Sixty-eight. That’s the number of bones Jesse Toler has broken in his life.
A Guinness World Records-holding competitive motor bike freestyle stunt rider, Toler is considered a pioneer of the decade-old competitive sport. He has performed in front of 70,000 fans in Europe. He has won countless trophies. He was even a stunt driver for “The Fast and the Furious.”
However, despite these accolades, the Lutz native knows the number of bones he has broken will be first question fans will want to ask when he returns to Tampa Bay to perform stunts at Full Throttle Magazine’s 17th anniversary party. The event takes place from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Quaker Steak and Lube, 10400 49th St. in Pinellas Park.
“It seems to be the popular question,” Toler said with a chuckle. “I’ve been asked so many times I took the time a while back to think back and count them all.”
He doesn’t, though, clearly remember his first bike-incurred accident. He was just 3 years old, after all, but he said his parents remember it well and often bring it up. He tried to jump his tricycle off his porch but instead fell face first into a cinderblock, smashing his nose.
“Well, my parents don’t know if I was trying to jump as a stunt or if I just fell,” Toler admitted. “I’d like to stick with the story that I tried to jump off it.”
Such a traumatic experience would keep most 3-year-olds off a bike for the immediate future. Not Toler. His parents also remind him he was back at it soon after.
It takes that type of fearlessness to succeed in his industry. Competitive motor bike freestyle stunt competitions are akin to gymnastic floor exercises – if the gymnast is moving at roller coaster speed.
Each competitor has three, two-minute motor bike runs to wow the judges and fans. They do not have the use of ramps or other such props – it is only the rider and his or her motor bike. To win, it takes ingenuity and a devil-may-care attitude. They ride at excessive speeds while standing on their seats, sitting backward, or on one wheel.
They wear protective gear, but helmets and pads can only provide so much protection when the rider crashes at such speeds. Fear of pain is not an option.
“Road rash is impossible to avoid,” said Toler.
“It’s not that I’m immune and don’t feel pain. It’s just part of the job. I look at broken bones as providing me with a forced vacation. Well, sometimes.”
That “sometimes” was perhaps a reference to the banged up state of his body during the two-day stretch in which he earned the title of Guinness World Records holder.
It took place at the Z-Max Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., in October 2012. The stunt he performed is officially called a “stoppie,” but most would know it as a front wheelie. He had already unofficially broken the records for the world’s longest and fastest stoppie, but unless Guinness World Records is available to document the feat it cannot be considered official.
He had shattered both his wrists just months earlier and, though they were healed, they hurt so badly that his riding time had to be kept to a minimum.
“If he rode for too long, his range of motion became limited,” said Brian Bourke, Toler’s videographer who filmed the record-breaking rides. “To this day they actually hurt him.”
Postponing the attempts was not an option. Guinness World Records, said Bourke, is a business. It costs money to get to get an official to document a record-breaking attempt; refunds are not provided because of injuries.
Toler blocked the pain, revved up his motor bike, and rode his way into the record books, broken bones and all.
On Oct. 5, 2012, he balanced on his front motor bike wheel for 1,320.3 feet for the world’s longest stoppie. The following day he cruised the racing strip on his front wheel at a blinding speed of 150 mph.
“It was cool,” said Toler. “I felt like Super-Man.”
“I don’t think anyone is breaking those records soon,” said Bourke. “There are maybe two other guys in the world with the skill to do it, but I don’t see it happening.”
Toler is far from done breaking records. He hopes to pursue more in the coming year, though he remains mute on what they could be. He is also at the forefront to have the sport turned into a competitive X-Games event; it is currently a “demonstration” sport only.
“Jesse is a true pioneer of his sport,” said Bourke. “He was one of the first to compete and he has been one of the first to perform a lot of stunts.”