BMX turned 50, so I thought it was the perfect moment for a recap of the best riders in history. Putting up 50 in one list would have been too much, so I decided to cut it in halves and come up with one list with 25 racers and another one with 25 freestylers.
This list is, of course, absolutely subjective, and you might think that I’m missing some important names. If that’s the case, feel free to leave a comment.
It’s really hard to try to compare the riders from the 1970s with the ones from today’s Olympic era. You should put in the scale not only their titles but also the overall contribution to the sport in many other aspects (mostly when the international competitions didn’t even exist) to try to be fair in terms of importance or significance for the history of the sport. But still, I tried my best.
Ok, I hope you enjoy it. Here we go.
 Robert de Wilde
Robert de Wilde performed at the highest level for almost a decade, in which he won the 1999 World Championship and got bronze in the 2003 and 2005 editions. Plus, he won 3 Supercross World Cups and 2 European Championships.
‘Afro Bob’ is one of many Dutch riders in this list, men and women. The Netherlands has had a leading role in BMX history since the very beginning.
 Mike Day
‘365’ (his nickname based on his number) won the silver medal in Beijing 2008. On his way to the final, he had won almost all the runs from the seedings to the semi-finals.
In addition, at World Championships, he won silver in 2005 and 2009, and bronze in 2006.
 Donald Robinson
Donny won the Cruiser World Championship in 2006. Later, he was part of the USA team in BMX’s Olympic debut, in Beijing 2008, where he grabbed the bronze medal. The next year he became the Elite world champion in Adelaide, Australia.
After suffering several concussions during his career, in 2013 he joined The Knockout Project which raises awareness about the dangers of these injuries.
 Niek Kimmann
Kimmann was the first rider to win the Juniors and Elite World Championships in consecutive years. He did it in 2014 and 2015. He won other 4 medals at World Championships, including the Time-Trial title in 2016.
In addition, he won the Supercross World Cup in 2018 and 2019. He also participated in Rio 2016, where he reached the final and finished 7th.
 Kyle Bennett
‘Butter’ won the 3 Elite World Championship titles, in 2002, 2003, and 2007. He is the only male rider with 3 Elite titles. He was also part of the first Olympic USA BMX team that competed in Beijing, where he reached the semi-finals.
Tragically, he died in a car accident in October 2012.
 Anne-Caroline Chausson
The French deserves a place in this list for being the first BMX rider to win an Olympic gold medal (as the women’s final was held before men’s). She achieved the peak of her BMX career in 2008, winning in Beijing and obtaining silver at the World Championship.
Before getting on a BMX bike, she had won the astonishing amount of 13 World Championships in mountain bike.
 Caroline Buchanan
The Australian won 9 medals in World Championships between 2011 and 2017, including the 2013 title, 3 silvers, and the 2012 and 2016 Time-Trial titles. In addition, she won 2 Supercross World Cup titles (2012 and 2014).
Besides her remarkable BMX career, Caro also won 4 Four Cross world championships.
 Laura Smulders
You won’t find many cases like the one of Laura Smulders. Why? Her first major podium was in the Olympic Games. She was 18 years old when she obtained bronze in London 2012.
Later on, the Dutch won 4 European Championships and 5 podiums at the World Championship, including the 2018 title and the 2014 Time-Trial title. The list of her titles will probably need to be updated in the near future.
 Connor Fields
Connor became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in BMX. He had competed in London 2012, where he finished 7th, and in Rio 2016 he reached the maximum glory.
He also won 2 time-trial World Championships (2012 and 2013) and the Supercross World Cup in 2013.
 Randy Stumpfhauser
‘Stumpy’ was one of the best cruiser riders of all time. He competed at the highest level for over a decade. During that period he won numerous national and international championships.
At the international level, he obtained 12 podiums at World Championships (Cruiser and 20″ combined) from 1996 to 2007. He won 3 bronzes, 5 silvers, and 4 consecutive Cruiser titles between 2002-2005.
 Sam Willoughby
Willoughby won the World Championship as a Junior twice, in 2008 and 2009 and later as a Senior, in 2012 and 2014 (when he also won the Time-Trial title). In his first Olympic appearance, in London 2012, he obtained the silver medal. He also competed in Rio 2016.
Unfortunately, he had a big crash in 2016 while training and was diagnosed a tetraplegic, which put an end to his career. In 2019 he married Alise Post (below) and he’s her coach now.
 Alise Willoughby
Alise appears in the international headlines of BMX since 2010 when she obtained bronze in the World Championship at the age of 19. However, her successful career started when she was even younger. She turned pro when she was 15 (rarely does that happen in the ‘modern era’), in 2006, and she was voted Rookie of the year. She is the first female to win that title.
Since then, she has collected another 6 medals at World Championships, including the titles in 2017 and 2019. In addition, she participated in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where she obtained the silver medal. Chances are we’ll see her moving up in this list in the next few years.
 Dale Holmes
Holmes won several British titles as a Junior. He turned pro at the age of 16 and won British titles for an impressive 11 consecutive years.
At the international level, he won the World Championship titles of 1996 and 2001, plus 2 other podiums combining 20″ and Cruiser. He also obtained 2 European Championships.
 Jeff Bottema
‘Battling’ was one of the best ‘old school’ riders. He started riding in 1974, at the age of 14, and that same year he started being sponsored by Two Wheeler’s BMX. The next year he won the first of multiple titles in his career as a professional.
Off the bike, he was one of the founders of the Professional Racing Organization (PRO) racers guild. He also created and manufactured the Bottema Bullet Fork, one of the most popular BMX bike’s components.
 Shanaze Reade
Reade represented Great Britain in the Olympics Games of Beijing 2008 and London 2012. She arrived at both events as a clear favorite for the podium, however, she ended DNF in Beijing and 6th on home soil.
Despite those disappointments, she is the greatest British female BMX rider of all time. She won four World Championships (2007, 2008, 2010, and Time-Trial in 2011) and a silver medal in 2012.
 Sarah Walker
The New Zealander is the only rider in history who won both the Elite and Cruiser World Championships in the same year. It was in 2009, in Adelaide. She won another 7 World Championship medals between 2007 and 2015, including her first Cruiser title in 2007. She also clinched the Supercross World Cup title in 2011.
In 2012 she represented New Zealand in London 2012 as one of the favorites for the podium. She obtained the silver medal.
 Perry Kramer
‘PK’ was one of the first BMX riders in history. He started racing at the historic track of Palms Park of Los Angeles. He witnessed the first steps of professionalism and used to win a good percentage of the prize money offered on those early races.
Along with Scot Breithaupt, they founded SE Racing, a BMX bike manufacturer, and had his famous ‘PK Ripper’ model built in his honor, which is still in production.
 Bobby Encinas
Bobby was one of the first stars in BMX. He was the very first winner of the prestigious Number One Racer Award (NORA) given by the BMX Action magazine.
At a very young age, Encinas had issues with drugs and alcohol, for which he was on probation. He says BMX saved his life. He spent his whole career promoting BMX, on which he was a pioneer, giving clinics and teaching kids to ride and trying to make them lean towards the sport as a way to protect them from bad behaviors.
He’s been inducted into the ABA (American Bicycle Association) BMX Hall Of Fame in 1987.
 Greg Hill
‘The Machine’ was one of the best ‘old school’ racers. He started racing at one of the first BMX tracks ever, the Escape Country track in Trabuco, California.
He turned pro at the age of 14 when he raced the NBA Super Nationals. He won the race, beating veteran riders such as Perry Kramer, Robby Rupe, and Jeff Ruminer, and became the youngest man to win a pro race. This record will be unbeatable since beginning in 1980 all professionals must be 16 and over.
He won 4 times the BMX Action’s NORA.
He’s been a great promoter of BMX during his entire life. He founded GHP (Greg Hill Products), which is still alive today.
 María Gabriela Díaz
The Argentine is one of the best female riders in BMX history. Besides multiple national titles, she obtained a total of 13 medals between Pan American and World Championships. She won the Pan American BMX Championship in 2012 and 2017, the Pan American Games in 2007, and the World Championship in 2001, 2002, and 2004. In addition, she won the Junior title in 1999.
She participated in Beijing 2008 (5th place) and Rio 2016 (semi-finals). She didn’t qualify for the semi-finals at the 2012 World Championship, which would have given her a spot in London 2012.
 Māris Štrombergs
The Latvian hero had a fast and furious career. Between 2008 and 2014 he won a total of 7 international titles. He obtained the European Championship in 2008, 2013, and 2014. He won the World Championship in 2008 and 2010. Last but not least, he’s a double Olympic champion.
He totally dominated the BMX world in 2008, winning every possible title, to culminate it with the glory in Beijing, becoming the first male Olympic champion.
He arrived in London 2012 in a very different situation, far from being among the favorites. In fact, he didn’t win any of his qualifier heats. However, in the final, he took the lead from start to finish.
Štrombergs owns 2 of the 3 Olympic gold medals in the history of Latvia. He retired from professional riding in 2018.
 Stu Thomsen
‘Stompin Stu’ was one of the most dominant racers of the early days of BMX. He won the Yamaha Bicycle Gold Cup (the first massive series event) in 1974 when he was 16. The next year he turned pro. He won multiple NBA, NBL, and ABA titles between 1975 and 1984.
He was the first pro to win the National #1 plate twice (1977/78) and was the first one to win the season #1 title with three different governing bodies (NBA, NBL, ABA).
Stu was inducted to the ABA BMX Hall of Fame in 1986 and to the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1998.
 David Clinton
‘Dynamite’ was the sport’s first true superstar. In 1974 he won the Yamaha Bicycle Gold Cup in the Junior class. It was the largest promoted race at that time.
In 1975 he was the winner of the first National #1 Plate given by an official sanctioning body, the NBA. In 1977, he became the very first professional rider, receiving the pro license from the NBA.
Clinton became the first ABA BMX Hall of Famer, in 1985. 21 years later, in 2006, he was inducted into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame.
 Mariana Pajón
The Colombian legend is the most decorated BMX rider ever. She obtained 4 South American Games titles. She won the Pan American Games in 2011 and 2019. Summing up the Cruiser, Time-Trial, and Elite categories, she won a total of 6 World Championships between 2010 and 2016. In addition, she won 3 Junior World Championship titles.
Besides these stunning accomplishments, the most exciting chapters of her career were written at the Olympic Games. In London 2012 she had the privilege of being the flag-bearer for her nation during the Opening Ceremony. On the track, Mariana won all 3 semi-final runs and swept the final to become only the second Colombian in history to win an Olympic title.
In Rio 2016, she couldn’t have made it more perfect. She got the #1 spot in the seeding run, then won all three semi-final runs, and in the final, she made the best time of the competition to clinch the gold medal.
Summing up her victories in South American Games, Pan American Games, World Championships, and Olympic Games, she obtained a total of 13 titles.
Mariana is the only Latin American woman to have won 2 Olympic gold medals. She’s been awarded the ‘Order of Boyaca’, the highest peacetime decoration of Colombia. She’s already left an indelible mark in BMX history and she’s not even close to retirement.
 Scot Breithaupt
We’d be talking about any other thing if it wasn’t for Scot Breithaupt. He was the pioneer and the creator of BMX. Scot was among those kids that first took their Schwinn Sting-Rays to the dirt track in Palms Park. What started as an intriguing thing inspired by the motocross riders of that time, turned out to be one of the most exciting sports on Earth.
The ‘Old Man’ became the leader of those kids. He organized to first races and created the first rules of the game, including the points system and the different categories based on age and skill level.
He competed in the ‘old school’ era, from the very beginning, in 1969, to almost 1990. He came from a motocross background, so he knew the tracks very well. He became so passionate about this new movement that decided to create his own track in Long Beach, his hometown.
In 1970 he founded the BUMS (Bicycle United Motocross Society), which would be the first sanctioning body. That was also the name of his first track. He designed many other tracks across California. Then he organized the first California State Championship, in 1972.
As a rider, he won that first California Championship. In 1976 he won the Grandnational Championship and ended that season as the National #1. But besides his titles, his legacy is priceless.
Breithaupt collaborated with the growth of BMX in every possible way. Besides designing tracks and establishing the earl rules of the sport, he founded SE (Scot Enterprises) Racing in 1977, as an advertising and promoting company. SE Racing would later manufacture bikes and parts, including the famous ‘PK Ripper’.
Unfortunately, Scot became a drug addict in his 20s. This problem got worse after his father’s death. In July 2015 he was found dead in a vacant lot in Indio, California. He may be gone now, but his legacy will remain forever.
- For the other half of the 50 BMX legends, go to 25 BMX Freestyle Legends Of All Time.
- For more historic info, check History Of BMX and BMX In The Olympic Games
Photo credits: [Featured image: by DFrerick / Wikimedia / Creative Commons License]