Top 10 superheroes on motorbikes

Phil West
By Phil West
PhilWestNew Former Editor of Bike, ex-Road Test Editor of MCN, ridden more bikes than he can remember. Likes: GTS, Paso, Mantra. Dislikes: own rust bucket LC and 900 T-Bird daily driver.

With Wonder Woman set to return to the silver screen in 2017 and with it, we hope, a bit more of a motorcycling superhero (Wonder Woman has historically used bikes quite a lot), plus with the festive movie season in full swing, we got to wondering about what other superheroes had ever been seen on bikes. Here’s our round-up of the 10 best… do you agree?

Wonder Woman

1. Wonder Woman’s KE175 and IT125

Where else could we start than with the most famous Wonder Woman of all, TV’s Linda Carter, from the Seventies, who during the show’s relatively short run (just three series were made) was actually seen aboard bikes, wearing more than slightly dubious clothing, at least twice, as pictured here aboard both a Yamaha IT175 enduro, as well as a Kawasaki KE175 trailie. The IT was used in the episode ‘Date With Doomsday’ which first aired in early 1979. The stunt riding for all, incidentally, was done by famed Hollywood stunt rider Debbie Evans who also featured in the likes of CHiPs, Barb Wire, The Jerk and more…

No, I am Batman

2. Batman's Batcycle

The original motorcycle of the original superhero –­ sort of. TV’s much-loved, technicolour Batman from the 1960s, starring Adam West, also, occasionally, featured bikes. The first was actually a Harley-Davidson with sidecar (for sidekick Robin, and came in the first series in 1965 but was only used in one episode, called ‘Not Yet He Ain’t’. Better known is its successor later that year which was based on a Yamaha Catalina 250, was designed by Tom Daniel and built by custom TV specialists Kustomotive. The result was used in 1966’s Batman movie, appeared in the TV series occasionally thereafter and is now on display in the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA.

Batgirl

3. Batgirl's Batcycle

Of course, Batman himself wasn’t the only superhero character from the TV series to use a motorcycle in the bike-happy Sixties. Batgirl, played by actress Yvonne Craig (who died in 2015) began appearing in the series from 1967 sometimes aboard her own special ‘Batcycle’ which was again based on a Yamaha, although this time a YDS5E 250 twin, which was also customized by Kustomotive. Just one example was built (unlike the four replicas of Batman’s bike and the five Batmobile cars) and it’s unknown what happened to it after the show was cancelled.

Robin

4. Robin's Norton

OK, so this is a slight cheat, but we think it’s necessary in order to understand the whole Batman two-wheeled chronology. When Batman was revived as a movie character by director Tim Burton in 1989, when the caped crusader was first played by Michael Keaton, most of the vehicular emphasis was on a series of different Batmobiles. Indeed the first two-wheeler only came in the third film in the series, 1995's Batman Forever, when Val Kilmer took over the lead role and Robin, played by Chris O’Donnell, was introduced. In fact Robin arrives by motorcycle, an early Norton Commando, prompting Bruce Wayne to show him around his garage, which includes a Harley, Indian and Vincent Black Prince.

Batman

5. Batman's Batpod

In fact, Batman’s first ‘modern era’ appearance on two wheels didn’t finally come until the more recent ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ reboot of the Batman series, specifically 2008’s The Dark Knight where Batman is played by Christian Bale and appears upon the ‘Batpod’, a monster-tyred two-wheeler. Devised by director Christopher Nolan and production designer Nathan Crowley it was powered by a 750cc Honda engine, had fibreglass body panels and an exhaust concealed within the frame. Its most striking feature, however, were the massive 31-inch Hoosier racing tyres as used in US sprint car racing which had to be shaved to help stunt rider Jean-Pierre Goy ride the machine.

Catwoman

6. Catwoman's Batpod

Yes, more Batman (and we’re sorry, we’re not finished yet). After The Dark Knight, Batman’s Batpod featured again in its sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, also starring Christian Bale and directed by Christopher Nolan. This movie, however, saw the reintroduction of Catwoman, this time played by Anne Hathaway, and it’s her that rides the Batpod in this movie. Well, actually, it’s not, it’s stunt double Jolene Van Vugt. To make it easier for her, however, the production team remade a lot of the bike out of aluminium so it was lighter and easier to control. It was still a fair handful, though, as can be seen in this behind-the-scenes outtake.

Wolverine

7. Wolverine's Harley

OK, let’s get back to reality (a bit). Away from Batman, the X-Men character most closely associated with motorcycles is, of course, Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman since the very first X-Men movie of 2000. In 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, however, the character is explored more fully and we see him aboard a bike he initially steals, a Harley-Davidson DuoGlide. Actually, however, it’s not that simple. The bike featured in the movie’s publicity is the earlier Harley HydroGlide (with telescopic forks and rigid rear end). The DuoGlide ridden, had a twin shock rear. Thought you bike/movie nerds would like to know…

Hell Rider

8. Ghost Rider's Hell Cycle

Let’s face it, Ghost Rider, the spontaneously-combusting Skeletor who rides a chopper with wheels of fire, isn’t anyone’s favourite super hero but, played by Nicolas Cage in 2007, the movie did enough to justify a 2011 sequel. In truth, certainly for us bike nuts, the stars were probably the bike, called Grace, in each movie. In the original, a Harley chopper was used which, legend has it, was modelled closely on Captain America out of Easy Rider in a successful bid to tempt Peter Fonda into the project. In the sequel, a Yamaha VMax was used instead.

Captain America

9. Captain America's 'Liberator'

Oh, and speaking of Captain America there’s probably no superhero more closely associated with bikes than Captain America himself. The biologicially-enhanced and frozen in time WW2 military type was relaunched as a movie super hero in 2011 in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. Played by Chris Evans (no, not that one), the lead character originally rides a customised military 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA (although it’s actually a modified contemporary Softail Slim). In the movie’s sequel, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, thanks to a commercial tie-up with H-D, he’s slightly incongruously aboard a Harley Street 750 (although it’s actually a modified Sportster with 17inch wheels). While a Street is also used in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

 

Black Widow on Harley-Davidson

10. Black Widow's Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Another Avenger and this time aboard the most futuristic bike of all. In 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s not Captain America or Iron Man who grab the eye on two wheels but, surprisingly, Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) who, thanks again to Marvel’s commercial tie-up with Harley-Davidson, is seen aboard Harley’s prototype electric bike, the LiveWire. In it, Widow and the bike drop out of a futuristic jet before tearing across the city in a blur of super stuff. In reality the bike was ridden by French stuntwoman Sarah Vignot.

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