It took several attempts to contact Evel Knievel--the most famous, if not the greatest stuntman in the world--but I finally reached him on the road, as he was traveling from his residence in Florida, to an unspecified destination in Texas. (The night before, while doing research, I learned he once hospitalized a writer--with a baseball bat--for printing what Evel felt were untruths. He also recently sued ESPN for referring to him as a pimp.) An icon and a godhead anomaly of the American motorcycle culture of the '70s, Evel, who tried to jump the Snake River Canyon, took on the Hell's Angels, and broken thirty-five bones, lays it out bluntly--to say the least.

EVEL KNIEVEL: If you've got some new questions to answer other than the same questions I've been asked a thousand times, let's do those.

THE MERCURY: Okay… How about I just ask you some questions and if you want to answer them, great. If not, then….

I'll do the best I can.

What's the first motorcycle you ever rode?

BSA Bantam 125.

What's your favorite motorcycle of all time?

A person shouldn't have a favorite. It depends on what you're doing with it. If I'm out trailriding, I have a favorite motorcycle. Riding on the road, I've got a favorite. If I'm jumping, I have a favorite, and if I'm racing, I have a favorite. The Triumph T-120 Bonneville is the motorcycle I would choose to jump, because it goes straight as a bullet. The Harley's got a little too much torque when it comes to jumping. That Harley Davidson had so much torque that when I'd get out 150 or 160 feet, it'd start to twist on me. It didn't go through the air like the Triumph did.

What do you think of helmet laws?

Well, I'll tell you somethin'. Myself, I like to ride a motorcycle without a helmet because I'm from the old school. I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair. I think some of these goddamn idiots that get on a motorcycle and don't know how to ride? Helmet laws are for their protection. They may not like it, but their stupidity proves that wearing a helmet, especially on a long ride, is best for everybody. The helmet law's a good law and that's all there is to it.

Which do you think is closer to being your true legacy: Extreme motorsports or freelance stuntmen like the crew from Jackass?

Well, they both are. I've been asked to do a TV reality show where I'd pick the greatest daredevil in the world. I'm giving it some serious thought, too. I don't know whether it'd be a wing-walker, an auto daredevil, a skydiver, a motorcycle jumper or what. I think these shows with the young kids doing these jumps, doing these fantastic back flips, I think they're absolutely great. They did what I never did. I think through education, belief in God, and good engineering, our children become a lot better at what they're doing than we did, and that starts with the very first sign of life on the face of this earth.

Was there a moment, at the height of your career when you looked around and thought "Damn! I'm Evel fucking Knievel. I can't be touched"?

Yeah. I thought I was bulletproof or Superman there for a while. I thought I'd never run out of nerve. Never. But you come to a point in your life when you can't pull the trigger anymore. I wish I didn't have to say that. I wish I could still pull the trigger and make that jump. You come to a point in your life when you really don't care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself.

You've been quoted as saying "I don't get scared. I'm Evel Knievel"…

Well if I did, I wouldn't tell anybody. Let's just say that I get concerned.

Fair enough.

Awfully concerned.