live-action entertainment peaked in the 1930’s with more than 100 motordromes in traveling shows and amusement parks at the time. The carnival tent is reminiscent of the early days when the shows first began as a tribute to the pioneers of the dangerous sport.
Hand built go-carts and antique motorcycles wait for their riders at the bottom of a 14-foot wooden cylinder motordrome. Riders mount their rides and defy gravity by driving nearly 12 feet in the air completely perpendicular to the ground. “The Wall-Of-Death” has been around for nearly 100 years as a carnival sideshow.
Spectators gather around the ring where riders defy gravity, driving nearly 12 feet in the air, completely perpendicular to the ground. Riders are held in place by friction and centripetal force as they race around the ring and grab dollar bills from generous spectators, racing past just inches away from their outstretched hands.
Charlie Ransom, professional stuntman and builder of the “Wall-Of-Death,” mounts his antique Indian motorcycle as one of the final acts in the “Wall-Of-Death” performance. In this act, Ransom drives his motorcycle towards the top of the wooden cylinder near the crowd while another rider races directly underneath him at the same speed in a hand built go-cart.
Charlie Ransom, professional stuntman and builder of the “Wall-Of-Death,” whizzes around the vertical wooden motordrome at nearly 12 feet in the air. No insurance company will cover the riders, so they rely on the generosity of spectators who will hold out dollar bills as riders ride past.
A close up shot of the spoke to one of the motorcycles on display shows the painstaking detail that goes into hand-built motorcycles. Hundreds of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts gather in a warehouse of the Austin American-Statesman to showcase their talent from all over the country.
The 5th annual Handbuilt Motorcycle Show took place at the Austin American-Statesman right beside Town Lake in Austin, Texas. Hundreds of riders and craftsmen gathered to showcase their hand-built machines and watch stuntmen attempt the “Wall-Of-Death.”
A rider from the Caribbean walks past to admire the long line of motorcycles displayed in the Austin American-Statesman parking lot for the 5th annual Handbuilt Motorcycle Show. Him and several riders rolled out in groups for an evening ride downtown just before sunset.
A rider revs his engine on his Indian motorcycle as he waits to roll out of the Austin American-Statesman parking lot for an evening ride. This is the 5th year of Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, drawing hundreds of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the country. “Gear-heads” from near and far come to see and showcase their hand-built motorcycles, including celebrities like Taylor Kitsch, best known for his role as Tim Riggins on the TV show Friday Night Lights.
An audio story recapping the event.
By Austin Sanders