Robbie Knievel, the legendary motorcycle daredevil who followed in and expanded upon his father Evel’s legacy, died on January 13, 2023 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 60 years old, and died with his three daughters by his side, according to his brother, Kelly.
Going by the professional title of “Kaptain Robbie Knievel,” the younger stuntman with the world-renowned surname completed over 350 jumps, according to his official website. His career spanned three decades, including highlights such as successfully jumping the Caesar’s Palace fountains in Las Vegas in 1989. His dad was there to cheer him on and hug him after Robbie successfully nailed the jump that had seriously injured Evel over two decades prior, in 1967.
As a professional stuntman, Robbie managed some amazing feats—but also withstood plenty of broken bones and injuries along the way. His brother, Kelly, told the Associated Press, “Daredevils don’t live easy lives. He was a great daredevil. People don’t really understand how scary it is what my brother did.”
In 2019, Robbie Knievel penned a moving essay titled What It Was Like to be Raised by Evel Knievel for the parenting website Fatherly. In it, he talked about growing up watching—and later emulating—his famous daredevil father. He also talked about his first motorcycle, and how he learned how to ride it at a young age.
“My first bike was a Honda 50 mini bike. To teach me to ride, my father put me and my brother in a ditch with our bikes and tied a rope around us. If we got scared and accidentally twisted the throttle too far, he’d yank us off the bike before we got hurt. He made us always wear helmets and told us to never go riding alone,” Robbie Knievel wrote.
“But pretty soon I was putting up a sign on our gate reading “See Evel Knievel Junior jump for 25 cents.” Then I’d jump my mini bike over ten 10-speed bicycles. My dad would flip out when I’d get banged up riding in the mountains, tearing up my knees or breaking my arm. But since he realised I wasn’t going to stop, he decided to put me into his show, so he could watch over me. It was great. At age 8, I performed my first show with him at Madison Square Garden. Then I went on tour with him, doing wheelie shows before his big jumps, where I rode around on my back tyre for the crowds. Soon I had my own action figure as part of the Evel Knievel toy line,” he continued.
Things weren’t always easy between father and son—and Robbie moved out at age 19 to strike out on his own. He recounted that it was a difficult thing for his dad to pass him the baton, partly because of a sense of competition, but primarily because he was worried about his son getting seriously hurt. Way back at the beginning, Robbie recalled that his dad tried to tell his kids not to follow his path into the motorcycle stunt world—but clearly, that’s one lesson that didn’t take.
Robbie Knievel is survived by one brother, two sisters, three daughters, five grandchildren, and his mother. He will be buried with other family members in Butte, Montana, according to his brother, Kelly. We at RideApart and Motor1 send our deepest condolences to Knievel’s family and friends, and all who celebrate his extraordinary life.
Sources: Associated Press, CBS News, Fatherly, Robbie Knievel