Steve McQueen was a motorhead for motorcycles during the '60s
Everybody has something that relaxes them and for McQueen it was risking his life. Very "King of Cool" of him.
Fans of Steve McQueen already knew he enjoyed living his life in the fast lane. Whether it was in a car, on a horse, in his career or while sitting on a bike; If it involved speed, McQueen was there, probably in record time.
For McQueen, racing cars and motorcycles was his way of clearing his mind. McQueen owned around 200 motorcycles. Some of these vintage bikes included: 1951 Triumph Thunderbird, 1933 Matchless Silver Hawk, 1912 Harley-Davidson X8E Big Twin, 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross, 1915 Cyclone Boardtracker and more.
He had plenty of rides to choose from when taking breaks or on hiatus from Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958). Much like his character, Josh Randall, McQueen loved adventure. "The King of Cool" was just that. He was known as one of the biggest motorcycle personalities in the 20th century, and many fans wanted to be just like him.
McQueen even did his own motorcycle stunts while filming the 1963 film The Great Escape. The film was noted for its epic motorcycle chase and jump scene, which is considered one of the best Hollywood stunts ever performed.
According to the interview, McQueen had just returned from the International Six Days Trail (ISDT) in East Germany, where he competed with the American team. Could you imagine having one of the greatest American TV cowboys on your team?
McQueen's explanation for why he risked his life to race with the American team? It's simple: "To keep from getting a swelled head."
"You see, around the studios everybody waits on me," McQueen said. "They powder my nose and tell me what they think I need to hear. And after a while you're convinced you are super-human."
"But when you're racing a motorcycle, the guy on the next bike doesn't give a damn who you are. And if he beats you in the race, well, it means he's a better man than you are, and he's not afraid to tell you that you're lousy."
When the actor wasn't dedicating his time to filming, most of it was spent (literally with cash) on cars, motorcycles, rugged hunting trips or roughing it on mountain trails.
"Man, I got to keep a perspective," McQueen said. "I know motorcycle racing can be dangerous, but I don't plan on getting killed. And when I'm humming along on the bike, I say to myself, 'Man, this is where I want to be. This is what I'm happy doing.'"
According to the interview, McQueen and his team of four other Americans were unsponsored and paying their own way to attend the motorcycle trials in East Germany. They failed to place well in the competition at the time. McQueen explained: "We had too many crashes."