Danger always surrounds motorcycles. Especially when sixteen feet of steel in the shape of a globe also surrounds the motorcycle. Make that eight motorcycles—going at speeds of up to 65 mph.
But for the Torres family, stars of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show, DRAGONS, zipping around the Globe of Steel is an everyday routine. Though they’ve been performing the act for 15 years, this is the first time they’ve attempted eight motorcycles. The death-defying feat is a world record for the five Torres brothers and three cousins (seven men, one woman).
In order to pull off the stunt and live to tell about it, the Torres’ use a system of whistle blowing and engine revs to cue each rider for his or her set pattern inside the globe. Aside from the obvious threat of collision, there’s also the risk of a bike chain snapping, a cable’s clutch breaking, and a bike choking.
The thrill and their passion for the sport, of course, outweigh the risks.
“We feel a rush of adrenaline mixed with the aroma of gasoline,” says Jose Angel. “And to be honest with you, there is no better feeling than just that.”
The few broken bones and bruises they’ve endured along the way, he says, “All come with the job.”
The Torres family hails from Paraguay, where they competed in motorcross events before discovering the sphere of steel that would become their livelihood. That epiphany came when the circus visited town and presented “El Globo de la Muerte”—the Globe of Death.
“We were already fascinated by the name,” Jose Angel recalls. “There were two bikes and they were awesome. The adrenaline, the speed, the maneuvers. We felt that we were part of the show already.”
They met the performing duo after the show, who invited them to give the globe a shot.
“We thought it was easy, but we realized it was not,” Jose Angel says. “It took us several months to just take off because the reaction of the bike is way different inside the globe. We had to learn how to shift, how to use the clutch, how to use the back and front brakes.”
Within a year they perfected the act and were invited to perform in various Latin circuses. Now, having taken the art to a new level with eight riders, they’re ready to push it even further.
“We will try nine and we would actually love to try it now!” Jose Angel says.
What’s one more motorcycle? And who’s the lucky member of the Torres family who gets to ride it?
© Marc Hartzman