Welcome to the Vurb’s Top 10 coolest riders of all time, Part II. (If you missed it, make sure to check out Part I.) A few words before we begin. This is all about cool, meaning results don’t play here. Most of these guys we don’t know on a personal level, either. It’s all about the persona these dudes put off. We also didn’t take a poll or include anyone else in our decision making process. We just sat in a small office, sipped some Snapple and made this list up ourselves. We can do those things because we have a dirtbike website. A few fights broke out over the ranking of the list, but in the end we all agreed (kind of).
So consider this list gospel from this point forward. Don’t like it? Create your own damn list.
5. Bob Hannah
The Hurricane was cool, but most likely hated by his peers. He was brash, loose, outspoken and gave zero you know what’s about what anyone else had to say. Which, of course, is cool.
Let’s cover the many, many, many reasons Hannah made our list. First and foremost, he only raced one amateur race (which he won) during his career. He was then forced to turn pro. I literally have no words to explain how unreal this is. Not only that, but he was 18 when he raced for the first time. There is nothing to compare this to. It’s the equivalent of Tom Brady playing one football game and then getting drafted by the Patriots.
After an illustrious amateur career, Bob earned a spot under the Factory Yamaha tent where he unseated Marty Smith for the 1976 125cc title. This dude raced one amateur race, got a factory ride and then beat the guy who is top 5 on our coolest rider list. You can’t make this stuff up.
Hannah went on to win 70 pro races, multiple titles in both SX and MX, and was inducted as into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. His win record actually stood until Jeremy McGrath broke it in the ‘90s/2000s, and likely would have stood longer if not for a water-skiing accident.
Think the Hurricane was done being cool after racing? That would be a big, fat NO. He went on to race airplanes and own a winery. Both of which are way cooler than what any of us will be doing post retirement.
4. Ron Lechien
Of course “The Dogger” made our list. Why? If Miami Vice and Alf had an ‘80s baby, it would have been Ron Lechien. The more he worked, the shittier he raced, so he spent his time ripping jet skis and partying like one of those spring break chicks you see on the news in Panama City. Look, it’s not our position to knock a dude for getting paid like a rock star at 16 and then blowing some of it.
He got busted for marijuana in Japan once and, to be honest, while it wasn’t good for his career back then, he would have probably gotten a CBD sponsorship for it today. Honda dropped him like a corndog straight outta the fryer, but it landed him a Kawi ride so not all was lost.
It all came seemingly easy for Lechien, which is cool in its own right. He didn’t have a program, per say. It’s not like he had a nutritionist, yoga instructor, riding coach and a personal masseuse. His training plan consisted of slaying jet skis, sipping some suds (probably a few too many at the time, but who are we to count) and having one of the sickest natural styles in the game. I mean, the kid won the Orlando Supercross at 16. In comparison, Jett Lawrence put in a podium at 16 this year and the entire industry went nuts.
Still involved in the industry today, Lechien works with his old man running Maxima and will forever be one of the top 10 coolest riders in our book (a.k.a. the only book that matters).
3. Rick Johnson
RJ has the same birthday as me. While that doesn’t make him cool, the fact that I’ve know we were born on the same day since I was six years old means he had that kind of impact on kids in the ‘80s. I met him on a Red Bull shoot a few years ago and actually called two of my brothers while in the bathroom to tell them who I was having breakfast with. Creepy? Probably. But I don’t care.
With nicknames like “The Bad Boy” and “Too Hip,” Johnson was a marketing dream. He was arrogant, yet approachable, lived clean, worked hard and posed naked for a JT gear shoot once. RJ also sported the spiked hair/mullet look like no one else.
As for racing, RJ is a natural born killer. Besting some of the greatest to ever line up during the mid-1980s, he won multiple 250 and 500 titles over David Bailey, Jeff Ward, Guy Cooper and others.
We have a feeling no one will question Too Hip’s place on this list. If so, we suggest you take it up with The Bad Boy himself.
2. Marty Smith
First off, the sport lost a good one this year when Marty and his wife, Nancy, lost their lives in a dune buggy accident. RIP!
We didn’t know Marty personally. To be honest, we don’t really get star struck very easily, but we’d probably pee our pants had we ever gotten the chance to actually shake his hand (pre COVID, of course). The dude was so cool that CNN, Yahoo Sports, and f’ing TMZ even covered his recent death.
Marty was California cool before being California cool was lame. And while we’re at it, the dude was straight ripped and as handsome as they come. After winning the 1974 AMA 125cc title he backed it up with another one is 1975. He did it again in the 500cc class in 1977. If you’ve never ridden a 500cc bike, just head on over to your local dude ranch, strap yourself onto the biggest bull you can find and then let a bunch of bees sting him in the nuts. Now you have a small understanding of what it was like for Mr. Smith (yes, he deserves the respect of a Mr. in front of his name) back in 1977.
Mr. Smith started riding, like most, at a young age. Unlike most, he started riding on a street bike that his old man turned into a dirtbike. Take a second to let that sink in and then remind yourself of how much cooler he is than you. His old man was likely cooler than yours, too. We have kids and there’s no way in hell we’re strapping them to a Ninja with dirtbike tires on it.
And while we have the utmost respect for the recent loss of him and his wife, going out while ripping a dune buggy in the desert is way cooler than spending weeks in a hospital bed with a terminal illness.
Just take a look at the ad below. We’ve never been into dudes, but if we were we’d probably have been into the 1970s Marty Smith type of dudes. Needless to say, naming Marty, errr, Mr. Smith, top two on our coolest riders of all time list was a no brainer.
1. Jeremy McGrath
We thought about just typing Steel Roots and leaving it there, but we had the sudden urge to go deeper.
For our younger readers, there used to be this thing called a collect call. If you didn’t have any money to use a pay phone (oh, there were also these things called pay phones) then you could call someone collect and they had to actually pay for the call. Imagine how bad this sucked. Well, Jeremy McGrath has so much swag he made collect calls cool by rocking a 1-800-Collect sponsor. That’s the equivalent of making the search engine Ask Jeeves cooler than Google, not may dudes could pull that off.
My buddies and I used to record all the supercross races on our moms’ VCRs (oh yeah, there were also these things called VCRs that played movies) because they only ran at 2 a.m. in the morning. This was during his Honda days when he was completely ruining everyone. Emig was his only real threat, but everyone knew McGrath was the King.
There wasn’t a local race across the country that didn’t have 100 kids sporting bleach blond hair and a hoop earring (McGrath’s classic style). It was also the ‘90s, which, looking back, was one of the coolest eras of our sport, and McGrath was by far the coolest of that era. Training like an Olympian wasn’t the rage, it was all about fur coats and speedboats back then. McGrath was one of the few athletes throughout our sports history to break into mainstream media, launching his own toy line with MATTEL and having his own shoe line with No Fear. That’s some Michael Jordan game right there.
Not only is he in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, but he’s also in the BMX Hall of Fame and has five X Games medals. No one will do a nac-nac in the next 100 years without someone whispering that McGrath did it better. Top that off with the fact that no one has ever matched his seven supercross title record and you’ve got a recipe for our number one coolest rider of all time. Congrats, Jeremy. We assume you’ll be adding this honor to your bio in the near future.