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I'm a cowboyDead or alive
On a steel horse I ride
—Bon Jovi, "Wanted Dead or Alive"
Cool or not, in a modern day setting, it would appear weird to ride a horse on the streets. After all, for our standards, they are slow, time consuming, and quite impractical. But due to their similar physical structure, motorbikes can fill the same role in the plot, with the added benefit that they are loud and shiny.
It can happen either with Older Than Radio characters getting new reimagined versions, or with original characters intentionally invoking the classical feel of these riders.
Occasionally, a Cool Car can also fill the same "metaphorical horse" role, especially a sports car, or a truck, that still have that "lone rider" feel to them.
Contrast with Automaton Horses, that is an inversion when actual, natural horses are treated like machines by the plot, and Compare to Mechanical Horse, a machine that actually looks like a horse. If characters use the motorbike to joust, then it's Motorcycle Jousting.
Anime & Manga
- Sengoku Basara, despite being the Trope Namer, is not an example as the "motorbike" is still a real horse, just one that's been outfitted with handlebars and tailpipes.
- Melody of Oblivion on the other hand, is an example, but it goes a bit further than that by styling the motorcyles to more closely resemble horses. And they transform into Bishonen for extra cool factor.
- In Durarara, one of the characters is a modern-day headless fairy called a dullahan. Her preferred method of getting around was a reanimated headless horse, which she disguised as a pitch-black motorcycle when she boarded the ship for Japan. As a bike it doesn't have any headlights, still has the shadow of a horse, makes hoof steps instead of engine sounds, and also whinnies on occasion.
- Inverted in the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's manga, in which the Skeleton Knight uses a horse instead of the motorcycles that everyone else uses while dueling.
- Played straight with Sherry LeBlanc, a French woman with a flower-knight theme; her D-Wheel is modeled to appear horse-like, with the card zones running down the back of the neck.
- DC Comics superheroes Knight and Squire ride motorbikes. In some 50s stories and the Paul Cornell miniseries, they even have stylised horses' heads. Knight's bike "Anastasia" can even follow a scent!
- Some other 50s stories, however take it too far.
- When Jonah Hex was transported to the post-appocolyptic future in the series Hex, he swapped his horse for a cool motorcycle.
- In Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, the Black Rider is a Zorro-inspired hero who "cuts a dashing figure" atop his motorcycle Midnight. When he shows it off to Leni he claims he named it after a horse he once owned.
- In She Hulk, the time-displaced Western hero Two-Gun Kid receives a sky-cycle as a gift from his descendant Hawkeye via Video Will. The Kid explicitly compares it to a horse.
- Marvel hero the Black Knight used to ride a flying motorcycle he called his "atomic steed". He got it from the Knights of Wundagore, who naturally used it in a similar fashion.
- Ghost Rider: the character's Retroactive Legacy establishes that Riders of previous eras often rode a Hellish Horse or other animal native to their region. The most recent Ghost Rider uses a motorcycle instead.
- Inverted in The Avengers vol 3 #2: When the Avengers are caught in a reality warp that transforms Britain into a medieval kingdom under the control of Morgana La Fey, Captain America and Hawkeye, two Avengers associated with motorbikes, are the only members of the Queen's Vengeance seen riding horses (with appropriately logoed barding).
- In The Movie, Ghost Rider has a demonic motorbike that includes a horse's skull.
- The film Knight Riders is all about a modern biker gang who act like Arthur's knights of the round table.
- Although we do not see any motorcycles in both films, in the Cars series films, motorcycles are implied to be their equivalent of horses.
- The Japanese live action Gun Crazy films included "A Woman from Nowhere", which has the title character ride a motorcycle in a modern-day version of a Western.
- Marlboro in Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is a cowboy (actually he just dresses and smokes like one and participates in Rodeos) who rides a motorcycle instead of a horse.
- Good Omens: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse now ride motorcycles.
- In The Devil's Rose, the protagonist is an undead Texas Ranger who tracks down fugitive souls from hell. His horse demon mount...thing gets mauled shortly into the story so he saws off its head and attaches it to a motorcycle. Later, he attaches it to a car.
- Percy Jackson and The Olympians: Ares the god of War used to ride a war chariot, that was red and gold and had pictures of people dying painful death adorning it, pulled by a pair of fire breathing horses. It changed into a modern version, a flame-painted Harley Davidson the "size of a baby elephant", with a caucasian skin seat.
- Taking this to its logical conclusion, Elves in Mercedes Lackey's urban fantasy setting ride shape-shifting steeds that get to be horses and motorcycles.
Live Action TV
- In Kamen Rider Kuuga, the Gouram was originally armor for a horse that the original ancient Kuuga would ride. When Kuuga returned in the modern day, it adapted to work with a motorcycle instead.
- One episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker featured a Hell's Angel riff on the classic Headless Horseman myth.
- Parodied in the "Erizabeth L" sketch of Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which one character points out: "It's bleeding weird having half the Tudor nobility ligging around on motorized bicycles."
- Fonzie's motorcycle was "his horse" on occasion.
Q: What does Fonzie feed his horse?
- On Supernatural, the Horsemen each drive a car which suits their title. Predictably, War rides in a mustang.
- On Get Smart Smart went undercover to break up a medievel-themed biker gang which jousted on motorbikes.
- This trope is used as lyrics for Manowar song "Return of the Warlord"
- Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive":
I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride,
I'm wanted dead or alive
- In the RPG Diana: Warrior Princess, Diana's mount is a motorcycle with a horse mind.
- Warhammer 40000 Space Marines will occasionally make use of squads mounted on massive motor cycles in the same manner as classical cavalry. The White Scars chapter is especially noted for it. They've been called Mongols on Motorbikes before for a reason.
- There was a rumor about a Zelda game called A Link to the Future, in which Link would ride a motorcycle called "Epona".
- Dr. McNinja's magic motorbike Sparklelord is actually a transformed - no, not a horse, but close. It is a unicorn.
- On Justice League Unlimited, cowboy-themed hero Vigilante rides a motorcycle.
- In one of the Scooby Doo movies, there's a spear-wielding ghost knight who has a ghost horse. Fred tries to fight him using a motorcycle and a long iron pipe.
- Phantom 2040, whose predecessor had the Cool Horse Hero, has a flying motorbike instead.
- The motorcycles in Biker Mice From Mars, which sometimes acted like sentient horses.
- In Zorro: Generation Z, Tornado is a motorcycle.
- A common vehicle in 3rd-world Asia is the "autorickshaw", essentially a buggy pulled by a motorcycle.
- This recruitment poster.
Basically the same principle, but not with motorbikes:
Anime and manga
- In the Saiyuki series, Sanzo's mount is a jeep rather than the horse used by his mythical counterpart. It still gets swallowed by a dragon, however, and both continue to serve him after that. The most significant difference from the original is that there's now room for his entire party to ride with him.
- Nellybelle, the loyal steed of Roy Rogers' sidekick Pat Brady, was a jeep. (Being a sidekick, Pat didn't rate a Cool Conveyance; when he went by hoof, he got a mule.) Roy himself always rode his Cool Horse Trigger, even in modern-day adventures.
- In one film adaptation of Richard III, the title character is a Nazi. Upon getting his car stuck in mud, he yells the famous "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" line.
- In On a Pale Horse, the first of Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, the Grim Reaper's pale horse can become a pale Cool Car, or a pale Cool Boat.
- In Supernatural, the Four Horsemen ride in classic cars (Red Mustang for War, Pale Cadillac for Death).
- The Myth Busters bought an old Jeep, fitted it with a foam horsehead, painted it black and used it to test a mounted archery myth.
- ↑ A2: Gasoline.