Ever since motorcycles have existed, famous people have been riding them. In the beginning, most where maverick actors, or daredevil personalities, who used the motorcycle as a way of expressing themselves, and standing out in a crowd. Many actually loved motorcycles, and their passion grew into their trademark.
Over the years, celebrities who were not part of the movie or TV industry started using motorcycles to create an image of themselves. Only just recently, Republican 2012 Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman came into the news, using promotional material of him on a motorcycle. There is very little doubt that Jon Huntsman is a passionate motorcycle rider, there are plenty of photos of him circulating on the internet from before he became really famous. But is the use of him riding a motorcycle beneficial to us?
But what do motorcycle riding celebrities bring to the motorcycle world? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing?
There is no correct answer for that. Some are positive, some are not. I would say that you can divide famous bikers into two categories; the true riders, and the image riders.
True riders are those people that really love motorcycles. They ride on every occasion they get, and are very much like you and me (except richer and famous). These are people who have been riding since the first motorcycles were produced. Passionate bikers like T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), or even Royalties like the King Albert II of Belgium, King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Abdullah II of Jordan (as was his father King Hussein) or the recent-in-the-news Prince William of England, are all known for their love for motorcycles. Famous chefs like Jaime Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Alton Brown are known not only for their food skills, but also for their motorcycles.
You can not imagine people like Jay Leno without a motorcycle, or at least talking about them. Even the corporate world has them; Malcolm Forbes is famous for his motorcycles, and he even started a motorcycle gang called Capitalist Tools. Jacques Nasser, former CEO of Ford was a keen biker, as is the current CEO of Volkswagen. Apple CEO & founder, Steve Jobs for a long time was seen riding around California on his BMW motorcycle. All groups of life, all professions, have famous people, and for some of them, they ride motorcycles. Actors, musicians, sports people, politicians, TV personalities and corporate big wigs.
But what do all theses people bring to the motorcycle world? The answer for that one is quite simple, they bring a certain amount of respect. The biker image, mostly thanks to Hollywood, has been negative. Bikers are seen in movies as trouble; riding fast, fighting, nonconformist and loud people. Hollywood’s image of a motorcycle rider is that of gangs, killers and troublemakers. But when A-list people take to their bikes, it presents some counter image. If they ride motorcycles and they are respected people in their community or profession, then maybe bikers are not that bad after all.
Maybe using an actor/actress or musician as a role model is not so good. After all, acting is not seen as a respectable profession. But seeing politicians like Jon Huntsman, Ann Richards, Mary Peters, Gabrielle Giffords and Ben Nighthorse Campbell riding motorcycles, despite the fact that they are politicians, gives bikers a degree of respect and conformity. Seeing Fortune 100 CEOs ride motorcycles shows a certain responsibility that you and me can never match. But unfortunately, not all famous people are real bikers, and therefore are responsible riders.
The image riders are famous people who ride motorcycles because it’s good for their image, or at least they think so. Motorcycles are not a passion, but a tool. It’s often these people who have accidents because they were not able to control their bike and make the headlines. Usually, they are in the acting or music business. Names like David Hasselhof or Arnold Schwartzenegger make big headlines when they crash, and it’s never good headlines. Arnold went off his motorcycle, and then they discovered that he didn’t even have a motorcycle endorsement. How can anyone take motorcycles riders serious when the Governator is riding around on a motorcycle without a valid license? Hasselhof blew off his motorcycle with his girlfriend after a wind gust hit him. Most bikers know how to control a motorcycle in heavy wind, but apparently Hasslehof had problems.
Some, unfortunately often musicians, ride a motorcycle badly, sometimes without proper protection, or under influence, and that deters from the image of bikers to the non-biker world.
Of course real bikers have accidents too. Big names like Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Adrian Brody, Lauren Hutton and Liam Neeson all had accidents, but that’s motorcycles for you. Motorcycles are dangerous, but they all went back to riding their bikes. They ride with proper protection, and all know how to ride.
So motorcycle riding celebs can bring a better image to the motorcycle world, while image riders detract. Having an accident on a motorcycle when they are famous, and if they’re not wearing a helmet and other safety gear, or DUI, sets a bad image. It also sets a bad example for impressionable people (often youngsters) who will emulate their idol. If their idol doesn’t ride with a helmet, why should they?
Motorcycle riding celebrities have a responsibility, and should set an example. Show the world how it’s done properly. That will build goodwill with non-motorcycle riding people.