You may not have seen a Wall of Death in person, but you have most likely at least seen pictures of one of the shows that are currently operating, like Rhett Rotten’s Wall of Death or the American Motor Drome’s Wall of Death. They are an interesting part of the motorcycle world and here is a brief history, including some early pictures and videos.
The origins are from US motorcycle boardtracks, called the motordromes, with their steep banked walls made of wood. The first known Wall of Death style of attraction was in 1911 and it was called the “Race for Life” at the Coney Island amusement park. By 1915 there were a number of silodromes, named because of the cylindrical silo shape, in traveling carnivals. Because of the danger, they quickly became commonly referred to as the “Wall of Death”.
Early on, there were a number of different brands of motorcycles used, but the most popular was the Indian Scout. Today, to give spectators the vintage style show, antique Scouts are still frequently used. Not only were and are motorcycles racing around in circles on the vertical walls, but also small four-wheel vehicles.
There has always been a good mix of men and women stunt riders, but one thing that you won’t see any longer riding on the Wall of Death are lions. Yes, as you can see in the video below, lions used to be part of the attraction. If you haven’t seen one of the shows, it is worthwhile to check out at the next motorcycle event that has a Wall of Death.