Let's talk about famous dirt bike riders. Yes, there are many and we all have our favorites because motocross history goes back quite a few years. This list is not exhaustive by any means and represents many of my favorites and those I grew up watching and admiring. All of them had outstanding careers and laid down big tracks for others to follow.
Let's start with Ricky Carmichael. His career began in 1991 and by the time he retired in 2007 the numbers he compiled in wins, awards, Supercross and National titles and multiple championships was staggering. His battles with James Stewart and Jeremy McGrath were epic. He is one of two riders to have perfect outdoor seasons winning all 24 motos in the outdoor nationals. He was able to accomplish this feat twice, once in 2002 and again in 2004. Nicknamed "The Goat" for Greatest Of All Time, Carmichael changed careers in 2007 to try his hand in the world of NASCAR.
Next is Bob Hannah, aka, "Hurricane." He dominated the track as one of the most competitive dirt bike riders of all time, winning seven titles including both National and Supercross championships between 1976 and 1985. During the course of his career he amassed 70 overall wins. This record stood until he was surpassed by Jeremy McGrath in 1999. The AMA Hall of Fame inducted Hannah in 1999 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America did likewise in 2000.
Roger DeCoster got his call into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994 and into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1999. DeCoster's professional career ran from 1967 to 1980. He won his very last race and compiled many stand out achievements that include winning 37 Grand Prix races and five 500cc World Championships. He was a member of six Belgian MXDN winning teams.
Ricky Johnson brings a long list of riding credentials under his helmet. He won his first of seven national championships in 1984. He later became part of Team Honda managed by former champion, Roger De Coster. Johnson was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2012, he became part of the elite with induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Another AMA Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee is legendary rider, Jeremy McGrath. His riding skills and techniques earned him long term recognition as a Supercross specialist after winning seven championships from 1993 through 2001 while amassing 72 victories. His riding history also includes 17 wins in AMA Motocross Nationals.
French racer Jean-Michel Bayle is a World Motocross and AMA multi-winner and AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee. Racing against such competitors as Rick Johnson and Jeff Ward, Bayle earned his place with multiple titles including World 250cc Championship, French 250cc Supercross and French National 125 Motocross. In 1991 he won the AMA 250 Supercross Championship along with both the AMA 250 National championship and the AMA 500 National Championship. He retired after 1991 to pursue a road racing career.
My final favorite is Jeff Ward who has AMA Motocross and Supercross titles across the board. He was able to grab seven championships while racing to 56 wins. Ward had the distinction in 1989 after winning the 500cc Motocross Championship to become the first winner of all major AMA national titles. After retirement, Ward moved to Indy Car and since has competed in many different forms of off road racing.
Depending on which magazine you subscribe to, who you speak with and your own personal preference, the list is going to have other top-notch riders like James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Travis Pastrana, and Stefan Everts. The list is just a sampling of a few of the great dirt bike riders that go down in motocross history as riding at the top of their game.