Station: [18] Günther Bossert – Motorcycle Stunt Rider

“What are you planning to do, Günther?”

“A death-defying somersault on my motorbike!”

“How exactly?”

“Quite simply, Bernhard – on a tightrope!”

He was always odd and seen as something of maverick: Günther Bossert, a master mechanic who specialised in bicycles and motorbikes. But you could always expect him to surprise you.

As a hobbyist and tinkerer, he spent many hours in his workshop. There, he developed a tightrope act on his motorbike, an NSU Fox. But he also enjoyed staying earthbound and speeding through Eppingen with a camera fixed to the handlebars.

He scored his first success back in 1952. With his school friend Bernhard Filsinger as base mate, he performed a motorcycle somersault on a tightrope. But Günther Bossert aimed even higher! Just a year later, at a motor sport meeting in Flehingen, he caused a sensation with a stunning world first: a motorcycle flip with a base man.

But others won the laurels he’d earned.

Even in those days, the “Traber Troupe” of acrobats was famous. At an earlier meeting, the family of artistes had derided Günther Bossert as an amateur and dismissed his plan as impossible. But then, they had the nerve to copy his salto mortale and perform it in public. A month after the meeting, the Traber family presented the somersault stunt developed by Günther Bossert as their own world first on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. The Trabers even broke the law by claiming to be the originators. Bossert protested. To avoid a court case, the troupe paid him a thousand marks in compensation.

But the ingenious master mechanic did achieve belated recognition. In 1961, his “salto mortale without base man” was documented in a TV programme entitled “Global Sensation in a Small Town”. Günther Bossert became a star – but he never made a cent from his stunt.

The motto in his workshop was “If you have nothing to do, please don’t do it here”, in other words, “don’t keep me from my work”. But the amount of work coming in continued to dwindle.

Soon, Günther Bossert was forced to look outside his bicycle and sewing machine workshop and take on work as a projectionist at the cinema and as a driver for the Red Cross.

Quite incidentally, he fulfilled a childhood dream by setting up a “personally designed” Wild West village called Ponderosa on the outskirts of Eppingen. Lorne Greene, who had starred in the TV show “Bonanza”, even came to the opening. Bossert also regularly performed his motorcycle stunts in the village.

His house, an old timber-frame building from the 15th century, still stands in Kirchgasse. Bossert lived there until 1996.

Günther Bossert died in 2001, just a few days before his 74th birthday.

All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen