Roger Riddell of Martinsville, aka Mr. Backwards is Indiana’s own daredevil stuntrider who is one of a kind. Mr. Backwards got his start in the same era as Evel Knievel doing stunts but soon realized that there was no competing with the daredevil from Montana doing things the normal way. Like his nickname suggests, Roger Riddell’s fame is in his ability to do things backwards on motorcycles. His range of skills spans from backwards riding, jumps, tricks such as wheelstands or sitting on his handlebars and even hill climbs.
Doing stunts the normal fashion is hard enough, but the fact that Roger Riddell performed his stunts completely backwards and even mastered them is something incredibly noteworthy. In the 70’s he was the first and the only person in the world to do so. Even by today’s standards, stunt riders stick to doing things the normal fashion due to the difficulty and hardship of doing motorcycle stunts backwards, let alone master.
Not only was he an incredible daredevil, but he was also a champion hill climber. Not many sources mention that fact in today’s modern and incredibly sparse coverage of Mr. Backwards. During his years of being in hill climbing competitions, he had earned more than 400 trophies. It was noted in a few papers that he competed in the backwards fashion, which was also a source of amusement to many who have watched him do so- especially when he beat normal climbers.
In 1974, prior to his historic successful jump, Mr. Backwards was going to make a backwards jump over 5 or 6 cars on asphalt at the Speedrome, but during practice had injured his shoulder.
On Mother’s Day in 1975, Roger Riddell cleared his first successful backwards jump over two cars with resounding success at the Morgan County Fairgrounds. The following year in 1976, Mr. Backwards made the Guinness Book of World Records for jumping over 5 cars and made newspapers across the nation and even as far as Britain. Then, in May 1987 he broke that record by jumping 7 cars (60ft) in Franklin, Indiana.
Despite the fact that he was the sole backwards stunt rider of the era, breaking records and going on tour- even working with the same agent that had promoted Evel Knievel for a short while. However Roger Riddell wasn’t able to achieve the kind of fame that had come to the Montana daredevil. It didn’t matter that his stunts were of a higher caliber of difficulty, most spectators were more interested in seeing Mr. Backwards crash than appreciate his skill.
Between touring and trying to make a name for himself, Roger Riddell was a drywall contractor to cover his bills and support his family. He continued to make sporadic appearances at events through the 90’s and into the early 00’s. In 2001 Riddell cleared 62.5ft, breaking his last record of 60ft. After 2003, Mr. Backwards retired from jumping and in the same year was re-discovered by Ripley’s Believe It or Not (Season 4, episode 4, 404).
Today, Mr. Backwards hosts events, primarily hill climbs on his Martinsville property on hills that he had made himself over the years and whipping out a stunt or two, even at his current age of 73. Various members of the Riddell family also hold true to the backwards stunt riding legacy, occasionally performing said stunts at local events, though they favor doing the normal versions.