Pro stunt riding is a sport on the up. In recent years it has had a tremendous increase in popularity, and riding the crest of the wave is BMW Motorrad, thanks to the skills and achievements of stars like Chris Pfeiffer, whose worldwide antics on the F 800 have helped put the brand in front of a whole new audience. Over in the States however, BMW Motorrad USA has recently added Chris 'Teach' McNeil to its expanding team, and the American has proved a massive hit in his few months riding the F 800 middleweight sports twin.
For his role with BMW Motorrad USA, 'Teach' has a busy schedule, performing as many as four motorcycle shows a month all over America, wowing crowds with his impressive array of gravity-defying stunts. Even more impressive is that Teach keeps the machine as close to standard as possible.
"I have a great relationship with BMW Motorrad USA. I look at my job as helping to increase brand awareness and anything I can do to show that BMW Motorrad is a brand that can appeal to everyone is all the more positive," says Teach. "That's one of the reasons why I keep the bike as close to the original product as possible - to show just what these machines are capable of."
Barely a month after winning his first Stunt Wars title, Teach got to grips with the F 800 S. The American is delighted to have cemented his position at the pinnacle of the sport, having won the prestigious annual stunt riding competition, and he believes that teaming up with BMW Motorrad - already successful in stunt riding with Chris Pfeiffer - will improve his credentials further still.
"It's great to have finally won Stunt Wars," he says. "Four years ago - the first time I entered the competition - I embarrassed myself, not really doing myself justice. The following year I crashed, breaking several fingers, injuring my back and again not performing well. Then last year I had only had my bike a month so had very little time to practice. But in the 2008 competition everything just clicked into place."
He continues: "Riding the F 800 is a different experience to what I'm used to. It's a safer and more comfortable machine than anything I've ridden and the sheer power of the engine suits my riding style perfectly, which can only mean good things for the future."
For many motorcycling fans, stunt riding remains a bit of an enigma - great to watch but extremely difficult to master, which is why it will never enter the 'mainstream'. But the momentum is gaining and the hope is that the discipline, once practiced illegally on deserted streets or in empty car parks, could be seen in the same light as other extreme sports, such as skateboarding and BMX riding. Teach believes that stunt riding is at an exciting stage of development and that it is only a matter of time before it gets the recognition it deserves.
"I'm in no doubt that the future of the sport lies with the X Games," says the 30-year-old. "This year will be a big year for stunt riding and if we get the TV coverage we deserve, the future of the sport is bright."
If stunt riding does manage to break into the mainstream, McNeil is likely to become one of the heroes of the sport. Breaking down stereotypes, Teach is far removed from the traditional image of stunt riders portrayed by the media. A university graduate and a Latin teacher at a private school, Teach is just a normal motorcyclist who has found an outlet for his passion and considerable skill.
"I started stunt riding in 2001," he says. "I had a sport bike and was doing stunts on it, but then I got in touch with a stunt group on the internet and thought 'I could do that!' My progression into the sport was that simple and my involvement has increased gradually ever since. My personal ambition is to 'own' the stunt riding world and my goal is to have complete mastery of the sport. I don't have specific targets to aim for - I just want to win! I felt that Stunt Wars was a battle between me and Chris (Pfeiffer). I personally look up to him and I think he is one of the most talented guys out there. He, like me, aims for style and ultimate control, but on that occasion, I came out on top."
Regardless of where the sport leads to in the future, Teach is on a personal mission to be a master of his art, and with BMW Motorrad's F 800 S, he may just have found the perfect partner. "The power delivery on the machine is unbelievable. There's loads of torque so it's a really easy bike to ride. Out on the roads, I covered 300 miles in a weekend and found that the style and refinement really calmed me down! This is my first year with BMW and I've never really done anything like this before. It's great to be able to perform in front of as many people as possible and to have the support of BMW is fantastic."