Governor's Palace
Governor's Palace - Guadalajara, Mexico - Credit: Wonderlane (via Flickr)

5 Of The Greatest Motorbike Riders Of All Time

Motorbike racing has come a long way in the last 50 or so years, from its humble beginnings it is now a multi million dollar affair that draws massive crowds. Its growth in popularity has been hard earned with a wealth of talented people blazing a trail in the deep seated belief that others will follow in their wake and take up the mantle.

They did just that and over the years there has been a plethora of brave people who have tested and pushed these machines to the limit – and sometimes beyond – paying the ultimate price for their effort.

There are far too many to name every one, but each does deserve recognition for the part that they played in making motorbike racing what it is today.

Whether it is GP racing, World or British superbikes or indeed
local club racing, everyone who takes part does so because they love it and they are invariably great at it.

The list below is not intended to be definitive in any way shape or form, it is merely to pay homage to just a few of these modern day gladiators who in no particular order or preference, took and indeed still do take their life in their hands every time they race their two wheeled speed machines in pursuit of their

1.  Valentino Rossi

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Image: Two Big Paws (Flickr)

Image:  Two Big Paws (Flickr)

Italian Valentino Rossi, nicknamed “The Doctor” and who always carries the yellow number 46 on his bikes, has won an amazing 7 world championships in the premier class of racing, Moto GP which used to be the 500cc class. He did this riding for 2 different manufacturers, Honda from 2000  – 2003 and then Yamaha from 2004 – 2010 and is currently riding a Ducati in an attempt to win a championship on 3 different bikes in the premier class.

He was no slouch in the other classes either winning a championship in both the 250cc and 125cc groups, riding an Aprilia both times. The statistics which speak for themselves – 258 starts, 105 wins, 175 podiums and 86 fastest recorded laps in a race – have ensured that Valentino gets massive support all around the world from a very appreciative and knowledgeable fan base.

At every Moto GP race, no matter where it is in the world, there always seems to be more people cheering on the number 46 than any other rider in the race, such is his appeal.

2.  Giacomo Agostini

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This Italian is the all-time record holder in both Grand Prix wins and World Championships with 122 and 15 respectively. The man known to his legions of fans in the 60’s and 70’s simply as ‘Ago’ split his titles between the 500cc class, (now Moto GP) with 68 race wins and 8 titles and the 350cc class with 54 race wins and 7 titles.

Ago raced as team mate to the legendary Mike Hailwood until Hailwood left at the end of the 1965 season and he stepped up to be the number one rider in the team.

Being the number one seemed to inspire Ago and he duly went on to win the 500cc world title for an amazing 7 years in succession. To even things up he also repeated this staggering feat in the 350cc class as well, as if to show that it was no fluke and he was a worthy champion.

In addition to these world championships, Agostini went on to win a truly amazing 10 Isle of man TT races around probably the hardest and at over 37 miles, the longest on street race track in the world.

He retired from competitive racing at the end of the 1977 season but to this day can still be seen at selected meetings roaring around the track to the delight and appreciation of his loyal fans both young and old.

3. Michael Doohan

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During the 1990’s the one name that stood out above all others was Michael Doohan, an Australian who took the 500cc class of racing by storm. In the mid years of the decade from 1994 to 1998, ‘Mick’ won the title every year, totally and comprehensively dominating this class of racing which has put him up there with the best.

The one time Australian superbike rider transferred his allegiance to Grand Prix racing and even took part in and won the Suzuka 8 hours race with the 3 times world champion Wayne Rainey.

Doohan did have more than his fair share of injuries through crashes, but always seemed to bounce back and simply take up where he had left off. His style of racing meant that he would try get off the line and away to build up as big a lead as he could and then simply ease the bike home at a safe pace; it was a system that served him very well.

After seriously damaging his right leg, which at one point it was thought he may lose, he switched to using a rear brake that was operated by his left thumb as his right foot was in no condition to carry out the manoeuvre.

In 1999, Mick broke his leg in several places again, which subsequently led to his retirement at the end of the season.

4.  Carl Fogarty

Image: Plbmak (Flickr)

Image: Plbmak (Flickr)

Fogarty may have an MBE, but to his army of fiercely loyal supporters around the whole world, he is known simply as Foggy. He has, through his hard riding style and total commitment to winning, drawn praise from all quarters of the World Superbike racing fraternity.

Following his father into the sport, he showed a natural ability to ride a bike and very quickly gained respect and admiration in the paddock and massive support from his adoring fans.

When he was given the chance to ride a Ducati for the works team, it seemed that this was destined to be the start of something great and so it came to pass.

At the end of the 1993 season, Carl was runner up in the World Superbike championship, but in 1994 and 1995 he went one better and won it twice.  In 1996, after deciding to switch to Honda, he could only manage 4th in the championship, but reverted back to Ducati in 1997 and was again runner up. He followed this just like before with 2 more championships in 1998 and 1999 but sadly as a result of a racing accident in Philip Island, Australia he suffered multiple injuries which brought about his retirement in 2000.

5.  Joey Dunlop

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Image: Plbmak (Flickr)

William Joseph Dunlop, OBE, MBE, but known by everyone as Joey, was the personification of road racer, a virtual demigod when it came to the Isle of Man TT, where he won 26 races, achieving 3 hat tricks in 1985, 1988 and 2000. The genial Irishman took to road racing like the proverbial duck to water and very quickly made a name for himself much to the delight of his massive group of fans. He won the Ulster grand Prix, regarded by the organisers as the fastest road race in the world, an incredible 24 times.

Hurtling around country roads and through small villages and towns in Ireland at speeds of around 200 mph is what the North West 200 is all about and Joey came up trumps in this as well, winning 13 class races in his time. His ability to ride motorbikes of any size more than expertly meant that he was very
experienced and very successful at all levels of racing.

In Tallinn, Estonia in the year 2000, Joey had already won the 600cc and 750cc races and was leading the 125cc race when he crashed. As a result of this accident, Joey lost his life and a true, ordinary guy who loved his racing was taken. At his funeral, there was a staggering 50,000 mourners, including bikers
from all around the UK, all keen to pay their last respects to the guy they knew as Joey.