Wall of death (motorcycle act)
The Wall of Death or motordrome is a carnival sideshow featuring a drum- or barrel-shaped wooden cylinder, ranging from 20 to 36-feet in diameter, in which stunt motorcyclists ride and carry out tricks.
Derived directly from US motorcycle board track (motordrome) racing in the early 1900s, the very first carnival motordrome appeared at Coney Island amusement park (New York) in 1911. The following year portable tracks began to appear on travelling carnivals and in 1915, the first "silodromes" with perpendicular walls were seen.
These motordromes with perfectly straight walls were soon dubbed the "Wall of Death." This carnival attraction became a staple in the US outdoor entertainment industry with the phenomenon reaching its zenith in the 1930s with more than 100 motordromes on travelling shows and in amusement parks.
In 2004, six or seven of these motorcycle shows were still touring the US. The first known Wall of Death in the UK appeared in 1929 at Southend.
The audience views from the top of the drum, looking down. The riders start at the bottom of the drum, in the centre, and ascend an initial ramped section until they gain enough velocity to drive horizontally to the floor, usually in a counter-clockwise direction.
This act is famous in the United Kingdom, and often is seen at fairs.
In the year 2000s, there remain only a few tours of the wall of death; the most notable of which is "The Wall of Death World Tour", created and run by the Fox family.
This touring group uses the original American Indian Motorcycles, which have been used since around the 1920s.
For the most of the year, this group is based at Wilburton but ride every year in the Great Dorset Steam Fair.