Motorcycles | 10 April 2017Talking Bikes with Neile Adams, the First Mrs. Steve McQueen Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Steve McQueen’s history with motorcycles is spectacular by any measure of the word. Fleeing the Nazis in The Great Escape, appearing in the seminal bike movie On Any Sunday, and despite the protestations of his Hollywood handlers, McQueen raced the local So-Cal dirt bike events every chance he got. By most accounts, he was a heck of a rider and over the years acquired quite a collection of on- and off-road machinery. What few people may not know however, is that he wooed his first wife by taking her for rides in New York City on his first bike, a $20 mid-’50s BSA 650. From the new Motorbooks publication McQueen’s Motorcycles: Racing and Riding with the King of Cool is the story as dancer/actress Neile Adams recalls before she became the first Mrs. Steve McQueen. From the Back Seat—Talking Bikes with Neile Adams, the First Mrs. Steve McQueen “I remember Steve ‘stalking’ me on the BSA when we were in New York. I’d come out of dance rehearsal, and there he’d be, parked right outside the back stage door, sitting on that bike, grinning like a cat. This was when we’d first met and just begun dating. Then of course he’d expect me to just hop on the bike and go with him, no matter what I was wearing or no matter what other plans I may have had. I think this bike came along after the Indian with the sidecar; it wasn’t really a nice clean bike but I think he only paid $20 for it. I’m pretty sure this is the bike that ended up stranded in Cuba. Even though this two-wheeled machine isn’t motorized, this is still a charming photo of Steve and Neile at the races in Del Mar, California, in 1958 or 1959. Neile Adams McQueen collection “Steve loved his bikes, and he was a marvelous rider. And from then on, for the rest of the time we were together and married, bikes came and bikes went; some I remember and some I don’t. Something about riding the bike really satisfied and relaxed him. I can’t tell you how many times when he’d wake me up in the middle of the night and we’d jump on a bike and just take off—both in New York, and after we moved to California. Sometimes we’d go someplace in particular, and other times just ride to be riding, with no other goal or purpose. Three of Hollywood’s coolest cats aboard a bike and sidecar, heading off into the German countryside for a few beers and no doubt a little mayhem. With The Great Escape stars—James Coburn in the sidecar, James Garner on the back seat, and instigator extraordinaire McQueen at the controls—the film’s director, John Sturges (wearing hat, at right, looking a bit circumspect), likely hopes that this venture ends well. Bettmann/Getty Images “Many times, Steve would ride around New York shirtless and without a helmet. I always seemed to end up on the back of the bike in whatever I was wearing. Sometimes it was pants and little flip-flop shoes, a sweater, and a scarf in my hair and that was it. Once he got into racing, Steve would wear a helmet a little more often, and of course when we had kids, they always had helmets. But me? Just a scarf. It’s kind of amazing I was never hurt dressed like that. Steve rode fast, but never dangerously and always in control of the bike. The only times Steve ever got hurt on a bike was racing or trail riding, but never on the street, and he’d never risk me getting hurt. He loved those Indian bikes, and later the Husqvarnas too, plus he always really loved his Triumphs. In all our time together, I never remember there not being bikes around. To Steve, cars (Ferraris, Jaguars, Lola, Cobras, Porsches, and the like) were the movie superstars while motorbikes were the strong supporting actors (or TV stars, if you will) on their way to superstardom.” Buy from an Online Retailer The long-departed Steve McQueen is still the coolest man on two wheels. Even thirty years after his death, Steve McQueen remains a cultural icon. His image continues to appear in advertising and pop culture and his fan base spans from car lovers to racing enthusiasts to motorcycle obsessives. In his movies, McQueen’s character always had an envy-inducing motorcycle or car, but in his personal life, motorcycles were always McQueen’s first true love. McQueen’s Motorcycles focuses on the bikes that the King of Cool raced and collected. From the first Harley McQueen bought when he was an acting student in New York to the Triumph “desert sleds” and Huskys he desert raced all over California, Mexico, and Nevada, McQueen was never without a stable of two wheelers. His need for speed propelled him from Hollywood into a number of top off-road motorcycle races, including the Baja 1000, Mint 400, Elsinore Grand Prix, and even as a member of the 1964 ISDT team in Europe. Determined to be ahead of the pack, McQueen maintained his body like it was a machine itself. He trained vigorously, weight lifting, running, and studying martial arts. Later in his life, as he backed away from Hollywood, his interests turned to antique bikes and he accumulated an extensive collection, including Harley-Davidson, Indian, Triumph, Brough Superior, Cyclone, BSA, and Ace motorcycles. Today, McQueen still has the Midas touch; anything that was in the man’s possession is a hot commodity. McQueen’s classic motorcycles sell for top dollar at auctions, always at a multiple of what the same bike is worth without the McQueen pedigree. McQueen’s Motorcycles reveals these highly sought-after machines in gorgeous photography and full historical context. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.