After over 13 hours on his Yamaha Jog scooter, Japanese rider Masaru Abe smashed the world record for a continuous wheelie at the Kawaguchi Auto Race facility in Saitama, Japan. Abe never stopped once in setting the astonishing mark of 500.5322km, which obliterated the distance of 331.0195km set by motorcycle trials rider Yasuyuki Kudo in 1991, but fell short of his own 600km target. To put Abe's record into perspective, the daredevil tricks rider managed to keep his front wheel in the air for the same distance as it takes from London to Cologne or, Stateside, from New York to Pittsburgh.
Abe arrived for his attempt shortly after sunrise wearing flip flops, looking more like part of the location staff than the athlete. “I feel great!” he exclaimed. Bike shop owner and prop man Mr. Ishii played the role of mechanic and director, Abe finally lifting off with a wave of the Japanese national flag at 7:09am. Although the track was oval-shaped, Abe maintained a speed of 40kph through excellent body balance and throttle work for lap after lap (688.495m per lap) with 39.2km achieved after the first hour. Two hours in, though, Abe experienced lower back pain and had to down painkillers he had earmarked for six hours later with Ishii providing incredible support throughout the entire ordeal.
Former two-time 125cc world champion Haruchika Aoki arrived four hours in to lend Abe support. Aoki revealed, “I would never be able to perform wheelies with control on a weak 4-stroke 125cc scooter. This course is also known as being especially windy. The vehicles on the course can be engulfed in powerful wind. With the slopes on the track, I think just holding a wheelie is difficult enough.”
Abe, though, powered by practice runs of over 10 hours and a pre-race visit to see Kudo for motivation (which involved 22 hours straight driving) carried on bravely. Aged 33, the same as Kudo when he set his own record, Abe finally passed his compatriot’s mark at 3:28pm — eight hours, 18 minutes and 43 seconds in. He raised his left arm in victory and pointed to the sky to huge cheers from the assembled crowd. After 12 hours, Abe was crying out in pain and shouting, “It hurts! I hate this! I want to stop,” followed by words of encouragement to himself, “You got this, don’t stop!” The pain finally became too much over an hour later, Abe bringing his front wheel down at a breathtaking distance of 500.5322km to more than earn the name Wheelie King.
Abe explained, “If I didn’t go further than what I thought my own limit was, then someone else would. I thought if I was going to try and break the record, then I would have to post unattainable numbers that would leave people totally speechless. That was the most pain I’ve ever felt. Both of my arms were numb from the pain and I had lost feeling in them. My vision was blurred... I was only partially conscious. I was completely dehydrated. I’d never experienced that before.”