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“That’s entertainment,” I heard someone say. The crowd cheered, peering down into the Wall of Death, a worn wooden motordrome with nicks and scars. The American Motor Drome Company clearly has this nostalgic stunt show dialed in as “America’s original extreme motorcycle show.”

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Long-time wall rider, Wahl E. Walker introduces Reckless Reda.

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We were lucky enough to climb down into the belly of the beast and look up toward the circus-like tent that sheltered the 30-foot cylinder. It was like going back in time, when traveling shows and carnivals brought colorful performers into town.

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Hobo Bill on the Wall of Death

Wall of Death at AMA VMD

Onlookers watched AMDC patriarch, Jay Lightnin’, ride the wood planks after recently recovering from back surgery and battling cancer. We couldn’t imagine how much this had to take a toll on his bones, but he put on a good show anyway! You could feel the undulating motordrome move around and rumble. Jay muscled the bike over the abrupt transition of the lower angled boards to the vertical wall; it was intense.

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Jay Lightnin’ on the AMDC Wall of Death.

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Jay Lightnin’ has been wall-riding inside motordromes since he was a teenager.

Other riders like Wahl E Walker, Hobo Bill and Reckless Reda took turns looping old Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles along with a go-kart just inches from the crowd above them.

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Reckless Reda driving a custom go-kart around the wall.

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The audience stands 14 feet over the floor as the riders zig and zag, climbing close enough to snatch paper money from any offering hands. The riders are experiencing around 4Gs and they make it look easy.

Wall of Death at AMA VMD

Large crowds gathered for every show.

Wall of Death at AMA VMD

Wall of Death at AMA VMD

After decades of wall riding, Wahl E. Walker can tell some great stories.

If you ever get a chance to witness this group of talented daredevils, don’t miss out. Transport yourself back a hundred years and imagine being in a festive American midway where only a steel cable separates you from an oily old bike, high speeds and a legitimately dangerous feat.

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Sitting down inside the motordrome looking up at Jay Lightnin’; best seat in the house.

If you know of anyone wanting to add an authentic motorcycle show to their line-up of acts, look these guys up. The AMDC Wall of Death oozes nostalgia and pays a respectful homage to the carnival spirit of the early 1900s.

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The carnival spirit is alive and well at the Wall of Death.

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This article is part of a series featuring content we’ve gathered at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. Keep it tuned in for more!

2 Responses to The Wall of Death

  1. John Sorenson says:

    As a kid in the late 40’s and early 50’s I well remember my fascination in watching the “wall riders” at the Tri State Fair in Superior, WI They rode old Harley’s and Indian’s with a very loud straight pipe exhaust adding to the excitement. Somehow they could make it backfire at will. One daredevil rider would somehow set/fix his throttle at about 1/2 constant speed and stand up on the foot spuds with his arms outstretched overhead. The whole wooden bowl swayed as they went around, over 65 years ago!

  2. Jerry Van Dyke says:

    I can remember as a young boy in Holland ,standing at the top of this “stijle wand ” in total awe and that was 65 years ago

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