“Big Ed” Beckley was born July 6th, 1950 to Gerald and Jan Beckley at 6lb. 8oz and raised in Scott City, Kansas, a western Kansas town of 3,500 people. Beckley himself calls the area “pucker brush” and as he says it is “4 miles west of no where!” The area is home of the most friendliest people you will ever find and is rich in farming and ranching neither what Ed wanted to do.
Ed started riding motorcycles at 10 years old when his father taught him how to ride. Ed was a big kid and rode a Harley 125 Hummer for his first ride.
Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been a big part of his motorcycling as his Grandfather and Father both rode Harley’s.
It was this humble beginning that started Big Ed Beckley’s quest for an adventurous life. Ed was always the one that other kid’s dared to do something, and he never backed down. For his rewards Beckley had plenty of war scars from jumping his bicycle and crashing but he always seem to draw a crowd because there was always a crazier stunt than the last one.
During his high school years Ed would wheelie up and down the streets of his hometown and of course his parents found out what their boy was doing and they were not impressed like everyone else was. After being grounded several times Ed decided to go to the dirt and took his street bike out to a hill climb and won it that day but someone took a photo of him which his Dad saw and lit him up so to speak. Later his Dad would show that photo off and tell everyone it was his son. His parents became his biggest fans later and even his Grandfather thought it was ok that he was jumping cars. The Beckley’s were all Harley-Davidson family and rode together many a mile.
Back in 1971 Ed was riding his friend Jack “Thunder” Thornton’s Yamaha 250 dirt bike down the street while sitting on the seat backwards and doing a wheelie. A gentleman named Floyd Reed was in town from Illinois with his TNT Demolition Derby company and saw him ride. Floyd immediately asked Ed if he ever thought about jumping cars and that he was starting a thrill show and was going to call it the DEATH RIDERS. Ed somewhat put that on the back burner until the State Fair of Kansas hired Evel to jump.
Beckley’s inspiration to be a high flying entrepreneur began after he watched Evel Knievel jump at the Kansas State Fair in 1971. Knievel was in his hey day at that time and it looked like an easy money lifestyle. After two years of study and hard work, Beckley at 23 years old took his first jump in 1973 and drew a huge crowd of over 2,000 people which more than the population of the City (Dighton, Kansas) he was performing in! Beckley made 4 successful jumps that night over 4-5-6 cars and then one with he and his friend Dennis Sharpe as a passenger over 3 cars which was the first professional passenger jump ever.
Big Ed then joined the Death Riders in 1973 and his first show was in Odessa, Texas where he jumped cars, people, and did his wheelie show. Then Floyd Reed (the owner of the show) came to him and told him the guy that was supposed to set a new World’s Record Fire Tunnel had walked off and there was no one to do the stunt. Ed had not even seen this stunt other than a photo of it. 75 gallons of gasoline, 8 foot tall straw bale walls, and when it was set ablaze the flames were nearly 100 feet high! He had no fire suit just a pair of jeans, boot, gloves, jacket, and helmet without a face sheild. Before the stunt Ed covered himself with ice water from the cooler and soaked a bandana and put it over his face just leaving a small area to see from. When the fire was lit there was so such thing as a tunnel it was just a huge fire that was about 20 foot wide and over 100 foot long which was burning about 2000 degrees! BIG Ed made it thru the fire with a few burns and signed autographs for two hours after the show. He was well on his way to stardom and then the next weeks show he crashed hard in Lubbock, Texas and then came back after 4 weeks and did some more shows with the Death Riders.
In 1974 he was contacted by the drag strip promoter Monte Coldwell to come jump in Odessa, Texas where the thrill show was. Ed built some huge ramps and started practicing and found his speeds and everything was set for him to jump 15 Mazda’s the next day on March 17th, 1974. When he got to the track that late morning he noticed there were no cars there. The Mazda dealer had pulled them out – worried that he might land on them. Now there was a huge gap over nearly 100 feet it looked very dangerous but he vowed to continue. When he got his 360Yamaha MX bike warmed up he started doing some wheelies and then speed runs. Just as he set off to go the chain broke on the motorcycle and broke the cases on the engine. It was a mess. Beckley ran to his tool box and fixed it to where he could ride it and told everyone to get out of the way. No oil in the transmission as it all had leaked out from the huge crack, but it shifted and Ed headed towards the ramp at 74mph and rode up the take off and flew 156feet 2 inches on that jump breaking Knievels record!
Ed traveled all over the US and Canada going from place to place drag strips to circle tracks to County and State Fairs then he got a big break in 1984 when the late Bob George from SRO Promotions hired him to start jumping at their stadium shows for SRO Promotions. Huge crowds followed him to places like the SILVERDOME, SUPERDOME, LA COLISEUM, BC PLACE, METRO DOME, KING DOME, BUSCH STADIUM, THE SPECTRUM, 3 RIVERS STADIUM, and MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.
In MADISION SQUARE GARDEN Beckley had to start in the security man’s restroom to get speed enough to clear all the cars he was jumping. The New York media showed the appreciation for such a colorful man as all 3 networks were there for the local news and the NEW YORK POST did a page and half story on “BIG ED”. Big Ed was working on jumping from one World Trade Tower to the other after seeing the King Kong movie where the huge ape had did that in the movie. Needless to say it never happened as it got caught up in red tape and a new mayor did not like the idea of anything like that. Ed offered the City of New York ONE MILLION DOLLARS to fix the pot holes in their town if they let him attempt it. Pay for view TV was on the string and it was going to be the jump of all jumps but politicians got in the way.
“Big Ed” Beckley’s dedication and personality has brought him National attention on TV shows including NBC TV’s Real People, Fox TV’s World’s Greatest Stuntman, STUNT MASTERS and STUNTS GONE BAD along with several other highly acclaimed television shows.
Currently Ed has been working with Gene Sullivan with Jumping for Jesus. Gene was Evel Knievel’s body guard, set up man, and coach as well as a jumper himself. “Gene and his crew have been a big part of my successful return to jumping and I appreciate everything him and his team do to help me.” Check out Gene’s website http://www.jumpforjesus.net/
Big Ed’s new ride has more publicity because of it’s size and the return to jumping of Big Ed after all these years (he quit in 1994) and this huge 127 cubic inch 144hp ULTIMA EVO HARLEY which pushes 2,000cc’s was built by Curt Winter of BTR MOTO in Hayward, California. Beckley’s saw Curt’s work as the guy he needed to make this project happen and while he was getting the bike built he was pushing nearly 400 pounds. When he took the bike home he was having all sorts of health problems and then he got determined. ” I figured I was gonna kill myself by being so big with a heart attack so I started on a diet of my own and lost over 120 lbs and 6 inches off my waist.” Now under 300 pounds Beckley is in the best shape he has been in years. Beckley jests about his weight,”Finally I have a motorcycle that outweighs me that I am jumping because for years I always outweighed my bikes I was jumping now this motorcycle is 425 pounds of dynamite!”
At 63 years old, Beckley is billed as the “Worlds Largest Motorcycle Jumper”, yet even bigger is Beckley’s spirit and personality. Big Ed Beckley has always been a person of great drive, with a will to do whatever it takes to defy the gravity of the odds that surround him. He is the “Real Deal”.