Cool or not, in a modern day setting, it would appear weird to ride a horse on the streets. For our standards, they are slow, time consuming, and 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, especially since car engines are measured in horsepower and many are either named after horses (Mustang) or have horses in their logo (Ferrari).
Contrast with Automaton Horses, that is an inversion where real horses are treated like machines by the plot, and Compare to Mechanical Horse, a machine that really does look like a horse. If characters use the motorbike to joust, then it's Motorcycle Jousting.
Examples with motorbikes:
- 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. Never mind that the tailpipes have no purpose, and the rider, Date Masamune, doesn't even use the handle bars, preferring to ride with his arms crossed. So... Why?
- Melody of Oblivion styles the motorcyles to resemble horses. They transform into Bishōnen for extra cool factor.
- Celty from Durarara!! is a modern-day headless spirit called a dullahan. Her preferred method of getting around is a reanimated headless horse, which she disguises as a pitch-black motorcycle when she boards 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.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's
- Inverted in the 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.
- In Fate/Zero:
- One of Saber's special abilities is skill with all forms of vehicle transportation. Unsurprisingly, she upgrades rather quickly from horse to motorcycle. One episode of the anime is even titled "Knight on Two Wheels."
- This skill is also demonstrated by Berserker, who skips the motorcycle and goes straight for a fighter jet.
- Subverted by Archer: he may do it, as all the greatest horses in history belong to him (along with all its other treasures) but he prefers using an ancient Indian spaceship.
- 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!
- When Jonah Hex was transported to the post-apocalyptic future in the series Hex, he swapped his horse for a cool motorcycle. He does the same thing when he travels to The Present Day in the New 52 All-Star Western.
- The Six Guns miniseries has several Legacy Character versions of old Marvel Comics western characters, including the Black Rider (who, as the name implies, rode on a horse in his original incarnation), now the leader of a biker gang.
- In the Silver Age Supergirl rode a flying horse for a while. In the Post-Flashpoint universe Kara rode a space rocket bike during one story.
- Tom Strong has the Weird Rider, an 1800's cowboy using a space-traveling bike. Calls it his horse, too.
- In Top 10: 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 (camels, etc.). Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch ride motorcycles.
- Ghost Rider himself is an example of Older Than They Think: The first character to use the name was a western vigilante who rode a white horse. Much like the Human Torch, The Angel and several others, the concept was revisited during the Marvel era.
- 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).
- Mustang Suzy, a character from the '90s Hawkman books, combined this trope with the Centaur. She was a cyborg whose torso was grafted to the fuel tank of a motorcycle. She also showed up allied with Circe for "The Witch and the Warrior".
- In The DCU, the Golden Age cowboy-themed hero the Vigilante rode a motorbike instead of a horse.
- A similar inversion to The Avengers in one Elseworld in the Judge Dredd: Alternity one-shot: in a fantasy kingdom, Dredd is a knight who rides a horse called Magister, as an analogue to the Lawmaster bike.
- Mortadelo y Filemón: Played for Laughs in "Mortadelo de la Mancha". Mortadelo and Filemón believe themselves to be Don Quixote and Sancho, and Mortadelo steals a motorbike for Filemón to ride, mistaking it for a donkey.
- In the Robin Series "Pulp Heroes: Weird Western Tales" annual, the modern-day Trigger Twins ride horses, but also hire a biker gang as muscle.
- Shows up in the RWBY/The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings Fusion Fic Rise of a Star Knight and its sequel, Knights of Remnant: The Ring of Darkness, with horses being replaced by motorcycles, ATVs, trucks, and APCs). Especially prevalent with the Sky Knights of Mistral, who are shown making a cavalry charge on motorbikes armed with gun-spears and are based on the Rohirrim(but aren't the actual Rohirrim, who are part of the Army of Mistral), and with Jaune (being a knight and all).
- Similar to Sengoku Basara, when Geronimo first appears in America: The Motion Picture, he's riding a horse with handlebars coming out of its head.
- The 1970 animated adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court ends with the protagonist waking up in hospital and wondering if it was All Just a Dream, until he looks up King Arthur in an encyclopedia and sees a medieval painting of the King astride a motorbike.
- The scene where Hank and the King Incognito are about to be hanged has King Arthur saying that his knights couldn't turn up in time to save them even if they got fresh horses on the way. Fortunately they turn up on motorbikes instead.
- 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 either of the Cars films, motorcycles are implied to be their equivalent of horses, as tractors are for cows.
- 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.
- Headless Horseman: Liam and Lizzie lock the Headless Horseman inside the garage and set fire to it. After the garage explodes in a fireball, Headless comes crashing out through the doors on a motorbike.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Death of the Discworld normally rides an ordinary, living horse (because the hellish ones proved too hard to maintain), but in Soul Music, the interference of the spirit of rock music onto the Disc inspires Death to essentially take on the essence of heavy metal, and he rides out on a cobbled-together motorcycle, while wearing a leather jacket and holding a rose in his teeth.
- In a short story "Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse", set in modern New Orleans, fantasy Anti-Hero Kane and his sidekick ride Harleys. In typical fantasy setting, Kane used to ride a huge black stallion named Angel.
- Calamity, a cowgirl-themed superhero in the Nemesis Series, prefers to get around using motorcycles in both her superhero and civilian identities.
- In Kamen Rider Kuuga, during the original Rinto Kuuga's era the Gouram could transform into horse armor. In the modern era, it adapted to work with a motorcycle instead.
- This is also inverted in Kamen Rider Hibiki's movie and Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider Gaim & Wizard: The Fateful Sengoku Movie Battle, which are set in the Sengoku era and an Alternate Universe resembling the Sengoku, respectively, and sees the Riders using horses instead of their signature motorcycles.
- 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."
- Happy Days: Fonzie's motorcycle was his "horse" on occasion.
Q: What does Fonzie feed his horse?A: 'Aaaaaaaaaay!note
- On Get Smart Smart went undercover to break up a medieval-themed biker gang which jousted on motorbikes.
- An episode of Sliders involved a world where gasoline engines are outlawed, and oil is an even more precious commodity than in Real Life. Everybody uses alternative engines but only biker gangs stick to using gas-guzzling motorcycles and constantly raid oil convoys for fuel. While their lifestyle is definitely more in line with the "biker" stereotype, one of their practices involves a duel between two gang members. How? An old-fashioned joust but on bikes and no armor.
- Parodied in an episode of Designing Women. Charlene visited a psychic who warned her to beware a shoemaker on a red horse. Not too long after, a man named Schumacher came in the room to tell them he had just hit their car with his Mustang (which was yellow, but Charlene decided that was close enough.)
- This trope is used as lyrics for Manowar song "Return of the Warlord"
- Implied in Taiji Sawada's solo song "Empty Room," with the symbolism in the "Horse is my mate" line, which, due to being Gratuitous English literally could be read as a tribute to bestiality or heroin - except the reference is that the subject of the song is entirely alone except for his "horse." Since the rest of the song is set in a fairly modern setting and the writer was a Badass Biker, it's pretty obvious the reference is not to an actual horse but a motorcycle.
- Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive", as quoted abovenote
- Megadeth's "The Disintegrators also has this in the lyrics:
The slayer's arrived on a black horse of steel
Trouble is coming, hell on two wheels
- Not surprisingly, given the biker imagery in many of their songs, the iron horse from Motörhead's "Iron Horse/Born To Lose", refers to a motorbike.
- "Wolf Totem" from Mongolian folk metal band The Hu's features a group of Mongolian bikers following a warrior on a horse. The imagery is clearly inspired by the traditional Mongol nomadic hordes.
- The song Renegade, by Hammerfall : "On through the night he rides/ on his raging horse made of steel...".
- In "2-4-6-8 Motorway" by the Tom Robinson Band, the trucker sarcastically refers to a "whizzkid sitting pretty on your two-wheel stallion".
- In the RPG Diana: Warrior Princess, Diana's mount is a motorcycle with a horse mind.
- Nightbane has the Hell Riders, a Born in the Saddle nation in the Nightlands who've upgraded to motorcycles, and are led by the Doppelganger of Attila the Hun.
- Warhammer 40,000 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.
- Eldar Shining Spear Aspect Warriors deliberately invoke a Recycled IN SPACE! take on Knights In Shining Armor - with Laser Lances while riding Jetbikes
- Imperial Guard "Rough Riders" are a light cavalry unit. Their mini comes with a horse mountnote , but is designed to be remountable; putting them on motorcycles is a popular option. (With no mechanical effect.)
- The Legend of Zelda seems like this trope would never happen, but don't underestimate the tenacity of Rule of Cool.
- Link appears in Mario Kart 8 as Downloadable Content, and comes with an Epona-themed motorbike named the Master Cycle. Although Eiji Aonuma was not really involved in its creation, he was impressed enough by its design that he expressed the desire to incorporate it into future Zelda titles.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild granted his wish, as completing the Champions' Ballad DLC gives Link the ability to summon the Master Cycle Zero, which functions as his personal Divine Beast (including appearing on the Loading Screen with the other four) and has a unicorn design on the front. Awesome, but Impractical has never looked so badass.
- The Master Cycle Zero would later appear in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe alongside the Breath of the Wild version of Link.
- And the first DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity gives a prototype of the Master Cycle Zero to princess Zelda.
- In the Star Wars Conquest Game Mod for Mount & Blade, the speeder bikes replace the horses. The Riding skill now serves to determine which speeder bike can be ridden and how fast.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE has motorbikes in place of horses for cavalier transformations, complete with a horse ornament on the front. The pegasi with rocket boosters could also qualify.
- The Rider version of Sakata Kintoki in Fate/Grand Order uses a motorbike that's actually his bear mount from folklore updated for modern times.
- On Justice League Unlimited, cowboy-themed hero Vigilante rides a motorcycle.
- 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.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In "Stand and Deliver", in the Villain of the Week is the Dandy Highwayman, a high-tech version of The Highwayman who rides a motorbike instead of a horse.
- One episode of The Real Ghostbusters had Peter falling for the pretty female descendant of Ichabod Crane just in time for a new Headless Horseman to show up riding a motorcycle and throwing flaming motorcycle helmets at people.
- The beginning of Episode XCII of Samurai Jack has Jack wearing samurai plate armor and an oni mask, but seated on a low-rider. Though he loses the helmet, the mask, and some of the armor in a battle, he continues to use the motorcycle to travel around like the traditional wandering samurai that he is.
- A common vehicle in 3rd-world Asia is the "autorickshaw", essentially a buggy pulled by a motorcycle.
- This◊ recruitment poster juxtaposes a knight riding a horse with a soldier riding a motorcycle.
- The Italian regiment Reggimento Corazzieri (literally Cuirassiers' Regiment), the honor guard of the president of the republic, was, in most of its incarnations, a cavalry unit (either of mounted archers or cuirassiers), and currently alternates between horses big enough to not appear small with the tall soldiers of the regiments and equally enormous bikes◊.
- Motorcycle chariot racing is a sport which uses chariots pulled by motorcycles instead of horses. Inspired by Ben-Hur (1925), it was first introduced in Australia and quickly spreaded to America and Europe, reaching its peak in popularity during the 1920s-1930s. And yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.◊
Examples with other forms of transportation:
- 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 the 1995 Ian McKellan 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 Pretty Woman, the protagonist wanted someone to pick her on a white horse. Her love interest used a white limousine instead.
- Lampshaded in We Were Soldiers, where Colonel Moore theatrically explains to his officers that helicopters are horses that you don't have to feed or catch. The film, and the book it was based on, both center around one of the first US Army Air Cavalry units. In Real Life, the helicopter pilots were notorious about breaking uniform violations by sporting old Cavalry scout hats instead of their uniform caps. Hardly unforgivable, when you consider that their unit was the 1st Battalion of the U.S. 7th Cavalry regiment (yes, that 7th Cavalry).
- In Herbie Rides Again, the titular car decides to defiantly participate in a medieval-themed "jousting" tournament (they even referred to the track as a "list") which basically was duels of cars (given names from the Arthurian legends) playing Chicken.
- Fire and Hemlock Tom Lynn acquires a cool horse, which he exchanges for a cool car, because horses are a bit out of fashion. The horse and car are very similar to each other, roughly the same color, and the car is difficult to handle, as is the horse.
- In On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony, The Grim Reaper's pale horse can become a pale Cool Car, or a pale Cool Boat.
- In Supernatural, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse have traded up to Cool Cars in their respective colors instead (or at least three of them have, Pestilence drives The Alleged Car instead, fitting with his theme). War even goes the extra mile in that he drives a Mustang, which is named after a kind of horse.
- The Mythbusters bought an old Jeep, fitted it with a foam horsehead, painted it black and used it to test a mounted archery myth.
- Knight Rider uses several modernized Western tropes, with Michael Knight as The Drifter (albeit one with a wealthy patron organization backing him up) roaming from small town to small town across the Midwestern United States fighting evildoers, and KITT as his faithful steed... who can talk, is at least as much of a main character as Michael and does at least half of the actual heroics himself.
- It's probably not coincidental that in the 2008 remake, the new KITT was a Ford Mustang.
- In American Gods (2017), Mr. Wednesday's car (which he even nicknames "Betty") is heavily implied to be this. In Season 2 we see Wednesday sacrificing it in order to stop a train, by parking it on the train tracks, while giving it an eulogy speech as if it was a Viking warrior before its demise. As the train crashes into the car and both vehicles explode, a vision of a horse can be seen leaping from the fires.
- The country song "Suds In The Bucket" by Sara Evans gives the fairy tale character a country spin.
When her prince pulled up - a white pickup truck
Her folks shoulda seen it comin' - it was only just a matter of time
Plenty old enough - and you can't stop love
She stuck a note on the screen door - "sorry but I got to go"
- Pokémon X and Y introduce Skiddo and its evolution Gogoat, goat-like Pokémon with horns that resemble handlebars, upturned tails that resemble motorcycle seats, and are large enough and strong enough for adults to ride on. Humans riding on Skiddo and Gogoat are a common sight in urban Kalos.
- The Civilization franchise employs this in an interesting way, meant to emulate the Real Life example of mounted forces transitioning to motor vehicles. Military units can upgrade as a civ's Technology Levels increase, and the upgrade for Cavalry is traditionally an early tank. Furthermore, at least in Civ V, the Lancer (a mounted unit which gets a combat bonus against other mounted units) upgrades into the Anti-Tank Gun, and from there to the Helicopter Gunship (which are sometimes known IRL as Air Cavalry).
- After World War I, when cavalry was shown to be ineffective against modern weapons, many cavalry units switched from riding horses to becoming Mechanised or Motorised Infantry.
- With the widespread adoption of helicopters, this has extended to include Air Cavalry.
- When tractors first came into use, they were hitched to horse-drawn equipment and controlled by reins just like horses. They quickly fell out of fashion, but a single company still made them as late as 1949. Behold, the Power Horse◊.