June 14, 2021 5 min read

Motocross has seen some outstanding riders come and go in the sport, some of which lasted the test of time, others who had to retire due to injury. It is therefore almost impossible to decide on who the best Motocross rider of all time is as it depends on how the riders were rated – by the number of titles won or successes across the many disciplines in the sport. However, there are a few riders that stand out above the rest. 

In terms of championship wins, the best Motocross rider of all time is Ricky Carmichael. Nicknamed “The Goat” (Greatest of All-Time), the former professional Motocross rider had a distinguished 10-year career in the sport, winning seven AMA Motocross Championship titles from 1997 to 2007. 

It could be argued that other world-class Motocross riders such as James ‘Bubba’ Stewart, Stefan Everts, and Jeremy McGrath also qualify as the best Motocross riders of all time, but for many people, Ricky Carmichael is the greatest rider of all time in both Motocross and Supercross. Let’s take a deeper look into the world of Motocross and Ricky Carmichael’s incredible career in Motocross. 

Present Ricky Carmichael

Ricky Carmichael

Born in November 1979, Richard “Ricky” Carmichael and nicknamed “The Goat” due to his unrivaled successes in Motocross, Carmichael’s sterling career in Motocross made him the greatest Motocross rider of all time. After a ten-year stint in Motocross and Supercross, he moved across to NASCAR stock car racing where he also reigned supreme for four years. 

Motocross / Supercross Career

Ricky Carmichael Kawi

1997 - 2000

Carmichael made his professional début for the Kawasaki team in 1997 after a dominant career on the amateur racing circuit. In his first year of professional Motocross, he beat defending champion Steve Lamson to win the 125cc title, however, his Supercross efforts were marred with crashes and injuries, which cost him the title to Suzuki's Tim Ferry. The following year saw him come back to win both the Motocross and Supercross 125cc titles.

Carmichael remained in the 125cc class in Motocross and won for a third consecutive year before moving to the 250cc class in 2000 where he won the 2000 AMA Motocross Championship. In 1999 he moved to the 250cc class for Supercross with the Factory Kawasaki team but due to frequent crashes throughout the season, finished outside the top 10 in the final standings. 

Ricky Carmichael Honda SX

2001 - 2003

After the disappointing finish to the 2000 Supercross season, Carmichael began a new training regime under the watchful eye of former professional cyclist Aldon Baker and established himself as the new leader of the class by taking the AMA Supercross Championship. He also went on to beat rivals Kevin Windham and Sébastien Tortelli in the outdoor races and took the AMA Motocross Championship title. 

Carmichael moved to Team Honda for the 2002 season and despite crashing violently in early rounds of Supercross he quickly recovered to go on and win his second 250cc title, as well as the AMA Motocross Championship title. 

Ricky and Stew battling

2003–2007

In 2003, Carmichael won seven indoor races and nine outdoor races despite facing steep competition from rivals Chad Reed in Supercross and Windham in Motocross. He once again took both the 2003 Motocross and Supercross Championship titles. The following year saw Carmichael duck out of the Supercross circuit due to injury but came back for the Motocross season to win all of the 24 Motocross races and take the championship title. 

Due to missing the prior Supercross season to injury, Carmichael entered the 2005 season with tough contenders in Chad Reed and Kevin Windham, and the new kid on the block, James "Bubba" Stewart. However, nothing could hold Carmichael back and triumphantly regained both his Supercross and Motocross titles. That year he also won the US Open of Supercross title and led Team USA to an incredible victory at the Motocross des Nations.

The 2006 Supercross season was one of the most exciting in Carmichael’s career as he changed to a four-stroke bike for Supercross and had some exhilarating racing against Reed and Stewart. After a nail-biting season, he went on to take his fifth Supercross championship. He also dominated the Motocross circuit and clinched the 2006 AMA Motocross Championship, despite a devastating crash while challenging James Stewart at the season finale at Glen Helen Raceway. Carmichael decided that 2006 would be his last full-time season and planned to retire the following year.  

Carmichael chose a few select races to compete in 2007, winning every race he entered. He also had a sterling performance at the X-Games and capped his Motocross career with a Team USA victory at the Motocross of Nations in Maryland.

Ricky Carmichael on RMZ

Highlights of Ricky Carmichael’s Motocross Career: 


YEAR

COMPETITION

1997

AMA 125cc National Motocross Champion 

1998

AMA 125cc Supercross Champion (perfect season) 

1998

AMA 125cc National Motocross Champion 

1999

AMA 125cc Motocross Champion 

2000

AMA Motocross Champion 

2001

AMA Supercross Champion 

2001

AMA Motocross Champion 

2002

AMA Supercross Champion 

2002

AMA Motocross Champion (perfect season)

2003

AMA Supercross Champion 

2003

AMA Motocross Champion 

2004

AMA Motocross Champion (perfect season)

2005

AMA Supercross Champion 

2005

AMA Motocross Champion 

2006

AMA Supercross Champion 

2006

AMA Motocross Champion 


Ricky and Reed

Who Were Ricky Carmichael’s Top Rivals in Motocross?


Throughout his career, Ricky Carmichael was challenged by other world-class riders in both Motocross and Supercross like James ‘Bubba’ Stewart aka “The Fastest Man on the Planet,” Stefan Everts, Jeremy McGrath, Chad Reed, and Kevin Windham. 

James ‘Bubba’ Stewart is world-renowned for winning every race in a season and matching Carmichael’s record. He also had 84 amateur wins and seven amateur titles under his belt before the age of 17. He had 196 professional career wins and the first motocross rider to have his TV show,Bubba’s World,which highlighted the sport.

Belgian rider Stefan Everts carved out his place in motocross history with ten World Championship titles and 101 Grand Prix victories and was the rider to win World Championships for all four Japanese bike manufacturers. 

Also known as the “King of Supercross,” Jeremy McGrath was one of Ricky Carmichael’s greatest rivals. He had 89 career wins in Motocross with two major titles to his name and won seven Supercross titles during his illustrious career. Jeremy McGrath was also one of the most popular riders on the American circuit. 

Described as “the best rider to have never won a National Championship,” Kevin Windham was regarded as one of the most naturally talented riders in both Motocross and Supercross. Although he never won a championship title, he finished second in the overall points standings five times. He also won the United States Grand Prix of Motocross held in Maryland in 1999 and was regarded as one of the world's fastest motocross racers.  

The Australian rider, Chad Mark Reed was another formidable rival of Ricky Carmichael’s and holds the record for having the most race starts in AMA Supercross history with 265 starts. A rookie in Supercross, Reed gave Carmichael a run for his money during the 2003 Supercross series when the rivalry was at its most intense. Reed’s 20-year race career in Motocross and Supercross and his rise up the global ranks of the sport have made him the most successful motocross racer in Australian history. 

Ricky on Kawi

Final Thoughts

With seven AMA Motocross Championship titles, five AMA Supercross Championship titles, six international caps and over 320 career wins in the sport, Ricky Carmichael is undoubtedly the best Motocross rider of all time. 


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