STEVE BUTLER may only be a little bloke but he has the biggest balls on the planet. You see, he’s just pulled off an improbable world-first stunt — piloting a Harley around inside the infamous Globe of Death. But talk to the nonchalant stunt rider and you get the feeling he sees it as all in a day’s work!
The stunt has been doing the rounds for decades, of course, but the bikes chosen for the feat have always been small and light, often two-strokes, and weighing at less than 100 kg.
Doing it on a Harley-Davidson Sportster weighing in at 260 kg is an entirely different kettle of fish.
When I asked Steve what he was thinking at the moment he was hanging upside down on the roof of the globe, his answer was characteristically laconic: “I wasn’t thinking so much as praying!”
Harleys are, by nature, a heavy road-going motorcycle more suited to cruising than stunting, but when Steve was offered the ride by Mildura’s Harley-Davidson dealer, Gavin Walker, he couldn’t resist.
Steve, 36, is uniquely qualified for the job. He’s been riding and racing motorcycles since he was four, graduating though the ranks of motocross until he took up speedway in his teens. Somewhere about his mid-teens he first rode the Globe of Death, and by 22 he was a full-time stunt man on bikes, in cars, and piloting monster trucks.
Now driving trucks for a living, Steve said when he ran into Gavin recently, the two got talking.
“Gavin often lent me a bike for jumps and other stunts I was performing,” Steve said, “so I knew him well, and while we were talking, the Globe of Death Harley attempt was discussed. I was keen and so was Gav, so we made it happen.”
Gavin talked to his contacts at Harley-Davidson Australia, and they too were enthusiastic about the idea.
Stuntman and former speedway sidecar legend, Clarry Jones, had a 4.2-metre globe that the pair reckoned would fit the bill and it was freely given with Clarry’s blessing. He loves a good stunt does our Clarry.
The globe was duly erected in the yard at Mildura’s Quick Fix Motorcycles, and then came a new, black Harley-Davidson Sportster 883, courtesy of Harley-Davidson Australia.
With that, the stage was set.
The initial signs were not promising. The first attempt, by rider Phillip Jones, son of Clarry, ended in a spectacular crash that resulted in injuries for Phillip and quite a few dings, scrapes and bends for the Harley.
The score was Globe 1, Harley 0.
A quick trip to the workshop sorted out the bike and attempt number two was soon under way.
This time the rider was Steve and it wasn’t long before his experience had him zooming around the inside of the globe, with a grin from ear-to-ear… or maybe it was a grimace. It was a tight fit.
While his experience on smaller bikes in the globe stood him in good stead, the Harley proved a very different beast.
“The first time we did not get the bike warm enough and it had a flat spot — not good,” Steve said. “The second time out it all went a lot more smoothly. Starting out is the hardest part. The globe is not big and looked a lot smaller once the bike was inside.”
While the Sportster may be the smallest of the Harley range, it is still a big, heavy bike in a confined environment.
“Once you get going it is okay, as long as you keep the momentum up… momentum was my friend,” Steve said.
Stopping also required some new learning. The larger bike once again proving to be very different from the smaller bikes Steve has used in the past, its size ensuring it sat much higher in the concave bottom of the globe.
“I needed longer legs,” he said, “but the ride ended without mishap and the globe had been conquered.”
Scoreline: Globe 1, Harley 1.
Steve was back in the globe for another successful go around a couple of days later to make sure he could repeat the feat and it wasn’t just a ‘one-off’.
Score: Globe 1, Harley 2!
article By Grant Maynard