Famous Men and Their Motorcycles

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 10, 2011 · 112 comments

in Blog

Few things have captured the passion, the sometimes obsession, of men like the motorcycle. There’s no mystery as to why this is. Motorcycles represent a peculiar combination of several manly elements: danger, speed, singular focus, solitude, mechanics, noise, and physical skill.

Many famous men were motorcycle enthusiasts; they combined their passion for things like acting, music, and adventure, with a love for bikes. Motorcycles were a perfect outlet for their zeal for life; riding the open road with the wind in their faces left them invigorated and inspired. Today we take a look at the relationship ten famous men had with their motorcycles.

T.E. Lawrence

“A skittish motorbike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness.” -TE Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence, aka “Lawrence of Arabia” was a passionate motorcyclist and a devotee of the Brough Superior. Brough Superiors were considered the “Rolls Royce of Motorcycles” and Lawrence had his custom-made; short of stature at 5’5, he ordered his bikes with a smaller back wheel to accommodate his height. Lawrence owned seven Brough Superiors during his lifetime, referring to them as his Boanerges (sons of Thunder), and calling each George (the first was George I, the last George VII). In 1935, while riding George VII and awaiting delivery of George VIII, Lawrence swerved to avoid hitting two boys on bicycles, was thrown over the handlebars, and died a week later from his injuries at age 46. Lawrence loved to ride his bikes fast and hard; he was likely going around 100 mph, the bike’s top speed, at the time of the accident.

Marlon Brando

“It still pleases me to be awake during the dark, early hours before morning when everyone else is still asleep. I’ve been that way since I first moved to New York. I do my best thinking and writing then. During those early years in New York, I often got on my motorcycle in the middle of the night and went for a ride–anyplace. There wasn’t much crime in the city then, and if you owned a motorcycle, you left it outside your apartment and in the morning it was still there. It was wonderful on summer nights to cruise around the city at one, two, or three A.M. wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a girl on the seat behind me. If I didn’t start out with one, I’d find one.” -Marlon Brando

Before he became famous, Brando cruised the streets of NYC on his bike, and in the coming decades, whenever his fame started to feel oppressive, he’d get on his motorcyle and simply head out into the Southwest, riding through the desert for miles on end.

In the iconic film, The Wild One,  Brando rode a 1950 Triumph 6T Thunderbird.

Bob Dylan

In 1966, Bob Dylan’s career was going full throttle; several of his albums had gone gold and platinum, he was touring the world, and he was soon to publish a novel. His schedule and impending commitments were brutal. Success was crashing over him like a wave, a wave that perhaps would have drowned him if a mysterious motorcycle accident had not intervened. While tooling along near his Woodstock, NY home, Dylan apparently crashed his 1964 Triumph Tiger 100 and suffered an injury to his vertebrae. While he was not taken to a hospital, he enjoyed a long convalescence; he did not return to touring for almost a decade. The accident provided Dylan with a way to slow down his life. He would later say:

“When I had that motorcycle accident … I woke up and caught my senses, I realized that I was just workin’ for all these leeches. And I didn’t want to do that. Plus, I had a family and I just wanted to see my kids.”

Clark Gable

While this seems to be a posed press photo, Clark Gable did indeed ride a motorcycle, a 1934 Harley Davidson RL to be exact.

Hunter S. Thompson

“But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin and no room for mistakes. It has to be done right . . and thats when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that the fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and the dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it  . . . howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica . . . letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge . . . The Edge  . . . ” – Hunter S. Thompson, Hells Angels

Writer Hunter S. Thompson earned his motorcycling chops the hard way: by riding his BSA A65 Lightning for a year with the Hell’s Angels. His experience  riding with (and getting stomped by) the gang became the book,  Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.

Clint Eastwood

While Eastwood was only an occasional rider in his personal life, he rode motorcycles as part of several of his films. In Coogan’s Bluff, for example, he chases an escaped criminal through Central Park while astride a Triumph Bonneville.

Charles Lindbergh

As a boy, Charles Lindbergh had a keen fascination for the mechanical workings of machines generally and for internal combustion engines in particular. When he was in high school, he ordered a twin-cylinder 1920 model Excelsior “X” motorcycle through the local hardware store. Lindbergh was a shy and quiet young man, but he rode his bike fast, hard, and, as his classmates remembered it, rather recklessly. “I loved its power and speed,” he admitted. On the way to town, Lindbergh would tear through a path that ran past a power plant, through a thicket of bushes, and along the steep banks of the Mississippi River. As an observer remembered, “it seemed like he wanted to see how close to the edge he could get without plunging in.” The owner of the plant became so concerned that he closed off the trail. But the future pilot was as cool on that bike as he was behind the controls of a plane; he never had an accident.

Buddy Holly

In 1958, coming off a tour and flush with success, Buddy Holly and the Crickets decided to spend some of their hard earned money on new motorcycles. They flew to Dallas and started shopping the local bike stores. But the owners, unaware of who these young lads were, treated them dismissively; the owner of the Harley dealer practically pushed them out the door. But they found what they were looking for at Ray Miller Triumph Motorcycle Sales, where each man picked out one of the latest models: Buddy chose an Ariel Cyclone, J.I. picked a Trophy, and Joe B. decided on a Thunderbird. The guys then headed back to Lubbock on the bikes, but not before stopping by the Harley dealer to show off their new rides.

James Dean

Hope for teenage nerds everywhere. James Dean on his first real motorcycle. Pre-smoldering angst.

Of course the “Rebel Without a Cause” had a thing for motorcycles. He got his first real motorcycle at age 15, a 1947 CZ 125-cc. He was the only kid in his small town in Indiana with his own motorcycle, and he rode it full throttle, losing two teeth in a fall. The locals called him “One Speed Dean.” And that one speed was “wide open.”

When he dropped out of college to pursue acting, he traded his beloved CZ for a Royal Enfield 500cc vertical twin. But he wouldn’t hold onto that bike for long. While home in Indiana on break from working on a play in NYC, Dean decided to ride his Royal Enfield all the way back to the Big Apple. But when it broke down along the way, he traded it in for an Indian Warrior TT. When Dean arrived back in New York, he had the bike serviced at a shop…where Steve McQueen worked as a mechanic.

Later, wanting to emulate Marlon Brando, Dean bought a Triumph TR5 Trophy, the last bike he rode before he died.


Steve McQueen

There is perhaps no famous man we associate more with motorcycles than the King of Cool, Steve McQueen.

Before Steve McQueen made it big as an actor, he would compete in–and win–weekend motorcycle races on the first bike he owned–a used Harley. Even when Hollywood success came calling, acting gigs always had to compete against his passion for motorcycles. McQueen amassed a collection of over 100 motorcycles, his favorites being vintage Indians. When the weight of celebrity grew too stifling, McQueen would grab one of those Indian bikes and tear out of Tinseltown and onto the open road. McQueen loved off-road racing as well, and raced the Triumph’s TR6 in everything from the Baja 1000 to the prestigious International Six Days Trial.

The TR6 also famously makes an appearance in The Great Escape. In that film, McQueen performed many of his own stunts; however, contrary to popular belief, it was not McQueen who jumped his bike over the barbed wire fence in that iconic scene. Because of insurance concerns, Bud Ekins was called in to make the leap.


{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rich April 10, 2011 at 5:33 pm

My understanding is that McQueen would use his motorcycle race winnings to pay for acting classes, or something to that effect.

2 Zach April 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm

This was a pretty cool little article to come home to after work. I love old bikes.

3 Michael April 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Motorcycles are part of what it means to be a man. Although there are women bikers, the world of motorcycles has traditionally been associated with men. Whether you’re riding a harley, a dirt bike or a sport bike, there’s nothing more exhilarating than flying with a rocket between your legs…

4 Matthew April 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm

What an inspiring article to read, after coming home from a motorcycle ride with my wife! We’re not speed demons (though I can see the appeal) but there’s just nothing like hitting the road on a motorcycle.

5 Atlas Rust April 10, 2011 at 6:23 pm

What a spectacular list. Brando, Thompson, Dylan, McQueen, Eastwood… when men were men.

It’s always been a dream of mine to own a Triumph Bonneville, and this article has done nothing to slow that urge down.

6 Will April 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Great article! Just earlier today I was cruising through a few of these same photographs on another blog. Never fails to capture my attention.

7 Zac April 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm

There are no motorcycle “gangs”. They are motocycle clubs.

8 Dave April 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Great photos!
But you forgot Marcello Mastroni and his Vespa in La Dolce Vida and Anthony Quinn and his three wheeled thing in La Strada.
Also James Garner and his Excelsior (?) in the short-lived TV show, Nichols.

9 Gary April 10, 2011 at 9:34 pm

What?!… no Peter Fonda and Denis Hopper? How about Burt Munro?

10 Tim April 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Would have liked to see the terminator on that list haha.

11 J.D. Tuccille April 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I didn’t own a car until I was 35. But I owned two Kawasaki motorcycles: a KZ550 and a KZ440LTD. It was the second bike that I laid down in Harvard Square, busting my elbow along with the rest of the left side of my body. I still lust after a new bike — maybe a Triumph — but my wife threatens hell and damnation if I touch a bike while my son is still school age.

12 Jay Wesley April 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm

WHAt!? no Evel Knievel?! King of the Daredevils! The Man who made over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between 1965 and 1980! He suffered 433 broken bones during his career, that earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime”? Dude, the guy tried to jump across Snake River Canyon in a rocket for Gods sake! How did he not make this list?

13 Sociologist April 10, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I am disappointed that C. Wright Mills is not on this list. Not only was he the most manly professor ever, but he also drove a BMW motorcycle everywhere, unnerving the traditional academics. He also spent time at the BMW factory where his bike was made in order to learn all he could about repairing and maintenance so that he could do it himself.

14 John Evans April 10, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Great People and Great Bikes! What a wonderful article – thank you. Reading your article really made my day!

I worked my way up from a 175cc Frances Barnett two-stroke to a Harley Davidson Super glide which I own currently. Of course, the range included a marvellous 1977 750cc Bonnie. The last year they came with a kick start.

15 Dan Born April 11, 2011 at 12:02 am

Watching the Great Escape as a kid in the late 80s and early 90′s really influenced me in the future, so much so that when i returend from a tour in Kosovo in 2003 I bought my first triumph, a 2002 triumph bonneville. Now i restore and race vintage motorcycles as a hobby. I’m thirty, and my triumph is the only one of my 4 bikes that is younger than me.

Another person i wold add wold be Lee Marvin, also in The Wild One, he was quite a rider and racer as well.

16 Tim April 11, 2011 at 12:15 am

Excellent post. Now for the next how-to: dual-sport riding. There is nothing quite like getting on your motorcycle and heading down the road, knowing that anything – even dirt single-track – is open to your machine. You can go anywhere, see anything, camp anywhere. It’s everything I love about motorcycle riding and backpacking all rolled into one adventure.

17 Paul W April 11, 2011 at 4:18 am

Great selection but you’ve missed out one iconic rider: Schwarzenegger. The image of him riding his 1990 Harley Fatboy FLSTF blasting away with his Winchester lever arm shotgun in T2 is as enduring as you can get. A clever reinvention of the horse-riding cowboy as a machine-riding, er, machine. Awesome.
What’s more Arnold rides for real (and hopefully he’s got a licence by now too).

18 James McBride April 11, 2011 at 4:54 am

Love the backstory on James Dean, wonder if him and McQueen ever met.

19 Jared Breedlove April 11, 2011 at 5:26 am

What about Elvis Presley…….he was obsessed with cycles his entire life and had quite an awesome collection!

20 Chris April 11, 2011 at 6:04 am

What, no Che Guevara? Regardless of what you think of his later life, his motorcycle trip around South America was a very mainly thing todo.

21 Rahul April 11, 2011 at 6:21 am

:-)….Lovely read that’s put a big smile on my face in the middle of a dull Monday. But yes as Charlie mentioned above, am surprised that you missed out Che Guevara from that list. ‘The Motorcycle diaries’ based on the diaries he kept during his trip around S. America on his bike ‘La Poderosa’ (The powerful one) is a must read for Bike lovers.

22 Donna April 11, 2011 at 7:09 am

Read Danny Lyon’s Book, “The Bikeriders”.
If you’re interested in bikes, the biker lifestyle, or how the ‘outlaw’ subculture developed, you must invest in this book. Danny Lyon rode with the Chicago Outlaws in the early sixties and his photographs form a unique visual documentary about the life of the early bike rebels. The photographs are superb; the accompanying texts revealing and fascinating. If nothing else, this book illustrates the origins of the Harley-Davidson ‘chopper’ and the prevalence of British bikes in motorsport 40 years ago. Simply one of – if not the – finest books on motorcycle culture ever published.

23 Joe April 11, 2011 at 8:55 am

Great read. Spent the weekend wrenching on my ’82 Suzuki. While not as glamorous as any of the Triumphs, Indians, or Royal Einfields mentioned, there’s nothing that puts a bigger smile on my face than jumping on the bike for a ride. Even if it is just my morning commute.

24 John April 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

Good article, but one correction: the chase scene at the end of “Coogan’s Bluff” is in Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan, not Central Park. I used to live in the neighborhood, and was totally jazzed the first time I saw that chase scene, especially since it ends with a fight on the same slope where my godfather and I used to practice kung fu!

25 Linn April 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

There are very few things in life that can clear your head other than a nice ride….’06 Softail Deluxe rider

26 Dustin April 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

Ahhh, love reading about cycling. I got bit by the bike bug about 5 years ago. I took the class and then bought a 2004 Ural Wolf. It is definitely a unique ride!

27 James April 11, 2011 at 9:58 am

@ Jared Breedlove , man, you beat me to it. besides, theres several iconic photos they could have used with the king on a bike. the one from the Wertheimer collection is probably my favorite on his 56 HD Kh

28 Shawn April 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

Great article, course you were bound to leave a few people out otherwise this would’ve been a much bigger article. Also you might want to fix the typo in the title. Thanks again for another awesome piece.

29 Mark Gill April 11, 2011 at 10:28 am

As much as bikes look cool I’ve utterly terrified of them since I flew of my mum’s scooter when i was fourteen. It was at this point I realised that we’d never get along.

Gotta love McQueen though. Jesus, he’s arse-achingly cool.

30 nathan April 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, certainly should make the next list if this becomes a series.

Riding a touring motorcycle cross-country, with your son, engaging in vigorous philosophical inquiry? THAT’s manly. Gives me chills to recall that book.

31 Patrick Haley April 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

You’re forgetting Che Guevera. See the movie Motorcycle Diaries.

32 Dave April 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Nice article. Not a bad advertisement for Triumph, either

33 Kyle Packer April 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I just got a 500cc C500 Royal Enfield myself, and I have to say that it is a beautiful machine to this day.

34 Matt April 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Great post! Wish I would have thought of it.

@ Donna: will check out that book. It sounds great. I’ve always been an Indian fan, but am growing to love the British bikes as well.

Couple of random thoughts: If I’m not mistaken, Dylan’s wreck led to “Music from the Big Pink” by the Band. It’s my understanding that while Dylan was convalescing in the hospital, the Band retreated to this house (which was owned by Rick Danko) to jam and write music. That music became the songs that showed up on the “Big Pink” record. I could be wrong.

McQueen and Dean are both Hoosiers. There’s a lot of shitty things you can say about this state – we’re pretty high in the running for most obese, least educated, and poorest air/water quality in the nation – but I think you can also say it’s the Motherland of Cool. Just please don’t hold Axl Rose against us.

Again – great post. I’d love to see more legendary dudes and their bikes.

35 Eddie April 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

What about Sonny Barger??!!

36 David William April 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I recently acquired a 1947 CZ 125CC with the tank shifter like James Deans! I am actually rebuilding it now and it is looking great! I even have the original title.

My first bike was a 1979 XS1100 and now I ride a ’69 CB350 and this ’47 CZ as my toy. I can’t wait! I will be updating my blog as I go. What a journey!

37 Anthony Summerfield April 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm

My dad is bike enthusiast. He’s had one Honda and about 4-5 different Harley’s. I used to ride on the back of his bikes with him on day trips and those were always really fun. I don’t understand why he never encourgaged me to try riding. He’s still around but at age 27 its up to me now.

38 Ferrari Bubba April 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm

My 2 favorites were my Suzuki 250cc Savage Enduro and a 250cc CZ Motocrosser. The CZ was tricked-out, and could chop a 440 Husky on any Sunday. The Savage was once owned by Ryan O’neal back in the early ’70s. Both much fun! — Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

39 Tubby Mike April 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Great article, but a sad indictment on the current state of British manufacturing. All gone now, except for Triumph. Sigh. My dad was a bike nut, he had two Triumphs, several BSA’s and a Norton Commando before I came along and he had to get a car. My mum used to ride pillion and that’s why she threatened all sorts of damage when I expressed an interest as a teenager. Can’t help feeling I missed out on something.

40 Joe Roy April 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I read this sitting in an internet cafe in Panama, as I ride my motorcycle from the US to Argentina… made me smile. :)

41 karl April 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm

ewan mcgregor?

42 Tom Schneider April 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm
43 DR April 11, 2011 at 10:52 pm

A timeless article! The image of James Dean on his bike will always make me yearn for one myself. Stylishly classic.

44 CSEAUX April 11, 2011 at 11:10 pm

What about Elvis? I was expecting to see him at the top of the list.

45 fathom II April 12, 2011 at 12:23 am

I love Brando’s last line in the quote -

There wasn’t much crime in the city then, and if you owned a motorcycle, you left it outside your apartment and in the morning it was still there. It was wonderful on summer nights to cruise around the city at one, two, or three A.M. wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a girl on the seat behind me. If I didn’t start out with one, I’d find one.” -Marlon Brando

46 Dave April 12, 2011 at 1:35 am

I think this Hunter S Thompson story needs added – http://www.latexnet.org/~csmith/sausage.html

47 Clydesdale April 12, 2011 at 1:47 am

Funny thing is, only two of these men are still alive today. And those who are left — Eastwood and Dylan — weren’t really that hard-core to begin with. (And only Lawrence actually died riding,)

Not sure what this all means, exactly. But it gives me comfort.

48 Uri April 12, 2011 at 6:55 am

where is che guevara?

49 RJ April 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

where is Peter Fonda

50 westicles April 12, 2011 at 9:43 am

This makes me want my ’70 Honda scrambler to be out of the shop ASAP.

51 westicles April 12, 2011 at 9:45 am

Also, could we have a “part 2″ to this article? There are quite a few missing from this short list.

Toby Keith
Willie Nelson

52 J April 12, 2011 at 10:46 am

Good article. Motorcycling is definitely a passion that gets in your blood. I started driving dirt bikes and four wheelers when I was about 8 and moved to street legal when I was 16. So far, I owned a 78 Honda CB 400 and a 79 Yamaha XS 400. Currently, I am debating between purchasing Honda’s 2011 CBR 250 R or Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 R . Any suggestions?

53 The Toecutter April 12, 2011 at 11:34 am

What a great snapshot: “… danger, speed, singular focus, solitude, mechanics, noise, and physical skill”. Motorcycling brings all these aspects together under one pastime … making it attractive to only a limited few personality types.

Over the years I’ve had many types of motorcycles each one exposes a different personality type. What a joy each one brought.

If you do not ride, be careful when trying to get into the sport. The allure of the lifestyle can lead to serious problems when the wrong personality type decides to purchase a motorcycle. It is not as easy as it looks. Combining a lack of skill with a lack of confidence will lead to trouble.

54 Fred April 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

“The allure of the lifestyle can lead to serious problems when the wrong personality type decides to purchase a motorcycle.”

So says the guy who ended up a grill ornament for a Kenworth. :)

55 Jimmy April 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

WHAT??? No Evel Knievel??

56 g kaiser April 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm

And where are the Moto Guzzis??
Someone must be riding them, apart from me, that is.!

57 radmatty April 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I’ve had one of the best jobs anywhere. For five years I was a motorcycle transporter. I drove 18-wheelers; tractor and trailer, loaded with motorcycles of every description. Vintage, to classic, to museum piece. Harley, Norton, Yamaha, Moto Guzzi, Indian, Triumph, Ducati and even Vincent. I met people from every walk of life; bank president, to farmer, to gang-banger, who shared one thing in common — the love of motorcycles– which I also have in abundance.

58 Jack April 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Just for drill, Gable is astride an Ariel Square 4

59 Dan April 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara? Author of the motorcycle diaries, documenting his formative travels through South America

60 g kaiser April 13, 2011 at 12:25 am

@ Jack. Square four, I also thought so initially, but there are is no exhaust from the rear cylinder. I think it is a twin.

61 g kaiser April 13, 2011 at 12:33 am

I retract. Only the later model had four exhaust pipes, the earlier had the exhaust running in the head.

62 Allen April 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

J, unless you are really short, just pass on both of them and get a 600CC bike, and learn to respect the throttle. Nothing is more dangerous than a bike you are not scared of. Between the two of those I would get the honda because it comes with ABS.

63 Jeff April 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm

That is some awesome company I’m honored to be in. Motorcycling spirits.

64 The Toecutter April 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm

April 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm Fred Wrote: “So says the guy who ended up a grill ornament for a Kenworth”
It could happen … a risk we take. Many activities in life are risky yet we choose to pursue them. A 12 yo boy in the neighborhood was killed last week skiing in CO. Ran into his ski instructor on an intermediate ski trail while wearing a helmet. Accidents happen on motorcycles, in cars, airplanes, water skis, running, riding bicycles, horses, hiking, rock climbing, skydiving, etc etc. Sit in the safety of your home and enjoy yourself while playing bridge or hearts. And do smile and wave from the safety of your cage when I pass by you on the highway! You enjoy your life. We’ll enjoy ours! :-)

65 Terry April 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

Great article from what has become my favorite blog. I started riding mini bikes at age 8. I graduated to dirt bikes not much later and raced motocross until the age of 18. I got married at 20 and couldn’t afford one. At 25 we had our first child and I promised to stay around and help raise our girls. At 46, the day after the oldest was married, I picked up my first motorcycle in 28 years, a brand new 2007 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic. In the last 5 years I’ve ridden across the great state of Texas several times and made two runs to Las Vegas from here in central Texas. I rode all the way round the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve completed a Saddle Sore 1000 and have the Iron Butt patch to prove it.
Bikers have it figured out. You live more in an hour on a motorcycle than most people do in a year. You see more, hear more, and smell more than you ever will in a cage. Yes, it’s dangerous but as The Toecutter states above, so is pretty much everything else that requires a sense of adventure. Ride on!

66 Mick April 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm

I have spent about half my life riding bikes. I love them with a passion. If I was to die riding, I would at least die while doing something I love. If I have a near miss while riding and it is the fault of the cage driver, I’m quick to point out the error of their ways to them, one way or the other, so that hopefully the less experienced rider will be that ittle bit safer in future.
I’ve just recently clocked up 132,500 kms (approx 53 000mi) on my latest cruiser. All my own original miles and I’m proud of that, but would be even prouder to double that distance.
Ride hard, Ride Fast and Enjoy life my Brothers and Sisters of Motorcycles.

67 Nate April 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

April 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm Fred Wrote: “So says the guy who ended up a grill ornament for a Kenworth”
It could happen … a risk we take. Many activities in life are risky yet we choose to pursue them. A 12 yo boy in the neighborhood was killed last week skiing in CO. Ran into his ski instructor on an intermediate ski trail while wearing a helmet. Accidents happen on motorcycles, in cars, airplanes, water skis, running, riding bicycles, horses, hiking, rock climbing, skydiving, etc etc. Sit in the safety of your home and enjoy yourself while playing bridge or hearts. And do smile and wave from the safety of your cage when I pass by you on the highway! You enjoy your life. We’ll enjoy ours! :-)

I think he was referring to your name “Toecutter,” a motorcycle rider who did indeed end up as a grill ornament in the movie Mad Max. Epic ending IMHO.

68 Alan Sputhe April 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Ride hard, die young.

69 jeff April 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

My aunt died just before my uncle’s retirement. They had been married since 1946, and he was shattered. For no reason that he could or would ever explain, he rebuilt his 1965 Honda 150cc Indian, shipped it to Norway and rode it for three years from the Northern tip of Norway to the tip of South Africa. He was 69 when he started and almost 74 when he came back. If you saw him when he returned, you would have thought he was a fit fifty. He sent post cards and sent pictures he took on his trip from the only camera he trusted a Kodak 104 Instamatic. The pictures and the little stories from the postcards are amazing. My cousin has said for years she was going to set up a blog about the trip and I hope she does; just to inspire middle aged burnouts like me.

70 Tallinnan Risteilyt April 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Marlon brando on his motorcycle.. That sure was a classic!

71 Carl April 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Been riding for over 40 years, I’m 78 now, still ride, the other 38 years were just a waste of time. Started out on a step through stamped steel frame 90cc Honda. Finally ended up with 5 BMW’s./5,/7, 1998 R1100RT,81 R100,and an 82RT. love them all, and now only have 2 left. My 1981 R100,and my 1982 R100RT. Still ride,not as much as when I was a bit younger, still have amassed over 900,000 miles . Great fun, when I die I hope that I can come sliding up to the Pearly Gates,all scratched up with torn clothes and mumbling,”Gads what a ride”. I ride alot with my younger Brother, he’s 72, and this is LIFE like non riders will never know.

72 banjo picker April 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Yup, as Carl said: “Been riding for over 40 years, I’m 78 now, still ride, the other 38 years were just a waste of time.”

I started riding in 1964 or 1965, don’t remember which. First bike a 883, kick start, 1962 Sporster (still have it) bought R75/5 Beemer, then a 1977 R100S Beemer and now own a R1150R Beemer. Got tired of trying to wear out my first two Beemers.

Carl is a great riding buddy, as well as *Big Brother*

-Ride like you stole it-

73 Carl April 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Was thinking that there are so many more people that deserve to be here that it just boggles the mind

74 Carl April 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Yep Banjo Picker is my little Brub, showed me the way to go have fun. We like to ride the ‘PCH’. For those of you that don’t know PCH it’s Pacific Coast Hiway. The road to heaven here on Earth. Nother good road is CA #36.
Ride it like you stole it

75 Vinnie April 18, 2011 at 12:08 am

Motorcycling has become my main priority since I just took the BRC and i have my permit. Im only seventeen, but i do have a 250cc suzuki. It may not have a ton of power, but I’m still proud to be on it.

76 Mick April 18, 2011 at 6:18 am

Hey Vinnie, We all gotta start somewhere brother. Welcome to the fold.

@Carl and Banjo Picker, You’ve got just shy of 40 years on me, but I sure as hell hope my next 40 on the bikes are as good as your own. Ride Hard and Live Free!

77 Garage Dan April 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Sweet post! I love the old-time motorcycles… I have been searching for a reasonably priced 40′s era bike (that isn’t in total disrepair) for some time now. Super-classy!

78 Doug Parr April 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Billy Joel needs to be on that list, he’s been fascinated with motorcycles ever since he saw them back in the 50′s. Most of his life is based around them as well. The Pianoman himself now has huge motorcycle collection and a store on Long Island.

79 David Jones April 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

To Vinnie My first bike was a 250 Suzuki, a great ride. It was the fastest street bike in Springfield, Ill at the time untill a friend bought a brand new right outta the box 500 Kawasaki. He passed me so fast that I looked down to see if my wheels were turning & I was flat out :/ That 250 gave me a lot of pleasure, enjoy yours. RIDE ON

80 Nicholas April 22, 2011 at 11:24 pm

No Che Guevara???

81 Bill McKay April 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Finally…………..I have been riding all of my life. I have ridden almost ALL of the US, most of the EU and parts of Africa……freedom=peace. By the Good Lord.. I love bikes.

82 Andy Hart April 29, 2011 at 10:01 am

That feeling of pure adrenalin as you twist that thottel and feel the pull of the motor,with the roar of a classic bke as you wind through the north yorkshire moors .
a 65 triumph tiger trials leaping over hill and dale mcqueen thanks for the insparation

83 James April 30, 2011 at 10:01 pm

A lot of Triumphs on the list. I think I’ll take my Bonneville out for a night ride tonight.

84 Nick May 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Awesome list! I love these classic bikes, but a second list with more modern bikes is welcome as well. Riding a bike is one of the ultimate tastes of freedom, as any rider will agree!

85 Sean May 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Riding is great fun if you don’t get hit… 50% of riders with >6mos experience account for 50% of killings (let’s not call them fatalities… too sterile). So do it, Yes. But for your life’s sake: GET YOURSELF TRAINED FIRST!!!

86 Sean May 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Here the facts in Pennsylvania… and these will be consistent in your state.
388,000 licensed cycles (Harley has 60% of the market)
252 killings/ 4780 injury requiring hospital (IRH) figures are for 2010
Ratios; Killed: 1 to 1507/ IRH: 1 to 81
Riders <28 years old on sport bikes get KILLED at 5X the rate as touring riders.
Why? Call it the Show-off" factor… show-offs get picked off left and right!
1 of every 3 riders is legally drunk! If you must drink, keep it light; I promise you'll have just as much fun. REMEMBER THIS: The best riders are always looking for trouble, not to get into… but to stay away from!! While your on a bike… God is on break… so watch out!

87 GarageBuddha November 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

My dad used to have some sweet old bikes… I remember his favorite was an old BMW bike – If I had half of those bikes today, I’d be a very rich man!

88 graham November 25, 2012 at 3:47 am

resurrected my triumph trident when back in uk took off thro france n germany. riding over a viaduct in the auvergne with mountains and greenery and valleys all around just had to let out lung bursting whoops of joy. love to ride even to n from work back in oz.

89 Mojo January 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Thanks for this really cool list :)

@Sean “While your on a bike… God is on break… so watch out!”

That may be the best way I’ve heard it put.. spot on.

90 steve wilson February 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Nice selection. How about writers Roald Dahl and his Ariel Red Hunter; George Orwell and his Rudge Ulster; and Evelyn Waugh and his 250 BSA? Henry Miller rode an Indian, too.

91 JStanton February 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm

” Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba…”

- Hunter S. Thompson

92 Hank March 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Nice article and great company to be in for sure -Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of the car window -should sum up my take on motorcycling ;-)

93 Blinkin Scout April 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

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I may not be famous but I can sure relate to their love of riding ..

94 Puneet Gupta April 11, 2013 at 11:54 am

Should’ve also mentioned Robert Pirsig :)

95 Joe April 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm
96 Peter April 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Neil Peart should be added to the list!

97 Rick April 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Prince? The Purple Honda and all?

98 Jim Petty #55 April 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Love this article. Thank you for putting it together. I’m a bit of a motorcycle enthusiasts. I’ve ridden and raced a ton of bikes in my life time and worked my way to the collector stage. During the last couple years rode my ’15 Indian coast to coast as well as the same on my ’27 Indian. You’ve captured some the legends in riders and motorcycles and masterfully captured the reasons we love to ride them. I’ve always thought the late 60 model Triumphs were the “King of Cool” when it comes to bikes. Such a good representation of a motorcycle, simple clean lines. My ’68 and ’70 Bonneville are among my prize possessions.

99 Bruce Wms May 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Been riding since I was 11, almost 65 now, have 20 some antique bikes from a 1909 Neckarsulm to a 1997 DR350 Suzuki enduro, the only non antique. Riding and restoring is a way of life and a great tonic to clear the cobwebs.

100 FredZilch May 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Triumph was THE bike to own back in the 60′s, and I’m sure Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, James Dean and the like had a great deal to do with it. I know they influenced me to buy a Bonneville. Always hated the way it would grind going into first gear, just like every other “Limey” bike made.

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