Much of the early biography of Hütter is still unknown. He learned to play classical piano, but found it both boring and stressful to reproduce music written a hundred years ago – it was irrelevant and unnatural for a today’s man to do so. He began to engage in various musical acts, playing jazz rock on Hammond organ.
Hütter was born in Krefeld, Germany. He now lives near Düsseldorf but does not like to talk about his personal life.
He first met Florian Schneider in The Academy of Arts in Reimscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Academy in Düsseldorf, and played together in the improvising ensemble Organisation. After releasing one album (Tone Float) Organisation split up, leaving Ralf and Florian to form Kraftwerk.
Hütter is an enthusiastic cycling fan, a fact reflected in some of the band's work. It was widely claimed that, when he was on tour, the group's bus would drop off Hütter 100 miles away from the next venue and he would cycle the rest of the way, a story that Hütter later confirmed. The band members took up cycling when recording the album The Man-Machine in the late 1970s. Ralf Hütter had been looking for a new form of exercise. The single "Tour de France" includes sounds that follow this theme, including bicycle chains, gear mechanisms and the breathing of the cyclist. At the time of the single's release Ralf Hütter tried to persuade the rest of the band that they should record a whole album based around cycling. At the time this did not happen, but the project eventually was released as Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003.
Hütter was involved in a serious cycling accident in 1983, during the initial period of recording of the since-abandoned album Techno Pop. Only the single "Tour de France" and demos of "Techno Pop" and "Sex Object", would find their way into bootleg releases after this accident. He was put in a coma as a result of it. Karl Bartos stated the first thing he said when he awoke from his coma was "Where is my bicycle?", a story Hütter later disputed in a June 2009 interview in The Guardian.