German World Champion Stunt Rider - Word: Christian Pfeiffer
Super Streetbike catches up with Germany's World Champion Stunt Rider Christian Pfeiffer to get the lowdown on his efforts to bridge the Euro/American stunt-riding divide
Although not a well-known name in America (yet), Christian Pfeiffer might be the most famous stunt rider in the world. Thanks to high-profile sponsorships with Ducati Motorcycles and Red Bull Energy Drink, Pfeiffer has performed before massive crowds in Europe and in locales as exotic as Saudi Arabia. Absolutely deserving of international attention--Pfeiffer was crowned the 2003 World Stunt Riding champion but lost the '04 championship to Portuguese stunter Humberto Ribeiro by just one point--he is generally considered the best stunt rider in the world, known for his over-center 1 o'clock wheelies and other physics-defying moves. Fortunately, we can expect to see more of this Madman from Munich in the near future as Ducati North America finally recognizes his unique talent and puts Pfeiffer in contact with American street freestyle enthusiasts, including an exhibition at this year's sold-out Laguna Seca MotoGP round.
Pfeiffer's performance at Laguna was every bit as awesome as the main MotoGP show, introducing American fans to his unique high-speed, high-energy style. To give our readers a greater insight into the mind of a world champion, Super Streetbike recently peppered Pfeiffer with questions regarding his freestyle history and his impressions of the American street freestyle scene. Read on to hear what he has to say about stunting a Ducati Monster, Matt Gorka's legendary 1000-foot stoppies and the possibility of a future American/European street freestyle showdown.
Super Streetbike: Tell us a little about yourself, where you're from and how you got involved in stunt riding.
Christian Pfeiffer: I live in Germany in the mountains outside of Munich. I am 34 years old, and I was the 2003 World Stunt Riding champion. Stunt riding is actually my third career on a motorcycle. First I was a trials rider, a junior champion trials rider, actually, and then I moved on to riding enduro [off-road] races. I still do some enduro riding, but I mainly concentrate on freestyle now.
SSB: How long have you been riding motorcycles?
CP: Since I was 5 years old. When I turned 10 years old, I started riding trials bikes. I started riding streetbikes just four years ago.
SSB: How long have you been doing freestyle riding?
CP: I've been doing freestyle on a trials bike for 10 years. I started freestyle on the Ducati just four years ago, as soon as I started riding streetbikes.
SSB: How did you get involved in freestyle riding?
CP: Trials competitions and enduro racing were not enough for me. I have always been creative, and I always wanted to start freestyling. I was always doing wheelies on the trials bike, and, even as a small boy with a bicycle, I could do wheelies as long as I wanted. In 1999 I had a very bad off-road crash, and my knee was damaged pretty good. I figured after it healed, and I finished rehab, I'd give big bikes a try. I had seen AC Farias and some other guys stunting big bikes, and this was my inspiration to move up to the Ducati Monster.
SSB: Did anyone teach you?
CP: No, not really. I would take camera shots of Jean-Pierre Goy, Farias and Simone and look at their style. But I was careful not to copy them too much; I wanted to create my own style.
SSB: Was there any rider who particularly inspired you?
CP: Definitely Farias, with his low-speed tricks.
SSB: How did you get involved with Ducati?
CP: The Ducati Monster has always been my dream machine. I've always loved it, and it was the first one I thought about when I started looking at big bikes, even though I was told, "No one rides stunts on a Monster; do you really think it is a good decision?" By coincidence, I came in contact with a Ducati marketing guy while traveling. I asked him flat-out if I could test the Monsters. He said yes and gave me a 600, 750 and 900 Monster to ride. They got a lot of feedback and were pleased with what I was doing, and we started working together. This year I have the Monster 1000 to ride. Ducati has been very good to me.
SSB: What is the relationship you have with Ducati?
CP: They are both a sponsor and a partner. Ducati puts on some really nice events every year, such as World Ducati Week, and I get to put on shows in front of all the Ducati enthusiasts around the world.
SSB: Do you have any other sponsors?
CP: Red Bull Energy Drink is my main sponsor. I also have Metzeler tires and Motorrad, a European magazine.
SSB: This is your first visit to the United States, right?
CP: This is my second time performing in the U.S.A. The first time was last summer at the AMA/Superbike races at Road Atlanta. It's great for me to be here and see everybody has noticed the difference in my riding style.
SSB: What do you think is the biggest difference in style between European and American stunters?
CP: European riders try to move the bike around; American riders move around on the bike. They are like break dancers on the bikes, and I enjoy watching it very much!
SSB: How familiar are you with the stunting scene in America?
CP: I keep touch with it on the Internet. I've bookmarked a lot of U.S. riders' websites on my computer. I know the website of Team XXXtreme. I really admire the long-distance stoppies of Matt Gorka. I was laughing about the "world record" of Craig Jones on the Buell because I knew there was a guy in America who could go a longer distance. I know Tony D, and I also know about Todd Colbert and, of course, the StarBoyz.
SSB: Have you ever competed against any American stunters?
CP: Only Tony D, who competed at the 2004 World Stunt Riding championships in England. That's it. Someone should organize a battle of the countries!
SSB: Have you seen any stunt videos from the U.S?
CP: I've seen Judgment Day, but not too many others, really.
SSB: Who do you think are the best stunt riders in America?
CP: I don't want to give you a name because I've never seen the riders perform in person. There is a big difference between watching a video and actually seeing it live. I can't say who does the best stoppies or the best wheelies without seeing them ride in person.
SSB: Do you have a large fan base in Europe?
CP: Yes, a very big one--especially in Italy because of my relationship with Ducati.
SSB: What kind of performances do you do in Europe?
CP: We go to races, like this weekend in Laguna Seca, sometimes. We go to exhibitions and contests. Stunt riding is growing up now in Europe. We are not just the side act anymore, we are the main act at most events.
SSB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
CP: I am very proud to be traveling all around the world putting on shows and competing. I was the very first extreme sportsman to perform in Saudi Arabia. They weren't letting anyone perform when I went there as a marketing manager for Red Bull. Suddenly out of nowhere my bikes arrived and I was able to put on some shows. That was really cool! I am proud to make an international career of this.
SSB: Do you have any tricks you call your own?
CP: I have the "Rocket Start" on my trials bike, where I shoot the trials bike into the air completely off the ground. On the streetbike I am best known for the "360 Ground" and the "Standstill Burnout." The 360 Ground begins with a 180-degree rear brake slide and then, with the clutch in, I turn another 180 degrees while rolling backward, then I let out the clutch and continue in the same direction as before. The Standstill Burnout is a standing burnout without moving forward and without my feet touching the ground. Usually I stand on the seat and use my right or left leg to keep balanced. I have been reading recently that they may be changing the name of that trick to the "Pfeiffer Burnout."
SSB: What are your future goals?
CP: I definitely want to continue to improve my skills, practicing more on the Monster to get to a higher level of skill. I've only been at it for four years, which isn't much compared to some of the guys I compete with. I am also very interested to battle with some American riders. It's not so important who wins, just to come together, have a good party, have a good show for the spectators. It would be cool to give out awards for the sickest trick, best stoppie and so on. We could do one round in Europe and one round in America. That would be fun.