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10 Most Influential People in Motorcycling History

10 Most Influential People in Motorcycling History

Today, motorcyclists are no longer seen as hoodlums but as skilled riders who strive to improve. Of course, none of this would have been possible were it not for certain individuals who helped to improve the image of motorcyclists and integrate motorcycling into popular culture. In this article, you will learn about 10 people who played a major role in motorcycling history.

1. Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen
Photo Credit: @wikipedia

Terrence Stephen McQueen was a famous American actor and Hollywood star. After becoming a successful movie star, McQueen began to turn his attention to his one true love: motorcycle riding. Even during the peak days of his acting career, Mcqueen would go ride his motorcycle to relax and calm his mind.


McQueen’s first motorcycle was a 1946 Indian Chief. When starring in The Great Escape, McQueen got the chance to perform his own stunts atop a 650 cc Triumph TR6. He also competed in off-roading motorcycle races under the fake name Harvey Mushman to ensure he did not violate his movie contracts


McQueen owned more than 100 vintage Indian motorcycles. He even wrote an article for Popular Science about people’s perception of riders from show-offs to daily commuters.

2. Jay Leno

Jay Leno
Photo Credit: @pagesix

Motorcycle riding is not reserved for only actors as several comedians and television hosts are also active motorcyclists. One such individual is James Douglas Muir Leno, also known as Jay Leno. Besides being a car and motorcycle enthusiast, he was the host of The Tonight Show from 1992 to 2009. After he left, Leno started his own show, Jay Leno’s Garage.


Leno owns 117 motorcycles, from Harley to Indian models. During Leno’s college years, he used to own a 350-cc Honda. Leno owns one of the largest private motorcycle collections in the United States. He also owns $500,000 worth of Brough Superior models. He owns a Frankenstein model capable of horsepower of 375 hp due to being fitted with a helicopter engine.

3. Robert Craig Knievel “Evel Knievel”

Robert Craig Knievel “Evel Knievel”
Photo Credit: @reelrundown

Robert Craig Knievel was a professional American stuntman. Before becoming a stuntman, Knievel participated in skiing demonstrations. One day, Knievel performed a stunt at his job that accidentally caused a power outage in the town. He was working in the copper mines of Butte, Montana. He accidentally crashed an earthmover while performing a wheelie stunt, into the main power line of the city. After being arrested and jailed, he was forced to share a cell with a man known as “Awful Knofel.” In jail, some people referred to Knievel as “Evil Knievel,” resulting in him changing the spelling of his last name from "Evil” to “Evel”.


Throughout Knievel’s life, he attempted almost 75 jumps, the majority of which ended successfully. To support his family, Knievel participated in stunt shows where he would jump over cages filled with lions and snakes. Knievel’s last stunt was in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. During the practice session, Knievel got hurt badly and was hospitalized. The video of the session was bought by ABC, whose broadcast made Knievel a national hero.

4. Ed Roth

Ed Roth
Photo Credit: @streetmusclemag

Ed Roth aka “Big Daddy” was a cartoonist, pinstriper, and custom car designer. Born in 1932, Roth was always into building and creating things. At first, he started with building hot rod cars before moving on custom motorcycles. His custom motorcycle made it to the front pages of many famous magazines. Roth was also the co-founder of Kustom Kulture company. In 2001, Roth died of a heart attack.

5. James Dean

James Dean
Photo Credit: @wikipedia

James Dean was an American actor best known for his role in the film, Rebel Without a Cause. He was famous for his reckless driving since his teenage years. Dean used to own a Czech, a Royal Enfield 500, Harley Davidson models, an Indian 500, and a Norton 500. His Czech motorcycle was called “the Popcycle” because of how often it backfired.


Dean took part in a professional race with his Triumph Tiger T110 and won first place at the novice event and second place at the main event. He died of a severe neck injury at the age of 24.

6. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Photo Credit: @wallpapers

Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, also known as Tom Cruise, is one of the most famous and wealthiest actors and producers. He is known for performing his own stunts no matter how dangerous and difficult they are. Cruise has helped create a cool image for motorcyclists. In the movie, Top Gun, Cruise rode a Kawasaki GPZ 900R, the first Kawasaki model to be introduced in North America. In the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise was seen riding a Kawasaki Ninja H2. It is thanks in large part to Tom Cruise that the sales of many motorcycle models have risen in recent years.


Listed below are some of the motorcycles owned by Cruise:

  • Ducati 999R
  • Honda CRF450X
  • Triumph Speed Triple
  • Honda Valkyrie Rune
  • BMW R Nine T Scrambler

7. Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi
Photo Credit: @suwalls

Valentino Rossi is an Italian motorcycle racer and nine-time Grand Prix World Champion. Debuting in 2000, his influence helped motorcycle racing be recognized as a professional sport and served as an inspiration for many young riders. Rossi is the ultimate champion of motorcycle racing. The image which Rosi built regarding motorcycle racing has made it a legal racing platform.


He has won almost 89 motorcycle racing tournaments, some of which were premiered by Honda and Yamaha.


A few of the motorbikes owned by Rossi include:

  • Honda RC211V
  • Ducati Desmosedici
  • Yamaha YZR-M1
  • Aprilia RS 125 R

8. Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt
Photo Credit: @wallpapers

William Bradley Pitt, simply known as Brad Pitt, may never have been in motorcycle races but he still has had a significant impact on motorcycle culture. He is often spotted by his fans riding around on his motorcycles. His ex-wife, Angelina Jolie, occasionally could be seen riding with or next to Pitt.


Listed below are motorcycles owned by Brad Pitt:

  • Vyrus 987 C3 4V
  • Kawasaki GPZ 900R
  • Confederate Hellcat
  • Ducati Desmosedici RR
  • Triumph Bonneville Scrambler
  • Ducati Hypermotard
  • Triumph Thruxton Custom

9. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Photo Credit: @wallpapers

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man with a long list of professions. He has been the governor of California, an actor, and a businessman. Yet despite his busy life, Schwarzenegger’s enthusiasm for motorcycles is still alive. In the movie, Terminator, Schwarzenegger is shown riding a Harley Davidson Fat Boy.

10. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood
Photo Credit: @wallpapers

Clint Eastwood is considered one of the most decorated actors of his time. He is most known for his role in the Dollars Trilogy. He used to ride many Norton and Triumph motorcycles when he was younger. His interest in motorcycles was kindled during his time riding a Triumph Bonneville while starring in Coogan’s Bluff.

11. FAQs

11.1 What Other Hollywood Celebrities Are Motorcycle Riders?

Other Hollywood celebrities who ride motorcycles include Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Mamoa, Keanu Reeves, Chris Pine, and others.

11.2 Who is Joey Dunlop?

Joey Dunlop is a motorcycle racer who consecutively won the Formula One World Championship five years in a row.

12. Last Words

Famous individuals like Steve McQueen and Robert Craig Knievel helped bring motorcyclists into the limelight. Many Hollywood celebrities helped popularize motorcycle culture in the eyes of the general public. Cinema also played a huge role in getting the attention of the masses and making motorcycles such icons. Viking Bags has many parts and luggage options, including sissy bars, fairing, handlebars, crash bars, sissy bar bags, and saddlebags that you can install for a better riding experience.

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