40 Most Famous Motorcyclists Past and Present

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In 1885, the first motorcycle was created. They have enjoyed increasing popularity with each generation.  There are a few people who inspire a passion for motorcycles among those in that generation.

Who are the most well-known motorcycle riders?  These are the top five most well-known motorcycle riders:

  • Steve McQueen – Triumph TR6
  • Robert Craig Knievel “Evel Knievel” – Harley Davidson XR750
  • James Dean – Triumph Trophy 500
  • Ed Roth – Asphalt Angel Trike
  • Jay Leno – Worlds Largest Collection of Brough Superiors

It is nearly impossible to just pick out who the top 5 most famous motorcycle riders are, so we’re going to discuss the top 40 individuals.  These are all the people who have contributed to shaping motorcycle culture around the world for many years.

The full list of famous riders that we’ll discuss in more detail is as follows:

  • Steve McQueen
  • Robert Craig Knievel “Evel Knievel”
  • James Dean
  • Ed Roth
  • Jay Leno
  • Von Dutch
  • Indian Larry
  • Ewan McGregor
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Richard Hammond
  • P!nk
  • Brad Pitt
  • Tom Cruise
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Bob Dylan
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Hunter S. Thompson
  • Charles Lindhberg
  • Buddy Holly
  • Carl Fogarty
  • Nick Sanders
  • Queen Latifah
  • Ryan Gosling
  • David Beckham
  • Bradley Cooper
  • John Travolta
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Gerard Butler
  • Clark Gable
  • Marlon Brando
  • T.E. Lawrence
  • Stephen King
  • Kid Rock
  • Charlie Hunnam
  • Daniel Craig
  • Jason Momoa
  • Chris Pine
  • Tim Allen
  • Burt Munro

These are just a handful of the iconic motorcycle riders that have influenced our love for motorcycles over time.  Continue reading to learn more about each of these legendary motorcycle riders.

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen’s first motorcycle was an american classic, a 1946 Indian Chief.  After his acting career blossomed in the mid 50’s he quickly became the highest paid actor in Hollywood.  He starred in such big hits as “Bullitt”, “The Great Escape”, “Le Mans”And “The Magnificent Seven”.

McQueen included his passion for motorsports into as many of his films as he could.  McQueen began offroad motorcycle racing in the early 60’s and became a skilled rider.  His movie contracts didn’t allow him to race in case he was injured during filming season se he raced under a different name, Harvey Mushman.

McQueen was one of the US teams for the International Six Days Trial, Germany 1964.  The ISDT is one among the most challenging motorcycle races on the planet. Each teammate must cycle 200 miles each day.  McQueen was doing well, when a spectator smashed him on a stretch of fast riding and sent him crashing face-first into a rock.  Mcqueen was not there for the race. However, Mcqueen’s three teammates won medals at the event.

McQueen’s other little-known fact is that he wrote motorcycle articles. Popular Science in the 60’s.  He was instrumental in changing the scene of motorcycle riding from being a rough and tumble community to one that is more accessible to everyone.

McQueen owned more than 100 motorcycles at the end of his lifetime.  McQueen, who was just 50 years old, lost his battle with lung cancer. However, he left an indelible mark on the motorcycle community.

Robert Craig Knievel “Evel Knievel”

Evel Knievel, the greatest motorcycle stuntman to have ever lived, is well-known all over the globe.  Knievel was born in Montana, and competed in ski events. Knievel was fired from his first job after he did stunts with heavy equipment and accidentally cut off power to the entire community.

Knievel crashed his bike during a late-night police chase through Butte in Montana. He was then taken into custody with a man named “Kid” “Awful Knofel”Evil Knievel was his nickname by the guards.  He didn’t want to be known as a bad person, so he changed the spelling to Evel instead of Evil.

Kneivel began to do stunt riding in order support his family.  He began organizing stunt shows, and he started jumping over cages containing rattlesnakes.  He continued to make more dangerous jumps and suffered many broken bones.

At the age of 29 Kneivel attempted to jump the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  

He crashed during his practice jump and was taken to the hospital for a long time.  ABC purchased the footage of his failed jump, and he was made a national celebrity by ABC for his daredevil act.

His fans loved him, and he instilled a daredevil spirit in all who saw him.  He attempted 75 jumps, and landed the majority.

James Dean

James Dean, who died at 24 years old, left an indelible mark on the motorcycle community that will last a lifetime. James was raised in Indiana, and was known as “James Dean”. “One Speed Dean” His reckless driving around the city.  

His first motorcycle, a Czech 1.5 horsepower Czech that he called “the” “The Popcycle” Because it would backfire so badly.  He would eventually own a Royal Engfield 500 motorcycle, an Indian 500 motorcycle, several Harley Davidsons, and a Norton 500.

His last motorcycle purchase was a Triumph Trophy500.  Many of his motorcycles remain in the family of Dean to this day.  

Dean only ever starred in three large movies but made a huge impact on pop culture of the 50’s.  After watching one of his movies, Dean began to race cars and bought a Triumph Tiger T110 for himself and a Porsche 356 for him.  He won 1st in the novice race and 2nd in the main event in his first professional race.

When someone in oncoming traffic made a left turn in front of Dean, he was struck and killed.  Dean didn’t have enough time to stop, and he suffered a fractured neck.

Ed Roth

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth became famous in the 50’s and 60’s in southern California and was best known for his hot rod character of Rat Fink which he created.  He was born in 1934 and has been building and tinkering since childhood.

Roth started building wild hot rod cars, custom motorcycles, and was featured in dozens of magazines. He also cofounded the Kustom Kulture business.  The Revell toy company even manufactured scale models of all his motorcycles and hot rods to sell as children’s toys.

Ed began hosting parties at his motorcycle shop when he was 20 years old and became involved in many local motorcycle clubs.  He became deeply involved with Hell’s Angels and in his later years admitted to doing many things he was horribly ashamed of.

He joined a Christian church in his late years and moved to Utah to live a simpler lifestyle.  He completed custom builds until his passing.

The Henry Ford Auto Museum in Detroit houses several of Ed’s most wild builds, and there is a Rat Fink Reunion held in Manti, Utah every year in June to commemorate his work.

Jay Leno

Jay Leno was a lifelong motorcycle and car enthusiast. He started a new show, “The Jay Leno Show,” after he retired from his late-night talk show. “Jay Leno’s Garage”.  Each week, he showcases wild and beautiful bikes and cars.

Jay has a large collection of autos, including two- and four-wheelers. He can often be seen driving around Burbank in these rare and costly vehicles.  Leno owns 117 motorcycles, ranging from Harleys and Indians from the early 1900’s all the way up to modern superbikes.

His private collection of motorcycles is one of the most extensive in America and continues to grow each year.  Many consider him to be the father of modern superbikes.  

He recalls paying $5,000 for his first Brough and now they’re all worth over $500,000 each.  Leno’s first motorcycle was a cheap 350cc Honda that he used to commute in college. A 1922 Megola equipped with a 5 cylinder Radial Engine and front-wheel drive is his most rare bike.

He also owns one of the world’s fastest motorcycles, a 375 horsepower frankenstein that was made from a helicopter engine. 

Von Dutch

Born in 1929 in Los Angeles, Kendrick Robert Howard is now a professional.  Kenny began his career as a letter writer and pinstriper when he turned 10.  

His father, who was a California pinstriping company owner, gave him a gift for pinstriping.  Along with Ed Roth, Kenny was also co-owners of Kustom Kulture. Many decades ago, automotive magazines featured Dutch bikes and cars.

Kenny was also well-known for creating custom knives, guns and other tools.  His hands were extremely skilled. Kenny “Von Dutch” It is still regarded as one of most straight pin-stripers anywhere in the world.  He drew two parallel lines that ran perfectly along the sides of a 1979 Pontiac Firebird. They were so straight, people thought he was cheating.

Indian Larry

Lawrence Desmedt was born in New York in 1949. He became known as Indian Larry while riding a chop Indian motorcycle in 1980.  Indian Larry, a motorcycle builder and performer at motorcycle rallies, was not well-known until his last years.

Larry’s scoptmaster raced Inidan motorcycles when he was young. This had a significant impact on his life.  Larry’s first build was adding a lawn mower engine to his sister’s tricycle. Larry was more enthusiastic than his sister.

His first motorcycle was a 1939 Harley Knucklehead.  He took it apart and rebuilt it the following year.  

A month before he was to graduate from high school, he left home and joined his sister in California to be part of the 1960’s outcast crowd.  His sister was killed, and he spiraled into drug dependency.

After robbing a bank, he was shot by police. He spent many years in prison.  After receiving his GED, he vowed to become a master mechanic and welder. After prison, Larry moved back to New York and got involved in the growing chopper scene of the 80’s, and was featured on several magazine covers.

Larry died in North Carolina at the age of 55, while performing stunt motorcycle riding.  His motorcycles and rough-and-tumble lifestyle have gained immense popularity since his death.

Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor started riding motorcycles as a child and has collected quite a few motorcycles throughout the years.  Ewan McGregor even owns one the most famous Indian Larry motorcycles.

While filming movies he’s not allowed to ride motorcycles for insurance purposes, but while directing films that same rule does not apply.  He does all the mechanic work on his own motorcycles. That’s part of the joy of owning them.

McGregor accomplished something many of us could only dream about: circumnavigating the globe on a motorcycle.  His friend Charley Boorman and McGregor made a documentary called “Long Way Round” They rode their BMW motorcycles around the globe.

McGregor is now an advertiser for Moto Guzzi.  For his work, they trade McGregor new motorcycles! He has four Moto Guzzi motorcycles, including his favourite, the V7.

While traveling 100 mph, he once crashed a Ducati 748 at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit near London.  He was able to walk away with minor injuries and is now a spectator at the track.

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is a motorcycle rider who has owned a lot of bikes over the past 30 years.  He has ridden motorcycles in many of his films, including The John Wick Trilogy.

Reeves’ business is called ARCH Motorcycles and is based in Los Angeles.  Each motorcycle costs approximately $80,000 to build.

Reeves has a number of classic Nortons, a 1974 BMW 750 and a Harley Shovelhead as well as a Moto Guzzi racebike.  

Reeves and Gard Hollinger started ARCH Motorcycles in 2007 with custom builder Gard.  They built their first motorcycle from scratch, a Harley Davidson that was heavily modified.

Their website lists 3 models at the moment: the KRGT-1 model, the 1s and the Method 143.

Richard Hammond

Richard Hammond was 16 years old when he bought his first motorcycle, a Honda MTX50.  He purchased several small dirt bikes later and crashed most.

Richard Hammond was a star of the BBC’s hit television program. “Top Gear”.  If you haven’t seen it then you have a lot of catching up to do. He is now the star of the show. “The Grand Tour” Amazon  

Hammond has long been mocked by his co-stars on both shows for always riding motorcycles when he’s the star of a car show.  One episode of “The Simpsons” allowed Hammond to ride a motorcycle through Mozambique. “The Grand Tour” It’s well worth it.

Hammond has owned dozens of motorcycles over the years including; a 1999 Bimota SB8R, 1976 Kawasaki Z900, over 20 classic Ducati’s, a 2010 Norton Commando, a vintage Brough Superior SS100 (probably the most valuable of his motorcycle collection), a pre-WW2 BMW, a 1927 Sunbeam Model 2, 1950 BMW R51, a 1959 Norton Dominator, Moto Guzzi Lemans MK1, BMW K100RS, along with many others.

P!nk

Alecia Beth Moore’s musician name P!nk is what makes her more well-known.  She’s known for her powerful vocals and wild hair-dos. P!nk, who has been riding motorcycles since childhood, stated that she prefers Triumphs over Harleys or Indians.

P!nk has been married to Carey Hart, motocross champ.  Both P!nk and Carey Hart post pictures of their bikes all the times on Instagram. Follow them to see their gorgeous motorcycles.

Their purchase of a motorcycle for their 2-year-old son to learn on was criticized by the public several years back.  There will always be something to complain about. P!nk and Carey, great job teaching your children skills that they’ll use their whole life.  

Carey was competing at motocross in the X Games 2001 when Carey met Pink.  Pink rides an Indian Scout her husband built, but they also own many other motorcycles.

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has been a star in Hollywood for many years and can be often seen riding around L.A. with different motorcycles from his collection.  Since he was a child, he has been riding motorcycles and cars since childhood.

Here’s a list of some of the bikes Brad has been riding in recent years.  

  • BMW R1150GS Adventure
  • Triumph Bonneville
  • Royal Enfield Bullet 500
  • Ducati Desmosedici RR
  • Yamaha R1
  • Ducati 696
  • Ducati S4R
  • Husqvarna Nuda 900R
  • MV Agusta Brutale
  • Jesse Rooke KTM
  • Indian Larry Chopper
  • Zero Engineering Type 9
  • Rooke 140 CFL
  • Ecosse Titanium Series XX
  • Shinya Kimura Custom

Whenever he doesn’t to pack one of his children around you can bet that he’ll be out on one of awesome motorcycles.  One of his most rare pieces is an Indian Larry chopper, several Jesse Roke custom bikes and, perhaps, the Ecosse Ti Titanium Series XX.

Tom Cruise

Cruise owns a large collection of motorcycles and cars over the years. He also enjoys racing off-screen.  Cruise has owned many motorcycles over the years.

  • Vyrus 987 C3 3V
  • Kawasaki GPZ 900R
  • Ducati 999R
  • BMW S1000 RR
  • Confederate Hellcat
  • Honda CRF450X
  • BMW R Ninet T Scrambler
  • Ducati Desmosedici RR
  • Triumph Speed Triple
  • Triumph Bonneville Scrambler
  • Ducati Hypermotard
  • Honda Valkyrie Rune
  • Triumph Thruxton Custom

A lot of these motorcycles you’ve probably seen on-screen in some of his movies, others are just part of his private collection.  His most well-known motorcycle on screen is the Kawasaki GPZ 900R. It’s the bike that he rode down the runway on the movie’s set. “Top Gun”.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina started riding motorcycles shortly before she began dating Brad Pitt in 2005.  She has many roles onscreen thanks to her love for motorcycles, including “Tomb Raider” And “Salt”.

Angelina has owned many motorcycles in her life and is often seen riding alongside or next to her ex-husband Pitt.  She has owned several motorcycles, including:

  • Triumph Street Triple R
  • BMW Motorrad Enduro
  • Indian Scout
  • CCM 604
  • Yamaha TRX 850
  • Ducati Monster
  • Ducati 999

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold owned many motorcycles throughout his life and was frequently seen riding around Los Angeles on his bikes.  Although Arnold is still getting a little older and doesn’t ride much any more he stills owns several motorcycles.

Arnold rode a lot during his youth, but he preferred the bigger Harley Davidson models.  Big guys need big bikes!

Arnold rode his bicycle across California while he was governor.  He saw it as an opportunity for him to be seen by people. He wore half-helmets to make people recognize him.

Arnold also rode Harleys during Terminator movies, and many of them have fetch top dollar at auctions because they are so well-known.  

Arnold, a father and son, was in a motorcycle crash in 2006. He was heavily criticized for not possessing a valid motorcycle license.  The motorcycle was a Harley with a sidecar and in California you only need a regular driver’s license to operate a motorcycle with a sidecar. So technically he wasn’t driving illegally.  A car pulled out in front of him and he didn’t have time to hit the brakes. Both he and his son sustained minor injuries.

Ryan Reynolds

Ryan can be seen most often riding Triumphs. But his favorite Triumph, a 1964 Triumph 650 built by Kott Motorcycles, is where he is most frequently found.  It’s a beautiful machine, go check out pictures of it online. 

Bob Dylan

Dylan was a regular rider of his 1964 Triumph Tiger.  He was involved in a horrific accident in 1966 and didn’t perform for years afterwards. Think of all the songs we could have had if he hadn’t have had his misfortune.

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood loves America and is an American by nature.  However, he prefers British engineering over American. He has owned many Norton and Triumph motorcycles over the years and is said to still have quite a few in his collection, although he doesn’t ride much any more.

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter is most famous for his BSA Lightning Rocket, in which he rode around with the Hell’s Angels for years, studying the group and later reporting on them.  You should check out his fascinating story if you have time.

Charles Lindhberg

Lindhberg purchased his first motorcycle at the age of 18 years.  It was a 1920 Excelsior which is extremely rare these days. Lindhberg is known for many things. He rode his Excelsior from Chicago into Louisville in just 24 hours.  This was in 1921!

Buddy Holly

Buddy’s favorite motorcycle was a 1958 Ariel Cyclone and he was often spotted riding around on it.  After being kept by the Holly family, the motorcycle was gifted to Waylon Jennings in 1979.  In 2004, the motorcycle was put up for sale and sold for nearly $500,000.

Carl Fogarty

Carl Fogarty is a legendary motorcycle racer and holds the title of 2nd most wins.  His father was also an accomplished motorcycle racer. Fogarty and his family have had a huge impact on the world motorcycle community.

Nick Sanders

Nick Sanders is a motorcyclist and bicyclist who is well-known for being the most frequent rider around the world.  He has traveled around the globe seven times and has documented all his experiences for us to see. He is a true adventurer, thrill seeker.

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah, a former rapper who is now a talk show host, can be seen riding her Honda CBR around but has also owned many motorcycles in the past.  Even after losing her brother in an accident on a motorcycle, she continued to ride.

Ryan Gosling

The actor has several motorcycles and did almost all of the stunts himself in his movie. “The Place Between The Pines”.  Gosling rides an enduro bike regularly and owns an older Honda Shadow.

David Beckham

David Beckham is not only one of the most famous soccer (football) players ever to live, but he also has a large collection of motorcycles that are regularly ridden.  He can often be seen riding Triumph motorcycles.

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a proud owner of several motorcycles, but he prefers to ride his Triumph Thruxton as well as his Ducati.  Cooper is often seen riding his motorcycle around the city, either alone or with special female passengers.

John Travolta

John had several motorcycles in his garage and even rode one on his own motorcycle for the film. “Wild Hogs”.  He has owned many Harley Davidsons over the years but doesn’t own just American bikes.

Orlando Bloom

Husqvarna and BMW Motorcycles sponsor Orlando.  He was raised riding old kickstarters like many of us, and fell in love with BMW over the years.  Orlando has an impressive collection of motorcycles. He even helped BMW design one.

Gerard Butler

Gerard has been riding bikes since he was a kid and has a passion about Triumph Motorcycles.  He had a serious accident in 2017 when a person wasn’t paying attention and cut him off.  He rides, but he says he is more careful now than he was in the past. He also owns a Ford Bronco of the first generation, which is a plus.

Clark Gable

Many people say that Clark Gable just liked to pose with motorcycles but didn’t like to actually ride them.  That’s just not true. He owned a Harley Davidson 1934 and a Knucklehead Harley 1941. His motorcycles are sold every ten years and passed on to antique investors.

Marlon Brando

Brando was a motorcycle legend thanks to his 1953 film. “The Wild One” A Triumph Thunderbird was his bike.  The Triumph was his bike, which he rode all through the movie. Brando’s portrayal of a gang leader in that movie is why James Dean bought a Triumph 500.

T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, is well-known for his Brough Superior SS-100 motorcycle.  Many Brough motorcycles could travel over 100 mph, which was considered an absurd speed for that decade.  Lawrence was killed while riding his Brough Superior, as he tried to pass children on bikes.

Stephen King

Stephen King, a horror author best known for his dark and disturbing novels, has been an avid rider of a motorcycle since childhood.  He’s owned many motorcycles and was even invited to appear on the show. “Sons of Anarchy” He rode a red Harley Davidson Road Glide.  1986 Heritage Soft tail was his favorite motorcycle.

Kid Rock

Kid Rock owns many custom cars and bikes.  Kid Rock’s summer tour was sponsored by Harley Davidson in 2014 for their 110th anniversary.  Kid Rock has a lot of Harley Davidsons, as well as a few custom choppers that were made for him.

Charlie Hunnam

Charlie Hunnam is star of the hit motorcycle show “Sons of Anarchy” He claims that he rides the exact same bike in real life as the one he shows on the show: a Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide.  He has many bikes, but he still loves his Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide. He has been in several accidents and says he has punched off people’s side mirrors when they drive too close to him.

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig, the English spy James Bond, has a passion for motorcycles on and off screen.  He has only ever seen the Montesa Cota 4RT as his favorite motorcycle. “Quanum of Solace”. He also rode the Honda CRF250R. “Skyfall”.  He was seen riding casually on Enduro motorcycles while out in public.

Jason Momoa

In 2019, Jason Momoa found an old Harley engine in a garage and decided for Father’s Day that he was going to fix it up with his kids and make memories in it.  They made a Harley Knucklehead together and were often seen cruising along on it.

Chris Pine

Chris Pine enjoys doing a lot of his own stunts when he’s on set for a movie and seems to find excuses frequently to have his characters riding motorcycles.  Chris has owned a Ducati and several BMW’s.

Tim Allen

Tim Allen is a man’s man in real life just like he portrays on his old show “Home Improvement”.  He has a large collection of classic cars and motorcycles. Although he has stated many times that he is not a Harley guy, he does enjoy riding older British bikes such as Triumph and Norton.  Tim Allen is also well-known within the motorcycle community due to his role in the movie. “Wild Hogs” He rides cross-country along a group of friends.

Burt Munro

Burt Munro is a legend among motorcycle riders, and I have saved it for last.  Burt Munro has always been one of the motorcycle role models I’ve looked up to since I was young.

Burt, a New Zealander, built a 1920 Indian Scout. He shipped it to Bonneville Salt Flats at 70 years old. It broke the world land speed record using old bald tires without any special equipment.  With his backyard genius, he amazed the entire world. The movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” He was the subject of a documentary that you should see.

Wrap-Up

This is a list with 40 motorcycle legends. It includes a history, information about their bikes, and a description of why they are important to the motorcycle community.  There are many more worthy people to include on this list. We wish we could talk about them all!

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