An interview with Ulrich Klingenberg, professional stunt rider

5 December 2014

Words & Videos: Ulrich Klingenberg ǀ Photos: Various photographers

Sportbike freestyle stunt riding, more commonly known as stunt riding or stunting, is the art of performing tricks on a 190 kg motorcycle - that is not built to do this. Tricks range from acrobatic moves to wheelies, stoppies and burnouts, and require the rider to become one with their motorcycle while executing bike control to the highest level.

Stunt riding usually requires a flat asphalt surface; the bigger the better, although a cement or paved surface can also be used. This freestyle sport is all about expressing yourself and using your motorcycle to do this. It’s a sport that takes many years to acquire and hone the skills necessary to do the daring stunts that make it such a hit with spectators around the world.

DO IT NOW Magazine caught up with professional stunt rider Ulrich Klingenberg to find out more about this exciting, adrenalin-pumping sport and why he and his teammate, Yukon Stewart, love it so much.

How long have you both been stunt riding?

Yukon Stewart and I started riding motorcycles at a very young age, so we both grew up with a love for two wheels and the freedom that it brought to our lives, including a big adrenaline kick. I have been stunt riding seriously for two years now and Yukon for four. Part of the CMA Stunts team, we perform motorcycle stunt shows throughout the country at events, such as motorcycle rallies, car and motorcycle races, corporate events, shows, exhibitions and charity events.

How big is stunting in South Africa?

Stunting in South Africa is not that big at the moment, but it’s growing. There are approximately 20 to 25 known stunters – and this doesn’t include the self-proclaimed stunters that pop wheelies on the highways and things like that – who are registered with XDL South Africa, doing shows and helping to spread the word about stunt riding and growing the sport.

Are there any stunt competitions in South Africa?

Stunt competitions in South Africa are basically non-existent, although the competitions that have happened over the years have been organised by stunters for stunters. These competitions are more of a get-together-and-ride type of event, rather than an official competition. However, the good news is that this will all change when XDL South Africa starts with its official competition series in the next year or two.

How do our local stunters compare to those internationally?

Stunt riding is big in the USA, Europe and India. The riders are a lot better than our local riders due to the fact that there are so many international stunters that ride and practice together, as well as push each other to progress.

Big companies are also more involved in stunting overseas, with the top stunters receiving a lot of backing. As a result, there are plenty of guys and girls that are able to stunt for a living. Unfortunately, this is not the case in South Africa. I think the corporates in South Africa are hesitant to get behind stunting because they are not familiar with or don't have a good understanding of what stunting is all about and what a great marketing tool it can be for their company.

What impact will the launch of XDL South Africa have on stunting?

The newly formed XDL South Africa will be a huge plus for stunting in South Africa because it means that we stunters will get more exposure at big events. In addition, the introduction of a competition series, in the next year or two, will definitely help to promote and grow the sport.

Tell us a bit about XDL South Africa

XDL is in South Africa thanks to Gordon Stewart, who bought the rights to XDL South Africa, to promote stunt riding in SA. Yukon and I are both XDL South Africa registered athletes.

What is the XDL Championship Series?

The XDL Championship Series is the premier stunt riding championship in the world and attracts competitors from the US, Asia and Europe. No other stunt riding championship has been around as long as the XDL, which over the years has led to a large international following in countries such as India, Indonesia, Thailand, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, South Africa and many other countries.

Today, more than 65% of XDL fans are from countries outside the US, and it is only a matter of time before it spreads into the emerging markets of Asia; where 85% of all motorcycle in the world are sold.

Stunt riding is fast becoming one of the most powerful international action sports, and XDL is regarded as the leading competition brand. To put it simply, XDL is the F1 or NASCAR of stunt riding.

What happens at an XDL event?

A typical XDL event consists of a practice day followed by two event days. The main competition takes place on the one day and the second day is when the XDL Cup takes place and where the national championship is decided on. Riders have three two-minute runs to cover all the required elements and dazzle the judges and crowd. The XDL Cup is a judged competition. All riders must qualify, but only 15 transfer into the main event.

Other competitions run are the Circle Challenge, a head-to-head competition between riders to be the first to complete ten circle wheelie rotations. There's also the Wheelie Race, which is a race down the track and back in a wheelie, as well as the Drift Battle, where two riders drift their motorcycles in a head-to-head race around a set-out course.

What kind of bikes do you use?

The best motorcycle to use for stunt riding or learning to stunt ride on is the same bike that Yukon and I are currently riding; the Honda CBR 600 F4i. It is basically called ‘the tank’ of the stunting world because it’s a very rigid and strong motorcycle. From its frame through to the motor, this motorcycle can take a beating.

What kind of bikes do other stunters use?

In the USA and most of Europe, the majority of stunt riders prefer to use the Kawasaki ZX636 for stunting, due to the bike having a bit more power than the Honda F4i. Most of the stunters also change the frame from an aluminium factory frame to a specialised-built steel frame. This is mainly because the bikes take a lot of beating and the aluminium frame tends to crack and break. Other stunt riders also make use of all types and makes of motorcycles that range from Yamaha and Triumph to KTM. In the end though, it all comes down to personal preference.

Ulrich and Yukon doing side by side criss-cross wheelies.

Ulrich and Yukon doing some seat stander wheelies. Photo credit: Chantel Collocott

Ulrich and Yukon doing some synchronized high chair burnouts at Phakisa Freeway. Photo credit: Crystal Klingenberg

Ulrich and Yukon doing double up flamingo wheelies. Photo credit: Crystal Klingenberg

Yukon with a Stripper Endo at Phakisa Freeway. Photo credit: Crystal Klingenberg

How often do you need to maintain your bikes?

Due to the nature of the tricks and stunts we do, correct and regular bike maintenance is of paramount importance. As such, we service our bikes with fresh oil and oil filters almost every two months, change spark plugs once maybe twice a year, use reusable air filters and clean them regularly to keep the bike running fresh.

What kind of modifications do you make to your bikes and why?

The basic modifications we do on a standard motorcycle, to convert it to a stunt bike, is to fit a bigger rear sprocket that will increase the torque required to do wheelies. We also fit a crash cage that will protect the engine and frame from hard falls, as well as fit a hand brake that controls the rear brake when doing tank wheelies and tricks because you can’t control the foot brake. There are numerous other modifications, but these are the basics.

As professional stunt riders, are you sponsored by anyone?

We are really fortunate to have some fantastic sponsors - old and new - who support us and stunt riding in South Africa: Leatt, Shinko Tyres South Africa, Just Bike Tyre, Nexo Sports, Trickbitz, Bike Hospital, Gambin Engineering, XKulcha Extreme Lifestyle Apparel, AMTEC and Image Build.

Tell us about Street Jams and why they are so popular?

Linked to the XDL Series, a XDL Street Jam is the hottest motorcycle action sport demo to hit the country. Street Jams take place when XDL isn't running the competition series, and it's like a 'fake competition' show with two or three riders.

This 30-minute show is a hit with mainstream audiences because it is an amazing display of motorcycle skill and precision. The ability to control a motorcycle in extreme situations is something that resonates with audiences.

In addition, the flexible footprint and relatively small space requirements make the XDL Street Jam easy to fit into existing venues and events. As a result, it is proving to be an excellent promotional tool for event promoters as well, as we are able to put on amazing demonstrations, often involving TV personalities, in very small areas, with minimal preparation or time required.

More information
If you would like to find out more about XDL South Africa, please contact Gordon on or follow them on Facebook: XDL South Africa

To find out more about stunt riding, stunt shows and Ulrich and Yukon, email: / or follow them on Facebook: Ulrich Klingenberg Stunt Rider / Yukon Stewart Stunt Rider (Official), Instagram: @ulrich_369 / @yukes212 and Twitter: @ulrich_369 / @yukes212

Also in this issue

It’s a Thursday evening in the Murphy household. Nicholas and I have just...

Sportbike freestyle stunt riding, more commonly known as stunt riding or...

The small historical town of Barberton, bordering Swaziland, will once again...

Google Maps is usually the answer to any destination search, but this...

With Christmas just around the corner, are you still struggling to find the...

Just the name ‘Hobbit Trail Run’ conjures up ideas of mystical creatures in...

Supplements play a very important role in a marathon runner's performance...

Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like filling that special guy or gal in...

Being 'Pioneers of Greatness' and having a mission of touching people’s...

Welcome to the 5 December 2014 issue of DO IT NOW Magazine.

Here are some great international book titles, available from Exclusive...