MR. BACKWARDS TO ATTEMPT JUMP ON HARLEY

BLOOMINGTON, IN (June 2, 1998) - On Friday night, Mr. Backwards will attempt to jump four cars on his modified Harley Davidson at Bloomington Speedway. But this time it is Mr. Backwards Jr., Rodney Riddell, thrilling fans with his motorcycle acrobatics. Rodney's father retired last year after touring the world performing the daredevil motorcycle routines.

Rodney has only attempted one previous jump, successfully clearing three cars. But that was on a different bike. The new Harley has been specially customized for jumping.

"We built the Harley to go out to Sturgis (South Dakota) this year," Riddell explained before several practice routines at the Speedway during last Friday's racing show.

I asked about the jumping, and he replied, "I've jumped three cars before on a Honda. Nobody's ever jumped a Harley. My dad's not even jumped a Harley yet."

I wasn't sure if he had switched the motorcycle to actually run backwards, or would just sit on it backwards. He assured me that the bike would be heading forwards, but he would be astride it facing the back.

What if you're not successful? Mr. Backwards looked at me to see who would ask such a dumb-fool question, then he chuckled. "You get hauled away in an ambulance."

Preparation on the days before a jump doesn't include practice jumping. Mr. Backwards just makes sure that everything is running right, and spends time rehearsing his backwards riding around his Martinsville, Indiana home. But actual jumps only take place in front of an audience. "I crashed a few months back, going frontwards, getting the gearing right. It broke in half, but we've got it all back together now."

What is the trick to jumping motorcycles? "You've got to gear it the best you can, and then it's mostly feel, how it feels when you ride it."

Why would he want to take up this pastime? "Just the feeling it gives you, I guess."

Friday night, June 5, the Pennzoil Cup non-winged sprint cars, WalMart Tire & Lube Express street stocks, and Bloomington's open wheel modified division. Plus Mr. Backwards attempting to clear four cars on a Harley. The pit gate opens at 4:30, and the grandstand gates at 5:30 pm. Hot laps begin at 6:00, with racing at 7:45. General admission is just $10, with all fans ages 12 and under admitted FREE, when accompanied by an adult. Pit admission is $20.