Think of stunt motorcycling in the 80s and names like Evel Kneivel and Eddie Kidd spring instantly to mind, but, while his name may be less familiar, John Golly Goddard was an even more prolific stunt motorcyclist from the era.
Goddard, of Wilmslow in Cheshire, almost single-handedly rewrote the history books with a host of motorbike stunting world records in the 1980s. His impressive stunting CV includes:
- The double decker bus jump world record
- The truck jump world record
- The wall of fire world record
- The fastest long distance motorcycle jump world record
- The tunnel of fire world record
- The aerial wall of fire world record
- The riding backwards wall of fire world record
Fuelling a lifelong need for speed
Goddard’s need for speed developed at an early age. He raced go-carts when he was seven and just a year later he had his first motorcycle, an old Honda 90 stripped down for off-roading on a friend’s farm.
That led him naturally into a love of moto-cross and he rose from junior to senior competition before graduating to international level.
At the same time he was serving a mechanical apprenticeship and obtained a teaching diploma in general technology.
But his prowess on two wheels was quickly appreciated and at the age of 21 he became professional stunt motorcyclist joining the Magnificent 7 – a stunting team of ex-army personnel – and later Moto Stunts International who toured the UK, Europe and the Far East.
Goddard explained: “After joining the team I got a true insight into the world of records and record breaking motorcycle stunt riding.
“As well as stunts we used to do a lot of publicity work for road safety but after a few tours with the team, at the age of 23, I fancied making my first world record attempt.”
Stunt motorcyclist launched into the record books
After much preparation, the odd spill and a lot of fine-tuning he decided to go for the double decker bus jump world record.
“I reckon 90% of my riding time was behind closed doors, in practice sessions with just 10% observed by general fans. Coming up to a world record I practiced even more. I practiced at every opportunity and aimed to peak on the day of the record attempt” he explained.
The hard work paid off because in July 1982 Goddard successfully cleared 16 double decker buses in front of 14,000 spectators at Chester Racecourse.
This launched Goddard the stunt motorcyclist into the record books. The new record eclipsed the distance jumped by his great rivals Evel Kneivel, who failed to clear 13 buses at Wembley Stadium, and Eddie Kidd, who had previously jumped over 14 buses.
However, Goddard exceeded his own distance when he set his truck jump record clearing the equivalent of 21 double deckers, a feat that he regards as probably his “greatest high speed world record”.
Among the world records were other crazy though equally risky stunts, such as the occasion he flew higher than an aeroplane – he jumped over one on the runway of an airfield.
Goddard proud of his world records
He is rightly proud of all the world records he has held but other stand-out memories include the fastest motorcycle long jump world record and his record-breaking take-off speed in excess of 112 miles an hour achieved on a full works Kawasaki with road race gearing, “the best machine I’ve ever ridden”.
The Kawasaki propelled Goddard 50 miles an hour faster than the top jump-speed previously reached by Kneivel.
As various records were set and bettered, the adversaries held a mutual admiration for each other and Goddard got to know Kneivel’s family. “After breaking another one of his records Evel requested my autograph, which I considered praise indeed” Goddard explained.
Kneivel wasn’t his only legendary follower. “The most famous guest to attend one of my shows was the great Johnny Cash.
“When I met him after the show he told me ‘it would be a pleasure to get drunk with you’. I said ‘great, but not when I’m riding anytime soon’.”
The stunt motorcyclist’s reputation grew and so did the crowds who were drawn to see his death-defying feats. The biggest crowd, an estimated 35,000 people, turned up to Santa Pod Raceway to see him set the world record by riding through a 300ft tunnel of fire – the stunt was dubbed “on the edge of death”. Now he definitely was the hottest property in stunt motorcycling of the 80s.
‘Stunting too dangerous for my children!’
What drove the great man on? “I’ve always believed in setting my own standards and goals, not based upon the achievements of others before me, but my own targets.”
Goddard has four children, Jake, Steph, Matt and Nikki, but none were tempted into the world of stunting.
“My wife, Julie, and I would take the kids to all the motorcycle stunt shows but I’ve never pushed the stunt world upon them. It’s far too dangerous,” he explained.
Advice for up and coming stunt riders
“Having joined the AMCA (Amateur Motorcycle Association) as a young teenager and having quite a few seasons competing until rising to international standard, I would highly recommend a few solid seasons of motocross riding under.
“Competing with such a mass of soon-to-be-friends will leave budding riders in the best possible stead.
“The years riding with the most famous stunt teams in the world, the Magnificent 7 and Moto Stunts International., I have indeed been blessed with the best possible two-wheeled education.
“I owe a lot to the Magnificent 7 who were originally by a group of ex-military Royal Artillery riders, and I fully support Moto Stunts International, led by my life-long friend Tony Bailey, to this day!
“Ride Safe Guys! I have always supported road safety campaigns, encouraging riders to be aware and be safe wherever you may be enjoying the freedom of the road on two wheels.”