Anyone who follows Robbie Maddison’s tremendous career on two wheels already knows the guy walks on water. And rides on it too, most famously when he surfed a giant wave on Tahiti’s legendary Teahupo’o reef break aboard a KTM 250SX. For his most recent challenge, Robbie broke another world record by riding an updated water bike across the choppy Bosporus Strait, which separates Turkey from Bulgaria, to become the first person to travel on a motorcycle from the European continent to the Asian continent.
It was a short trip, just 90 seconds to reach Beylerbeyi in Asia at a speed of about 44 mph. He then crossed back, landing in Ortaköy on the Europe side about 1 minute and a half after departure. The stunt was sponsored by ice cream brand, Algida, to promote its Big Bold ice cream bar (in case you’re wondering why Robbie sticks a frozen treat down his MX pants just before departing Asia, then eats it for a snack in Europe a couple minutes later). He says the bar’s “Big or Nothing” motto aligns perfectly with his lifestyle.
While Robbie has been refining the art of water bike riding for nearly a decade, and has accomplished some mind-blowing aquatic feats, including riding on water continuously for 19.8 miles, he says crossing the Bosporus Strait was one of the most difficult stunts he’s endeavored. Connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus is one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, so it’s super choppy and deep — 300 feet deep at Robbie’s point of crossing.
The ice cream giant managed to have the channel’s maritime traffic halted, but only for a predetermined 15 minutes, putting a lot of pressure on Robbie and the film crew. They had only that one chance, and if anything went wrong, which it definitely does on these water rides, both the bike and the opportunity would sink to the bottom of the Strait.
“You need to pin it,” Robbie told a fan on Instagram, “but just the right amount. If you capsize, you sink.” Watching the crossing it’s clear that being a champion X-gamer and MX racer also contributes to success.
The bike, a specially modified KTM 250SX two-stroke, is also the product of fine tuning. It incorporates two skis that are adjustable for angle. The back ski extends rearward similarly to a snow bike’s track system, only Robbie prefers a paddle tire for propulsion. Each ski frames a wheel, making the bike amphibious, while Fox mountain bike shocks add dampening between the bike and skis.
Robbie and his crew were tuning the KTM’s setup for almost a year ahead of the Bosporus crossing, knowing there would be zero time for practice onsite. The trail runs and rehearsals for drone tracking were held on San Diego’s Mission Bay, near Temecula were the Aussie lives with his wife and three adventure-prone boys.
Of all of the Red Bull rider’s extraordinary achievements, from doubling as Daniel Craig’s James Bond for those incredible rooftop chase scenes in Skyfall, to the jumps across the Corinth Canal in Greece and London’s Tower Bridge, where he threw in a back flip for good measure, one stunt stands out as a fan favorite. That New Year’s Eve in 2007 when on live TV Robbie mounted a Yamaha YZ 250 and launched it 96 feet straight up the front of the Paris Las Vegas Arc de Triomphe replica, to land lightly on top. But the real cringer comes watching his gnarly 80-foot free fall back down to the ramp.
Robbie has long maintained he does these wild things to inspire others to step outside their comfort zones. “You have to face your fears to live your dreams,” he says in the Algida commercial. “I hope by doing this I can encourage others to step outside their comfort zones and push their limits and see what they’re capable of pulling off.”
Oh, “and eat an ice cream” he suggests at the end. Now that, we can do.