You don’t have to be a biker to appreciate a good biker song, but it probably helps. As to what constitutes a biker song – anything really, providing it fulfills one basic function. Do the lyrics need to contain a few motorcycle name drops? Not necessarily. Does the tempo have to be full throttle? Not at all. Does it have to be sung by a band with a predilection for perms, bandanas, and skin-tight leather? No (although if we’re talking about Bon Jovi, most definitely). The one true defining feature of a biker song is that it makes you want to hit the road…. something each of these 20 best biker songs of all time most definitely does and these great songs do just that.
20. Saxon – Motorcycle Man
It’s heavy, it’s loud, and it’s guaranteed to get your motor running. For an all-out adrenaline rush, play the Saxon’s “Motorcycle Man” at full volume. We can’t guarantee your neighbors will be happy about the situation, but few songs manage to capture the sound of a roaring chopper engine quite so successfully.
19. George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone
Sure, it’s a cliche. And sure, it’s been in every cheesy movie about bikers for the last gazillion years. But sometimes, a bit of corn is ok. Sometimes, it’s more than ok. Bikers are badass, and if there’s one song guaranteed to make them feel even more badass than usual, it’s “Bad to the Bone.”
18. Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive
Bon Jovi aren’t cool, never have been cool, and unless the definition of cool changes in the future, never will be. But not everything needs to be cool. Not everything even needs to be good. “Wanted Dead or Alive” is neither cool nor good. Some people would probably say it’s outright awful. They may have a point. Either way, it’s a song that gets in your head, stays there, and makes you want to ride. For that reason alone, we’ll forgive the terrible 80s production and the absurd lyrics (“I walk these streets, a loaded six-string on my back/I play for keeps, ’cause I might not make it back”… answers on a postcard if you know what any of that means). We will not, however, forgive Jon Bon Jovi’s hair in the accompanying promo.
17. Motorhead – Iron Horse
As brainbucket.rumbleon.com says, if the guitar riffs in “Iron Horse” don’t make you a happy rider, nothing will. No one in the history of rock (with the possible exception of Keith Richards) embodied the rock and roll spirit better than the late, great Lemmy. His grizzly rasp was the sound of a man who didn’t just sing about life in the fast lane, but who’d set up camp in it. Here, he sings from the perspective of someone who doesn’t just love to ride, but whose entire existence is cut, shaped, and defined by their set of wheels. It’s an exhilarating ride.
16. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Sweet Hitch-Hiker
It may not rank among Creedence Clearwater Revival’s best-known songs, but “Sweet Hitch-Hiker” is still a killer tune. Back in the days when hitchhiking was an acceptable mode of transportation rather than a death wish, CCR penned this rollicking number about a rider who gets distracted by a girl thumbing a lift, comes off his bike, and later gets overtaken by the same hitchhiker on the back of someone else’s ride. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s still a great track for riding too.
15. Twisted Sister – Live to Ride, Ride to Live
Taken from Twisted Sister’s excellent (and tragically underrated) album “You Can’t Stop Rock ’n’ Roll”, “Live to Ride, Ride to Live” is a rocking headbanger that needs no more explanation than the title. It’s from a very particular time in rock and roll, and if you hate 80s heavy metal with a passion, you’re going to loathe it. If you still have fond memories of big hair and questionable fashion choices, (or if you can learn to ignore both), you’ll love it. As a piece of trivia, frontman Dee Snider is himself a major motorcycle enthusiast, and even organizes an annual ride with all proceeds going to his local food bank.
14. Rush – Ghost Rider
Rush’s “Ghost Rider” doesnt have the power and the guts of a typical biker song, but it’s got something just as worthy: heart. In 1997, drummer and chief lyricist Neil Peart lost his teenage daughter in a car accident. A few months later, his wife passed away from cancer. Peart’s way of dealing with the tragedy involved getting back in the saddle – quite literally. In an effort to outrun, if not escape, his demons, he rode 54,680 miles across the US, Canada, and Central America. After returning home, he put pen to paper and captured the essence of his journey in “Ghost Rider.” If you’re the kind of rider who prefers real emotion to macho posturing, it’s compulsive listening.
13. Arlo Guthrie – Motorcycle Song
It’s sweet and it’s silly and it’s got lines like ” don’t want a pickle/ just wanna ride my motorcycle/ And I don’t want a tickle/ I’d rather ride on my motorcycle. It is, of course, Arlo Guthrie’s “Motorcycle Song,” the track that features first on every Hells Angels’ playlist. Although don’t tell them we told you that.
12. Roger McGuinn – Ballad of Easy Rider
You can’t call yourself a biker if you’ve never seen “Easy Rider,” you can’t call yourself a decent human being if you managed to get through the ending without shedding at least one tear, and you can’t call yourself a music fan if you didn’t fall in love with the music. Obviously, there’s one song above all others that stands out (skip straight to No.1 on the list if you can’t guess) but the whole soundtrack was groundbreaking, with songs from The Band to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. As ultimateclassicrock.com writes, Bob Dylan was asked to contribute, but he was doing something else that day so simply scribbled out a few lines, handed it to the filmmakers, and told them “Give this to (Roger) McGuinn, he’ll know what to do with it.” He did.
11. Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts – Box Hill Or Bust!
If you don’t like bikes, if you don’t appreciate pub rock, and if you think the only thing worse than 80s fashion is 80s music, you’re not going to get Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts. In all likelihood, you’re probably not even going to know their name. And that’s a travesty. If Chas and Dave had a baby with Hawkwind, this band would be the result. As loudersound.com writes, they’ve always been too concerned with having a good time to release many records. When they do eventually get around to it, very few people outside the UK biker circuit even realize. But every now and again, they make a stab at the big time. To try and get more airplay for 1982’s “Box Hill Or Bust!,” they tried changing their name from Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts to Dumpy’s Rusty Bolts in the belief that DJs wouldn’t say nuts on the radio. As it turns out, they wouldn’t say bolts either. It doesn’t mean it’s not a banging tune though.
10. Judas Priest – Freewheel Burning
Judas Priest have released a ton of biker songs in their time, with “Freewheel Burning” being one of the best. Clearly, this isn’t a band that respects the speed limit and keeps an eye out for hitchhikers on the way – when they ride, they ride hard. “Freewheel Burning” rocks just as hard. If you’re in the market for something a little more subtle, try the equally awesome, elegantly funky “Desert Plains” instead.
9. The Rolling Stones – Start Me Up
You don’t get to be the biggest rock and roll band in the world by happenstance. The Rolling Stones know exactly how to put a scorching tune together – if you needed any proof of that, try hitting the road with “Start Me Up” blasting in the background. If that guitar riff doesn’t get you a more memorable ride, nothing will.
8. Neil Young – Motorcycle Mama
“Motorcycle Mama” isn’t necessarily the perfect accompaniment to a hard, fast ride. But not every journey has to end in a speeding ticket and shakey legs. If you’re in the mood for a leisurely meander down the open road, Neil Young’s “Motorcycle Mama” makes for deliciously easy listening.
7. The Allman Brother’s Band – Midnight Rider
There’s a good chance the outlaw in The Allman Brother’s Band “Midnight Rider” was riding a horse, not a bike. But it doesn’t matter. It’s a glorious tune that’s made all the more evocative knowing that both Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley had their careers and their lives cut tragically short as a result of motorcycle accidents.
6. Montrose – Bad Motor Scooter
Described by RevZilla as one of the best motorcycle songs of all time, ” Bad Motor Scooter” was and remains one of Montrose’s finest moments. Lines like “So get on your bad motor scooter and ride/Up over to my place and stay all night” may not have gone down well with parents at the time, but they describe in a very succinct way why every teenager wants a motorcycle.
5. Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell
Meat Loaf is always a difficult name to bring to the party. He’s divisive, and there’s no getting around that. But there’s also no getting around the fact that “Bat out of Hell” has a kind of majesty to it. That doesn’t mean it’s the best song ever recorded… far from it, in fact. But it does mean anyone who refuses to listen to it on the grounds of good taste needs to get over themselves, turn the volume up, and hit the road to this excessive but ultimately glorious piece of theater.
4. Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
You can’t talk about, let alone listen to, a Richard Thompson song and not drool a little over the guitar work. And the guitar on “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” is up to his usual standards. But as this a list about biker songs, we have to talk about the lyrics first and foremost. During the song, we meet James, a 21-year old thief who uses his 380 pound Black Lightning bike that he’s “robbed many a man to get” to woe a redheaded young lady. After falling foul of a shoot-out, James bequeaths the fore mentioned redheaded young lady his 52 Vincent because ” Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won’t do.” It’s a sublime song that as Time notes, is “a glorious example of what one guy can accomplish with just a guitar, a voice, an imagination, and a set of astonishingly nimble fingers.”
3. Jimi- Hendrix – Ezy Ryder
Despite being inspired by the movie of (almost) the same name, there nothing nihilistic or jaded about “Ezy Ryder.” What the film gives us in cynicism, Jimi Hendrix gives us in love. Blessed with a funky energy and a sunshine burst of positivity, it’s a scorcher of a song with themes that resonate just as much today as they did back in 1971.
2. AC/DC- Highway To Hell
AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” is a no-holds-barred rocker that’s designed to get your blood pumping, your adrenaline flowing and your motor running. In fairness, it was written about the trials of a grueling touring schedule rather than biking, but still, with a guitar riff that good, how could we not include it?
1. Steppenwolf – Born to Be Wild
Obviously, there can only be one winner. And obviously, the winner in this case has to be Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” For over 50 years, it’s been as closely linked with biker culture as leather jackets and bandanas. Not all biker songs have to open and end on full throttle, but this one does, and gloriously so. First heard on the band’s self-titled debut album from 1968, it achieved international recognition a year later when it featured on the soundtrack to “Easy Rider.” Steppenwolf may never have reached the same heights again, but they’d already given bikers what they needed – an anthem.