On a dingy stretch of Brook Road just a shy of Virginia Center Commons, Todd and Kelly Lunderman's custom motorcycle shop, Boss Hoss Cycles, sticks out like a V-8-powered sore thumb among lawnmower repair shops and used-car dealers.
It seems the son of America's favorite insurance-salesman-turned-daredevil-stuntman — the late Evel Knievel — has been in and out of town for the past week or so, and left his trailer parked out front. Todd Lunderman sells Robbie Knievel's signature line of custom-made motorcycles, and the two are pals.
Style caught up with 46-year-old Knievel — sort of — and managed to get off a few questions.
Style: Your dad had living superhero status to a whole generation of kids. Could you ever replicate that in today's market where stuntmen compete with illusionists and networks compete with cable?
Knievel: What these other guys do [now] is sensational, but it's a totally different style of jumping. My dad always told me: “Son, if you don't make it to the status I did, it's because there were four networks and one TV in every household.” … But if someone's going to be more famous than you, it might as well be your dad.
How about your bones? Your dad's famous for having broken 37 bones. Have you broken many?
I've broken probably 30 bones, but I've broken a lot of them more than once — the bones heal, but it's the ligaments and cartilage that take a long time. … I never suffered the internal damage that my dad did at his Caesars Palace jump. He was in a coma for 29 days. [The elder Knievel crashed in Las Vegas on Nov. 17, 1967, attempting to jump the Caesars Palace fountains in his first nationally publicized stunt].
You ride Honda, right?
Harley just doesn't build a bike that's light enough and that has a suspension that's necessary for the jumps these days. My dad's longest jump was 120 feet over Caesars Palace. My longest is 236 feet on a 10-foot ramp.
You left your dad's tour in 1979. What was your relationship like with him?
My dad and I were a lot alike and we banged heads for years. But at the end we had a great relationship. … But it was kind of like growing up with Superman.
Speaking of Superman, you had your own action figure, just like your dad, right? Did you ever play with your action figure?
By the time they came out with mine I was older, but I used to play with my dad all the time. In fact, when I was a kid, the original prototype they gave to me to see if I liked it or not. I was really rough on toys and the pipes [on the motorcycle] were plastic. I broke them off. I was the one that suggested they change to rubber pipes on the bike.
So what would you jump here in Richmond?
There's a lot of things I could jump. You need a thousand feet. … to take off and land. But I'd love to come jump in Richmond. We have to hurry up, because I don't have too many jumps left in me.