Li Cobian

Forget what you think you know about daredevils. This metal-ramp-jumping motocross rider is 47 years old and afraid of heights.

photo by Sergio Goes

I’m an environmental chemist by training. I’m a flying nerd. I was always an Evel Knievel fan as a kid, but I’m not a daredevil—hell, no. I would never go skydiving. I don’t drive above 50 on the freeway.

I never jumped before I moved here from Los Angeles five years ago. People think we just get on our bikes and go, but there’s physics and math involved. Every time we set up, we take our measuring tapes. It’s physical, too—your breathing, your position, the speed. One little thing is off, and something can go wrong.

I’ve broken my ribs, my ankles. My wrists and arms have been busted so many times, they just come off and come back on. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Three years ago, I flipped over and landed on my neck. My helmet and my head sunk in so hard on my chest that I cracked my sternum. I was paralyzed from the neck down. It was scary. The next morning, everything just came back. I went riding the following weekend, because I wanted to erase that out of my mind.

If you look in my car, you’ll see a body board, a neck brace and crutches. If something happens, I just wrap it up and say, “Man, I can’t wait to get back out there again.”