Although initially offered to other bands – the Human Expression, for one – Born to Be Wild was first recorded in 1968 by Steppenwolf. (Under an earlier stage name, Dennis Edmonton, Mars Bonfire was previously a member of the Sparrows, the predecessor band to Steppenwolf). "Born to be Wild" was the band's second and most successful single, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed "Born to be Wild" at #129 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. In 2009, it was named the 53rd best hard rock song of all time by VH1.
The song was initially released in 1968, but it was subsequently included in many compilation albums and soundtracks. The first of these was the soundtrack for the movie Easy Rider (1969). Unlike the album or single version, the song on this soundtrack is accompanied by the sounds of motorcycles as an introduction. (Another Steppenwolf song from their first album, "The Pusher" was also used in the film.) When the movie was in production, Born to Be Wild was used simply as a placeholder, since Peter Fonda had wanted Crosby, Stills and Nash to do the movie's soundtrack. Eventually, it became clear that the song was well suited for the movie. At least in part because of its prominence in this movie, Born to Be Wild is probably the song that is most closely associated with motorcycles.
If you don't have Slade Alive in your collection then you're missing out on one of the great live albums, as well as their fantastic version of this song.
The Original - Steppenwolf
Thumping Cover - Slade
And a terrible cover - Kim Wilde