Hooniverse Asks: Who is the greatest motorcycle racer of all time?

My knowledge of two-wheeled legends is extremely limited compared to what I know about those who pilot four-wheeled things. I’m aware that Valentino Rossi is amazing. I have a t-shirt with Joey Dunlop’s face on it, after my brief time at the Isle of Man. He’s a hero and a legend. Carlin Dunne was incredibly good at what he did. The list keeps going, of course. I know of Marc Marquez, Casey Stoner, and Michael Doohan. That’s before you consider those skilled at riding through the dirt, mud, and desert.

Who else should we know about? I’m aware that a fair number of you love all things two wheels. So share your love and let us know who you cherish within the world of motorcycle motorsport.

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13 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Who is the greatest motorcycle racer of all time?”

  1. GTXcellent Avatar

    Man, is this question ever out of my element. I’ve never followed motorcycle racing. I’ll most likely have never heard of any other names mentioned here by those much wiser and more informed.
    But, I do know one name (and it will clearly show my age) – “back in the day” if I was flipping through the channels and came across Supercross on ESPN, I’d stop and watch, and every – single – time the man atop the podium at the end of the day would be the same: Jeremy McGrath

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Great answer

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    The greatest motorcyclist also has the greatest livery to show off the #1 plate. Kenny Roberts.


  3. Batshitbox Avatar

    Mert Lawwill? John Surtees? Mike “The Bike” Haliwood? Too many to pick one from.

    EDIT: Now that I’ve queried the database a bit more, popular opinion seems to support Giacomo Agostini over his contemporary frenemy Mike Haliwood as a game changing motorcycle racer.

    But the real game changer for me is Kenny Roberts. A lot of the things motorcycle racers do well today were brought to racing by Kenny Roberts when he synthesized techniques learned in dirt bike racing to beat the field in Moto GP. Roberts took the dirt biker’s technique of hanging the inside leg out for balance in motocross and as a sort of third wheel in flat track and turned it into a booming market for “knee pucks”. He pushed the limits of motorcycle technology to where a defect could be used as a feature. This put him in a rare class of riders to win “Grand National wins at a mile, half-mile, short-track, TT Steeplechase and road race events.”

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      Kenny’s style was revolutionary, but I have to support Ago’s career as being the most influential and impressive as a whole.

  4. George G Avatar
    George G

    Scott Russell

  5. neight428 Avatar

    Similar to GTXcellent, my knowledge is not encyclopedic, but when I did pay attention to Moto GP, or whatever they called it in the final few years of the two-strokes, unless is was raining and the ability to handle the power wasn’t so much an issue, Mick Doohan always seemed to win by a wide margin.


  6. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    I haven’t kept up with racing but I’ll throw in Jay Springsteen, John Surtees and Carl Fogarty. While Surtees didn’t have the longest motorcycle career he remains the only rider to ever win a Moto GP and F1 title, Something Hailwood never achieved and Nuvolari missed out on.

  7. Scott Glucker Avatar
    Scott Glucker

    Roger De Coster

    1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      Speedway deserves more popularity and Bruce Penhall deserves a shout out.

  8. John Darby Avatar
    John Darby

    Ivan Mauger with three Long Track Championships, Six Speedway Individual Championships and countless team and pair championships. Toni Bou with outdoor FIM Trial World Championship champion from 2007 to 2020, and the indoor one also from 2007 to 2020. But not just based on statistics as I also consider Hailwood the better of Rossi and Ago. Stefan Everts for his FIM Motocross Championship tally of 125cc- 1991 250cc- 1995, 1996,1997 500cc- 2001, 2002 MX1-GP- 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. And I can’t pick one of the three from WSB with Jonathan Rea. 99 race wins (2009 – Present) Carl Fogarty. 59 race wins (1992 – 1999) and Troy Bayliss. 52 race wins (2000 – 2008) all three dominated their eras but didn’t race each other. Also Nikolay Krasnikov, Russian twenty times Ice Speedway World Champion. It’s hard to compare these rider, like trying to compare Lowndes, Hamilton and Loeb.

  9. Megamouth Avatar

    WSB I’d go with Foggy over Rea. Two reasons: Carl’s wins weren’t always on the best bike with Honda’s RC45 finally superceding the Ducati from ’97 onwards you may recall (ironically the year after Foggy got off it) coupled with Foggy’s drastically stronger supporting cast.

    I’m not sure I’d put Rea above Bayliss and Edwards either tbh, WSB has been bad for a long time now and with Rea it’s a bit like saying Bernard Hopkins is the best middleweight of all time. It doesn’t really mean anything and the but-he’s-won-the-most arguments are just bad and simplistic.

    I prefer watching Carl as well, technically mediocre but truly rode from the gut. Tough, tough guy.

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