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What Are Stunt Bikes?

By V. Wagner
Updated May 23, 2024
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Stunt bikes are a type of recreational vehicle used to perform quick maneuvers like twists, mid-air flips, and rolls, often at very high speeds. Most are built similarly to motorcycles and motorbikes, though modifications and alterations are common. A number of manufacturers sell bikes made specifically for stunt uses. Many enthusiasts also choose to build their own, either from kits or by making changes to existing vehicles. They are often simply driven for entertainment, usually in rural areas or on otherwise open roads; some places also have stunt arenas where bikers can practice their maneuvers in an enclosed space, often with obstacles of varying degrees of difficulty. Stunt biking is also growing in popularity as a defined sport. It’s usually known as an “extreme sport,” but is gaining recognition by many different institutions and organizations around the world. Specialized bikes are essential equipment for participants, and the quality and features of the bikes often play heavily into a rider’s success and scoring.

Core Characteristics

At first glance, it’s sometimes easy to mistake a stunt-oriented bike for a standard motorbike, and in most cases they have the same basic profile. They sit on two wheels with an attached motor, handlebars, and braking mechanisms. A lot of the differences come in terms of tire rating and engine strength, things that aren’t always easy for a casual observer to notice. Most stunt riders bring a certain sense of artistic flair to their rides too, though, and in this respect the bikes are often quite distinguishable.

Most of the time, these bikes serve the dual purposes of stunt capabilities and stylistic expression. For example, some riders go with the street fighter look, typically using a pared-down version of a sport bike with no windscreen, and the traditional clip-ons replaced by dirt bike handlebars. Others opt for full faring, meaning that their bikes look a lot like regular sport bikes and include clip-on handlebars, but often have custom bodywork or styled painting. Certain dirt bikes and street bikes can also come within the “stunt” category, and in these cases the name typically refers to the surface on which the stunts are performed.

Modifications and Alterations

Most stunt bikes are “tricked out,” or modified, by their owners for looks alone. There are a few basic elements that most bikers like on their bikes for functional reasons, though. Some tricks require that the biker get up on the tank of the motorcycle and some bikers find that something known as a “smashed tank” helps accomplish these stunts. To do this, they'll flatten out the tank using a rubber mallet while being careful to avoid puncturing the tank.

Since bikers don’t want to slide off in the middle of a wheelie — a trick where the biker rides the bike on one of the bikes two wheels — the bike's seat will often include non-slip material such as skateboard grip tape. A cage is often included as well to protect the engine in case of falls or other mishaps. It’s often the case that the bikes are also altered on the front gears in order to allow greater flexibility and stunt potential.

Importance of Sound Brakes

Brakes are really important, both for stopping and for controlling speeds going into and coming out of maneuvers. Most bikes make use of a handbrake, which is a hand-operated version of the rear brake. In most cases it’s attached to the left clip-on handlebar, and helps stunt riders when doing advanced circle wheelies, tank tricks, and other moves.

Stunt Biking as a Sport

Most stunt riders use their bikes just for fun, often as something of a hobby. In some situations, though, the art has been codified into a sport in which riders compete against each other and can get very serious about their style and form. Different extreme sports networks and organizers often host riding events around the world in which participants show off their best tricks, typically to be judged before a panel and awarded points for things like overall skill of execution and level of difficulty. Sometimes a bike’s capabilities and ratings numbers will determine a competitor’s class or pool, but in other situations everyone competes freely regardless the specifications of their ride. In these situations particularly, a bike that has good maneuverability and controls is very important.

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Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Jun 26, 2014

I'm not an expert on stunt bikes, but I think stunt bikes are lighter than other types of bikes correct? Heaver bikes are not as fast and can't maneuver as well. Do we have any bike stunters here? It'd be better to hear more about this topic from stunters.

By serenesurface — On Jun 26, 2014

I think, technically, any type of sport bike can be used for stunts. Of course, every bike on the market isn't suitable for stunts. One can try, but won't be very successful.

Sport bikes are superior to other bikes in speed, braking and turning. So it's easier to do stunts on them, and more difficult stunts can be done.

By turquoise — On Jun 25, 2014

I see stunt bikes often in action sequences in films. I always thought that they use regular motorcycles for these stunts. But it makes sense that a stunt bike with various changes and adjustments would be needed.

Some of those bike stunts are very difficult and dangerous. It takes a lot of skill and practice to them. A normal bike wouldn't stay together for long doing such stunts. Or it would be more dangerous to use a normal bike without the extra handbrake and so forth.

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