The first motorcycle was invented in 1885 and have grown in popularity with every generation. Amongst those generations are certain individuals who help spark a love for motorcycles in those around them.
Who are the most famous motorcycle riders? The top 5 most famous motorcycle riders include:
- 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 people who have helped shape worldwide motorcycle culture for years to come.
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
- 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 few of the famous motorcycle riders who have influenced our love of motorcycles over the years. Keep reading below for details on each of these famous motorcycle riders.
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 huge hits like “Bullitt”, “The Great Escape”, “Le Mans”, and “The Magnificent Seven”.
McQueen involved his love of motorsports in as many of his movies 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 selected to be on the US team for the International Six Days Trial in Germany in 1964. The ISDT is one of the most gruelling motorcycle races in the world. Each teammate must ride 200 miles per day. McQueen was doing well when a spectator sideswiped him on a fast stretch and sent him hurtling face first into a rock. Mcqueen was out for the race, though 3 of his teammates went on to win medals during the event.
Another little-known fact about McQueen is that he wrote motorcycle articles for Popular Science in the 60’s. He helped change the motorcycle scene in that decade from a rough castout crowd to the everyday person wanting to ride.
Towards the end of his life, McQueen owned over 100 motorcycles which were sold off after his death. Sadly, McQueen lost his battle to lung cancer when he was only 50 years old, but left a lasting impact on the worldwide motorcycle community.
Robert Craig Knievel “Evel Knievel”
Evel Knievel is known throughout the world as the greatest motorcycle stunt man to ever live. Knievel was raised in Montana and competed in skiing events. He was fired from his first job for doing stunts in the heavy equipment and accidentally knocking out power to the entire town.
During a late night police chase through Butte, Montana, Knievel crashed his motorcycle and was jailed with a man nicknamed “Awful Knofel”, so the guards gave him the nickname of Evil Knievel. He didn’t want to be known as a bad person, so he changed the spelling to Evel instead of Evil.
In order to support his family, Kneivel took up stunt riding. He organized stunt shows and starting doing things like jumping over cages full of rattlesnakes and mountain lions. He continued to take riskier jumps and racking up a long list of broken bones and injuries.
At the age of 29 Kneivel attempted to jump the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
During his practice jump he crashed and was hospitalized for an extended period. ABC bought the film clips of his failed jump and he became a national celebrity for his daredevil act.
The fans loved him and he instilled a daredevil attitude in all those who watched him. He attempted 75 jumps and landed the majority of them.
James Dean died at the young age of 24 but left a lasting impression on the motorcycle community for generations. James grew up in a small town in Indiana and was known as “One Speed Dean” for his reckless driving around town.
His first motorcycle was a 1.5 horsepower Czech which was nicknamed the “The Popcycle” because it would backfire so much. He would later own a Royal Engfield 500, an Indian 500, several Harley Davidson, and a Norton 500.
The last motorcycle he purchased was a Triumph Trophy 500. Most of his motorcycles are still owned by the Dean family to this day.
Dean only ever starred in three large movies but made a huge impact on pop culture of the 50’s. Dean got into car racing after one of his films and bought a Triumph Tiger T110 and a Porsche 356. In his first professional race he earned 1st place in the novice event and 2nd place in the main event.
He was killed in a car accident when someone in oncoming traffic turned left in front of him. Dean did not have time to stop and suffered a broken neck in the accident.
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 1932 and was always tinkering and building things since he was young.
Roth began building wild hot rod cars and custom motorcycles and being featured on dozens of magazines and was a cofounder of the Kustom Kulture company. The Revell toy company even manufactured scale models of all his motorcycles and hot rods to sell as children’s toys.
When Ed was 20 years old he began holding parties at his motorcycle shop and got involved with many of the 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.
In his later years he joined a Christian church and moved to a small town in Utah to have a more simple lifestyle. He continued to do custom builds until he died.
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 has been an avid motorcycle and car enthusiast his whole life, and after retiring from hosting his late night talk show he began a new show called “Jay Leno’s Garage”. He features wild and beautiful cars and bikes every week.
Jay owns a huge collection of two and four wheel autos and can regularly be spotted driving around his studio in rare and expensive vehicles near his studio in Burbank. Leno owns 117 motorcycles, ranging from Harleys and Indians from the early 1900’s all the way up to modern superbikes.
He has one of the largest private motorcycle collections in the US and it grows larger every year. He has worlds largest collection of Brough Superiors, considered by many to be the ancestor to 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. His rarest bike is a 1922 Megola with a 5 cylinder radial engine that is front wheel drive.
He also owns one of the world’s fastest motorcycles, a 375 horsepower frankenstein that was made from a helicopter engine.
Kendrick Robert Howard was born in 1929 in Los Angeles. Kenny began working at the age of 10 as a pinstriper and letter writer and many thought him to be a professional until they met him and realized his age.
He had a talent for pinstriping, due largely to his father owning a pinstriping business in California. Kenny was also a co-owner of Kustom Kulture along with Ed Roth. Von Dutch motorcycles and cars graced the covers of automotive magazines for several decades.
Kenny also gained fame for making custom knives and guns. He was extremely talented with his hands. Kenny “Von Dutch” is still known as one of the straightest pin stripers in the world. He painted two perfectly straight parallel lines down the side of a 1979 Pontiac Firebird. They were so straight that people had thought he cheated.
Lawrence Desmedt was born in 1949 in New York and became known as Indian Larry in 1980 while riding a chopped Indian motorcycle. Indian Larry was not very well known until his last few years of life after competing in motorcycle building competitions and performing at motorcycle rallies.
When Larry was young, his scoptmaster raced Inidan motorcycles which had a large impact on the path he followed in life. Larry’s first build was adding a lawn mower engine to his sister’s tricycle. His sister was not as enthused about it as Larry was.
His first motorcycle was a 1939 Harley Knucklehead. He took it completely apart and over the next year he built it back to what he wanted.
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. He spiraled into drug addiction and his sister was murdered, which sent him further into addiction.
He was shot by police and arrested in 1972 after robbing a bank and spent several years in prison. He earned his GED and decided to become a master welder and mechanic. 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 when he was 55 while performing motorcycle stunts in North Carolina. His motorcycles and his rough and tumble lifestyle have only gained traction since his death.
Ewan McGregor began riding motorcycles when he was young, and has amassed quite a collection of motorcycles over the years. He even owns one of the few famed 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 even does all his own mechanic work on his motorcycles, which is part of the fun of owning them.
McGregor has done something that many of us ever dream of being able to accomplish on a motorcycle, circumnavigating the globe. He and his friend Charley Boorman made a documentary called “Long Way Round” in which they rode around the world using BMW motorcycles.
McGregor now does advertising work for Moto Guzzi, his favorite motorcycle brand. They trade him new motorcycles for his work! He owns four Moto Guzzi motorcycles including his favorite, a V7.
He once wrecked a Ducati 748 on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit near London while doing 100 mph. He came away from the accident with only minor bumps and bruises and does not remember anything about the accident, just standing on the track after it happened.
Keanu Reeves has been riding motorcycles for over 30 years and owns quite a collection. He has ridden motorcycles in several of his movies, including the highly successful John Wick Trilogy.
Reeves’ business is called ARCH Motorcycles and is based in Los Angeles. Each motorcycle build costs around $80,000.
Reeves owns several classic Nortons, a 1974 BMW 750, a Harley Shovelhead, and a Moto Guzzi race bike.
Reeves started ARCH Motorcycles with custom builder Gard Hollinger in 2007. Their first motorcycle was a highly modified Harley Davidson, and from there they decided to start designing and building their own motorcycles from scratch.
According to their website, there are currently 3 models for sale; the KRGT-1, the 1s, and the Method 143.
Richard Hammond bought his first motorcycle when he was 16, it was a Honda MTX50. He bought several other small dirt bikes afterwards and crashed most of them.
Richard Hammond gained his stardom from the hit BBC television show “Top Gear”. If you haven’t seen it then you have a lot of catching up to do. He is now one of the stars of the show “The Grand Tour” from 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. They did once let him ride a motorcycle across Mozambique for one of the episodes of “The Grand Tour” and it is well worth watching.
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.
Alecia Beth Moore is more commonly known for her musician name of P!nk. She’s known for her powerful vocals and wild hair-dos. P!nk has been riding motorcycles for years, and stated that she prefers Triumphs, Harleys and Indians.
P!nk is married to motocross champ Carey Hart. Both of them post pictures of them on their motorcycles all the time on Instagram, so give them a follow so you can see their sweet motorcycles.
They received public criticism several years ago for getting their 2 year old son a motorcycle to learn on. People will always find something to complain about, so let them complain. P!nk and Carey, great job teaching your children skills that they’ll use their whole life.
The couple met at the X Games in 2001 where Carey was competing in motocross. Pink currently rides an Indian Scout that her husband built for her, but the couple owns many more motorcycles.
Brad Pitt has been around the Hollywood spotlight for a long time and is often seen riding around L.A. on different motorcycles from his collection. He has been riding since he was younger and has amassed quite a few cars and motorcycles over the years.
Here is a list of a few of the motorcycles that Brad has been seen riding around in the past few 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. Some of the more rare pieces of his collection include a one of a kind Indian Larry chopper, several Jesse Rooke custom bikes, and the cherry on top is probably the Ecosse Titanium Series XX.
Tom Cruise has amassed a very large collection of cars and motorcycles over the years and enjoys racing on and off the screen. Here are some of the motorcycles that have been owned by Cruise over the years.
- Vyrus 987 C3 4V
- Kawasaki GPZ 900R
- Ducati 999R
- BMW S1000 RR
- Confederate Hellcat
- Honda CRF450X
- BMW R Nine 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. The Kawasaki GPZ 900R is probably his most famous on-screen motorcycle. It;s the bike he rode down the runway in the movie “Top Gun”.
Angelina began riding motorcycles soon before she started dating Brad Pitt back in 2005. Her love of motorcycles has translated into several of her on-screen roles including “Tomb Raider” and “Salt”.
Angelina has owned many motorcycles over the years and has often been seen riding with or next to ex husband Pitt. Several of the motorcycles she has owned include:
- Triumph Street Triple R
- BMW Motorrad Enduro
- Indian Scout
- CCM 604
- Yamaha TRX 850
- Ducati Monster
- Ducati 999
Arnold has owned many motorcycles over the years and was often spotted riding around Los Angeles while he still rode. Although Arnold is still getting a little older and doesn’t ride much any more he stills owns several motorcycles.
While Arnold rode a lot in his younger years he generally preferred the larger Harley Davidson models. Big guys need big bikes!
Arnold even rode across California frequently when he was serving as the Governor. He used it as an opportunity to be seen by the people, and only wore half helmets so people would recognize him.
Arnold also rode Harleys in the Terminator movies and many of them have fetched top dollar at auctions since those movies are now so famous.
Arnold was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2006 with his son and was highly criticized by the public for not having a current motorcycle license while driving. 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. He and his son both suffered minor injuries.
Ryan is most commonly seen riding around on Triumphs, but his favorite Triumph is his 1964 Triumph 650 that was built by Kott Motorcycles. It’s a beautiful machine, go check out pictures of it online.
Dylan owned and regularly rode 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 is American through and through, and loves his country. But he tends to like British engineering more than 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. He has a fascinating story, go look him up if you have free time.
Lindhberg bought his first motorcycle when he was 18 years old. It was a 1920 Excelsior, which are incredibly rare nowadays. Lindhberg is famous for many things, and one of those is when he rode his Excelsior from Chicago to Louisville in 24 hours. And that was in 1921!
Buddy’s favorite motorcycle was a 1958 Ariel Cyclone and he was often spotted riding around on it. The motorcycle was kept in the Holly family for quite a while and then was given as a gift to Waylon Jennings in 1979. The motorcycle went up for sale in 2004 and sold for almost $500,000.
Carl Fogarty is one of the most successful motorcycle racers in history and holds the title for 2nd most wins in history. His father was also a famous motorcycle racer. The Fogarty family has made a large impact on the worldwide motorcycle community.
Nick Sanders is a famous bicyclist and motorcyclist who is most famous for holding the title for most times riding around the world. He has ridden around the globe 7 times and has documented his journeys for all of us to see. He is a true adventurer and thrill seeker.
Former rapper and now talk show host Queen Latifah is most commonly seen riding around on her Honda CBR but she has owned quite a few motorcycles over the years. She continued to ride even after suffering the tragedy of losing her brother in a motorcycle accident.
The actor owns several motorcycles and performed almost all of his own stunts in his movie “The Place Between The Pines”. Gosling owns an old Honda Shadow, a classic Honda CB750 cafe racer, and rides enduro bikes regularly.
Apart from being one of the famous football (soccer) players to ever live, David Beckham also owns an impressive collection of motorcycles that he regularly rides. He is most regularly seen riding Triumph motorcycles.
Bradley Cooper owns quite a few motorcycles but enjoys riding his Triumph Thruxton and Ducati the most. He is often seen riding around town either by himself or with special female passengers.
John has several motorcycles in his stable and even rode one of his personal motorcycles for his movie “Wild Hogs”. He has owned many Harley Davidsons over the years but doesn’t own just American bikes.
Orlando is sponsored by both BMW Motorcycles and Husqvarna. He grew up riding old kick starters like most of us and then fell in love with BMW long the way. Orlando has a very impressive collection of motorcycles and even helped BMW design one.
Gerard has been riding bikes for years, and has a passion for Triumph Motorcycles. He had a serious accident in 2017 when a person wasn’t paying attention and cut him off. He still rides but says he is much more cautious now than he used to be. Also, he owns a first generation Ford Bronco like I do, so he gets extra cool points.
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 1934 Harley Davidson and a 1941 Knucklehead Harley. His motorcycles go up for auction every 10 years or so and are passed around between antique investors.
Brando became famous in the motorcycle world for his 1953 film “The Wild One” where he rode a Triumph Thunderbird. The Triumph was his own bike that he rode throughout the whole movie. Brando’s portrayal of a gang leader in that movie is why James Dean bought a Triumph 500.
T.E. Lawrence, or known throughout the world as Lawrence of Arabia is famous for his Brough Superior SS-100 motorcycle. Brough motorcycles were the predecessors to superbikes and many of them could go well over 100 miles per hour, which was considered a ludicrous speed in that decade. Lawrence was killed on his Brough Superior when swerving to miss some children on bicycles.
Stephen King, known for his gruesome horror novels has been an avid motorcycle rider since he was young. He has owned many motorcycles over the years and even got a chance to make a guest appearance on the show “Sons of Anarchy” in which he rode a red Harley Davidson Road Glide. One of his favorite motorcycles is his 1986 Heritage Soft tail.
Kid Rock owns a large collection of custom cars and motorcycles. Kid Rock’s summer tour was sponsored by Harley Davidson in 2014 for their 110th anniversary. Kid Rock owns quite a few Harley Davidsons as well as a handful of custom choppers built specifically for him.
Charlie Hunnam is the star of the hit motorcycle show “Sons of Anarchy” and says that he rides the same bike in real life that he rides on the show, a Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide. He owns several motorcycles but says that is his favorite. 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 who portrays English spy James Bond has a love for motorcycles both on and off the screen. His favorite motorcycle he has used in a movie is the Montesa Cota 4RT in “Quanum of Solace”. He also rode a Honda CRF250R in “Skyfall”. He has been spotted driving around casually on several Enduro motorcycles in public.
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 built up a Harley Knucklehead and have been spotted many times cruising around together on it.
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 is a man’s man in real life just like he portrays on his old show “Home Improvement”. He loves old cars and motorcycles and has quite a collection of classic vehicles. He has said many times that hes not really a Harley man, but does enjoy older British bikes like Triumph and Norton. Tim Allen is also throughout the motorcycle community for his role in the movie “Wild Hogs” where he rides cross-country with a group of his friends.
No list of famous motorcycle riders would be complete without a mention of Burt Munro, so I saved the best for last. Burt Munro has always been one of the motorcycle role models I’ve looked up to since I was young.
Burt was from New Zealand and built a custom 1920 Indian Scout that he shipped to the Bonneville Salt Flats when he was 70 years old and broke the world land speed record on old bald tires and no special equipment. He amazed the world with his backyard enginuity. The movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” was made about him and is definitely one you need to see.
There you have it, a list of 40 famous motorcycle riders with a little history of each person, what they drive, and why they have had an influence on the motorcycle community. I know that there are many other individuals who are worthy to be on this list, and we wish we had time to talk about all of them!