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