Jomarno (Smallman) operates a bike mechanic shop in Villa and rides bikes in all shapes and sizes. He has a passion for stunting on bikes, notably popping wheelies and stoppies to the edge, just before tipping over his machines. One day at his shop while getting some maintenance done on my bike a new and very stylishly blue colored machine popped up and I had to ask about it. “It’s a stunt bike” Smallman said “One day we would take it out and I’ll show you what it can do”
Que several weeks later, Smallman rolled up with his crew and spectators to the now de-comissioned E.T. Joshua airport to show his skills. Many of these individuals bare marks of errors, either on their bikes or bodies from stunting and riding and they all know what’s at stake when reaching the heights and speeds that Smallman was about to do, they were greatly anticipating the events to come.
“ I have to get the bike, tires, and brakes warm!” Smallman just begun but he was already shouting due to the ear piercing exhaust noise. An experienced rider knows the difference between warm and cold on any of these components, like a ritual or meditation Smallman would ride up and down the strip testing out his bike to feel what it has to say to him, hopefully good things.
A wheelie is a true testament of balance when it comes to going vertical. In this case, the power of the rear wheel flings the front wheel into the air with his hand on the throttle, while the rear brake is used by the right foot you see above slowing it down to even out that natural tendency to send the wheel higher. Something that can only be tested by going vertical is the highest balance point which is a make or break task. Either you get to it and hold ever so slightly like tickling a sleeping Tyrannosaurus rex’s toes with a feather , or you twist the throttle ever so slightly beyond the point of no return and hit the ground spinning in what is known amongst many riders as ‘looping’ or waking up the T-Rex.
The photo above emphasizes the extremely delicate balancing act that was in effect. The only thing keeping ~500 lbs. (226kg) of rider and motorcycle connected to the ground was around 6 inches of rubber which lay upon the tarmac at around 30-50 mph (50-80kph). The rear fender just visible is already showing just a few signs of shavings, which indicates just the rider barely scraping the ground with it. Rather than a cracked fender which would have indicated the rider smashing the ground with it. Two very different styles of outcome for a wheelie, one more desirable than the other.
Variations on the wheel will come from the rider changing his style or position, usually once he gets more comfortable. From taking their clutch hand off the handlebars, to getting their foot off the brake, and then both pegs in general. This progression comes with increased difficulty having removed more and more control of the bike, only leaving the bare minimum.
Stoppies reverse the skills of the rider, having now to instead raise the rear wheel into the air with a new even slightly smaller front wheel. meaning that all the power of the throttle of the bike is now disconnected from the ground like driving a car with the engine shut off, and in semi-mid air, and with only two tyres, but no backseat drivers. Leaving even less control over the bike with nothing other than skill and a very tender front brake.
Getting the bike vertical in a wheelie means you already lost, however getting halfway there sounds much more reasonable and leaves anyone who can bring the back wheel up comfortably with their badge of honor for the day
There are variations of the stoppie that you could attempt, but I didn’t capture them this day, next time. But most variations simply focus on not flying over the handle bars while navigating the bikes front wheel.
This image above may look impressive, and that is because it is. But to elaborate, Smallman is in the process of dropping his bike flat onto the tarmac, which is small part of the bike life, but a massive part of stunt riding. Stunting as he described it is “ a freestyle kind of thing, in a small area at low speed”. But 300 lbs. (136kg) of machine falling from head height is no joke.
No bike-man would ever enjoy watching a bike fall. Especially not his own. While Smallman would not claim to enjoy it, he certainly got over the fact rather quickly and carried on his stunting “It made for that man, not good for it but made for it” someone mentioned about dropping stunt bikes one time.
While getting vertical like this, might look a lot like the wheelie, this is totally different and you are going to have to take my word for it here because its a photo. The skills involved are a lot different when going a slow speed, the wheel moves upwards a lot faster and he moves it in a slow circle. Those are the key differences. I guess you might have to have been there to understand it, but its very cool.
With the engine coolant slowly dripping from the bike, sweat beads from Smallman’s face. Both bike and body showing similar signs of exhaustion as Smallman shuts off his ride, stripping off his gear to a more comfortable Caribbean heat worthy attire.
Inspection of the bike shows tires burnt, rear fender scratched, hand guards scraped, and everything else luckily where it should be. Smallman carries on stunting on his Honda CB500, a small purring engine noise compared to his stunt bike. But not only the sound is different, the mood is changes with a more relaxed stunting session, if one could claim so. He wheelies and hits stoppies like if its how he commutes to and from his destinations with ease.This is when you notice that this sort of stunting is like a warm down session for Smallman. With the calm up and downs of the wheelies we can all tell the day is over and we start making motions to get home.
Lastly, in a few final words; this is one of the last photos I took of the day. With small man exhausted, his smile tells us whats going on inside his heart. The kind of lifestyle that biking inspires should always end up with a smile, whether its cruising, racing, off-roading or stunt riding.
A big thanks to small man and his crew, and also a shout out to the spectators who all just are there cause they love bikes.