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The Top 10 Motocross Riders of All Time?

Submitted by on March 5, 2020

Top 10 motorcross riders

By Martin Varrand / Motorcross Advice

Image by Roger Lagesse

It’s almost impossible to produce a definitive list of the world’s best motocross riders, so let’s approach the topic a little differently. 

We could argue that a top ten list should consist of the ten riders with the most championship wins. However, rating by titles won would leave out world-class candidates who retired early due to injury. This approach would also leave out riders who earned success across many disciplines, which in and of itself could be considered the mark of an exceptional talent. Then there’s the sheer range of riding styles to consider.

With this in mind, I have decided to change the title slightly. Welcome to 10 Top Motocross Riders of All Time. Each of the following riders has brought something unique and remarkable to motocross. I hope you enjoy reflecting on some of our sport’s heroes.

James ‘Bubba’ Stewart

‘The Fastest Man on the Planet’ is one accolade that is sure to get you noticed. James Stewart Junior followed in the footsteps of his motocross-riding father and competed in his first race at just four years old. He’s the only rider to match Ricky Carmichael’s record of winning every race in a season.

James was one of the sports top earners, with an estimated $10 million a year coming in from endorsement deals alone. He went on to be the first motocross rider to have their own TV show. ‘Bubba’s World’ put a much-welcomed spotlight on the sport. Features in rolling stone magazine, GQ and other leading media platforms further illustrate his level of success.


  • 84 amateur wins and seven amateur titles before the age of 17
  • A staggering 196 professional career wins
  • 2002 Rookie of the year

Ricky Carmichael

Although he struggled with injuries and inconsistency in his early career, Ricky Carmichael soon found his stride. Ricky committed himself to training and working hard on his racecraft and his hard work paid off. Over his career, he notched up 7 AMA Motocross and 5 AMA Supercross championships. His name has become synonymous with the legends of motocross.


  • 1997 AMA 125cc
  • 1998 AMA – Perfect season: 8-0
  • 1998 AMA 125cc
  • 1999 AMA 125cc
  • 2000 AMA Motocross Champion
  • 2001 AMA Supercross Champion
  • 2001 AMA Motocross Champion
  • 2002 AMA Supercross Champion
  • 2002 AMA Motocross Champion – Perfect season: 24-0
  • 2003 AMA Supercross Champion
  • 2003 AMA Motocross Champion
  • 2004 AMA Motocross Champion – Perfect season: 24-0
  • 2005 AMA Supercross Champion
  • 2005 AMA Motocross Champion
  • 2006 AMA Supercross Champion
  • 2006 AMA Motocross Champion

Say no more!

Stefan Everts

Getting on the bike at age four is a good start for a potential champion. Following in his father’s footsteps, Stefan carved out his place in motocross history. His style meant that he would stand on the footpegs far more than his peers and was well known for his smooth and efficient riding.


  • 101 career wins
  • 125cc- 1991
  • 250cc- 1995, 1996, 1997
  • 500cc- 2001, 2002
  • MX1-GP- 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

Heikki Mikkola

Nicknamed the flying Finn, Heikki won four world championships. His riding style was hard and aggressive, and he was at home on the larger 500c machines of the seventies.

The 1974 season featured a fiercely contested battle between Heikki and rival Roger DeCoster which went down to the wire. Victorious, Mikkola rode for a further five seasons and joined the motocross hall of fame in 2006


  • 500cc championship 1974,1977,1978
  • 250cc championship 1976
  • Top 4 finisher every year from 1970 to 1978

Jeremy McGrath

As one of the most popular riders on the American circuit, Jeremy McGrath’s nickname ‘King Of Supercross’ is fitting.

Along with winning seven supercross titles, Jeremy was also a formidable motocross rider with two titles to his name. Ricky Carmichael denied him more motocross titles.

A world title may have come his way in 1996, but for an uncharacteristic lapse in judgement. McGrath took on a huge jump which he later admitted he should never have tried. The subsequent injury ruled him out that year.

Consistency in supercross, his undeniable skills, and the tenacity to push the envelope beyond the limit, and learn from it, earns Jeremy a place in my list.


  • 89 career wins in motocross
  • 250cc AMA Championship 1993,1994,1995,1996,1998,1999,2000
  • 125cc AMA Championship 1991, 1992
  • 2 x FIM Supercross championships

Joel Smets

Joel Smets is another Belgian rider. He won 57 races in his career with five world championship titles. He may well have won more had he not suffered several debilitating injuries in the last five years of his career.

Joel got a late start in motocross, not kicking off his career until he was seventeen. Despite this, he learned quickly and applied himself. Maybe that is why his parents nicknamed him the Flemish lion. 

Joel continues to contribute to motocross as sports director for the KTM Red Bull factory team.

Travis Pastrana

Travis is the perfect example of the flaws in attempting to curate a list of the best motocross riders in the world based on titles alone. With three motocross titles under his belt, Travis has proven he can ride. However, he is not a man who sits with one challenge.

Travis has gone on to make incredible things happen on both two and four wheels. In fact, he spends more of his time in the air. Apart from his skills in motocross, Travis found his niche with mind-blowing stunt riding. Travis is a character with the fans and has jumped his way into this list.


  • 125cc AMA 2000
  • 125cc East Coast Supercross 2001
  • 125cc Rose Cross Invitational 2001
  • Multiple Gold in X-Games

Ryan Villopoto

Ryan rode his entire career on Kawasaki machines. His consistency and skill landed him four supercross and three motocross titles before an injury forced his retirement from the sport.

Perhaps the most astonishing figure from his career is the total number of race wins across all classes, which stands at 157. Anyone who can consistently reach the front on all sizes of motocross bike is a worthy contender for my list.


  • AMA MX Lites: 2006–2008
  • AMA SX Lites West: 2007
  • AMA 450cc: 2011, 2013
  • AMA SX: 2011–2014 consecutive

Joël Robert and Torsten Hallman

Fifty wins may seem a little light after Ryan’s score sheet, but Joël Robert comfortably owns a spot on this list. Another Belgian who dominated on two wheels, the 1960s and 1970s were his decades. Six wins in the 250cc class, five of them over consecutive years, demonstrate what a force he was in that era. Joel Smet’s parents named their son after him, such was Robert’s legacy. 

Joel’s close-run dog fights with his main rival Torsten Hallman became a key feature throughout those decades. Torsten, a Swedish rider, was no slouch on two wheels and notched up 37 wins and four 250cc championships in his time.

Joel and Torsten exchanged first and second place in motocross championships for four years during their reign. In honour of their duels and the passion they displayed, I decided to award a joint place finish for them in this list. I hope that goes to show the level of respect I have for both of these old school giants.

On that happy note, I hope you are inspired to start riding motocross and have enjoyed recapping the achievements of the masters of the dirt bike world.

Have fun out there!

Martin Varrand / Motorcross Advice

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