Bale grew up in England, Egypt and the Channel Islands. He worked as a commercial pilot and later ran a commuter airline in England. His business activities included marketing imported jeans and skateboards.
Bale was an activist for environmental and animal rights causes. He served as a board member of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Ark Trust, which in 2002 became the Hollywood branch of the Humane Society of the United States. He also served as a board member for World Education, Inc., an international non-profit organization known for its work in educational development, located in Boston, Massachusetts.
Bale was married three times. His first marriage to Sandra Bale in South Africa ended in divorce, as did his second marriage in England to Jenny Bale. He had a daughter, Erin Bale Kreunen, from the first marriage, and three children from his second marriage: Louise, Sharon, and Christian, the latter of whom became a well-known actor. On September 3, 2000, he married the feminist writer Gloria Steinem in a private ceremony in Oklahoma. At the time of the marriage, Bale had been facing deportation after overstaying his visa. However, both Steinem and Bale denied that Bale's immigration status was the motivation for the wedding.
Steinem had in the past been critical of the institution of marriage, stating that "marriage was the model for slavery law in this country". She explained her change in attitude toward marriage, saying, "I didn’t change. Marriage changed. We spent 30 years in the United States changing the marriage laws. If I had married when I was supposed to get married, I would have lost my name, my legal residence, my credit rating, many of my civil rights. That’s not true anymore. It’s possible to make an equal marriage.
Bale and Steinem remained married until Bale died of brain lymphoma on December 30, 2003, at the age of 62.