Roger DeCoster’s name is almost synonymous with the sport of motocross. DeCoster is generally recognized as the best-known racer in motocross in the first 50 years of the sport. His racing accomplishments are simply remarkable. He won five 500cc Motocross World Championships; tallied a record 36 500cc Motocross Grand Prix victories; was a member of six winning Belgium Motocross des Nations teams; earned four Trans-AMA Motocross Championships; was a Gold Medalist in the International Six Day Trial (Enduro); and earned numerous national championships in his native Belgium, including a national Trials title.
DeCoster continued to find success after his racing career. He was the manager of the first U.S. team to win the Motocross des Nations in 1981. His stature is such in the world of motocross that he is often simply referred to as "The Man."
DeCoster was born on August 28, 1944, in Uccle, Belgium. His father worked in a steel mill to support the family of seven. With so many mouths to feed, there wasn’t much in the way of extra income and DeCoster had to wait until he was old enough to start working to begin his racing career. He took a job in a motorcycle shop and, while going to school, worked six days a week.
By working, DeCoster, now 17, was able to afford his first race bike – a 50cc Flandria. Fearing his parents’ reaction to his motorcycle, DeCoster kept his hidden in a friend's garage. One day, his father was sitting by the stove reading the local newspaper and came across a small article of interest. It was about DeCoster winning a race. Instead of being upset with his son’s hidden hobby, DeCoster’s father was proud and attended the next race with a group of buddies from the mill.
DeCoster won a couple of 50cc Belgium MX titles and then jumped to the 500cc class in 1964. The ’64 season was a breakthrough year for the 19-year-old DeCoster. He won the junior 500cc Belgium Motocross title, won the Belgium Trials championship and earned a gold in the ISDT (now ISDE). He went to work for Czechoslovakian motorcycle maker CZ.
By the late 1960s, DeCoster’s racing career began to blossom. He won the Belgium 500cc National title in 1966 and started competing in the world championships the next year. Success did not come overnight. He was a late starter in the sport, but a quick study. In fact, studying is one of the things that set DeCoster apart from many other riders. He would watch other riders whenever he had a chance and would intensely examine every move, how they handled jumps, or set up for a turns. The hard work and studious approach to motocross began to pay off. DeCoster won his first GP in Italy in 1968, then won again the next year in his home country, but injuries kept him from being a consistent winner.
In 1969, DeCoster helped give Belgium its first Motocross des Nations victory in 18 years. He would go on to help his country win the prestigious competition five more times.
In 1971, DeCoster made the difficult decision to leave CZ to ride with Suzuki. It was with Suzuki that DeCoster came to fame. Riding a newly designed bike –the RN370– DeCoster promptly went out and won his first 500cc Motocross World Championship. He would go on to win four more 500cc world titles in the next five years. By the mid-1970s, DeCoster had established himself as the greatest motocross racer of his time and arguably the best ever.
Besides winning world championship, DeCoster also helped spread the gospel of motocross to America. He came to the United States to race in the Trans-AMA Series, which pitted the best American riders against the top Europeans. DeCoster won the Trans-AMA Championship four years in a row (1974-1977), becoming an admired and popular figure in the sport in America as well.
DeCoster continued racing, and winning, through 1980. He left the sport on top, winning his final world championship race – the 500cc Motocross Grand Prix of Luxembourg at the end of the 1980 season.
DeCoster moved to America and stepped comfortably into the roll of advisor for Team Honda. The successes he had as a rider in the Motocross des Nations carried over to his new position as manager for Team USA. Under DeCoster’s guidance, the United States won its first victory in the prestigious Trophy and Motocross des Nations. While working with Honda, the teams he assisted amassed numerous AMA National Motocross and Supercross championships. DeCoster also helped Honda develop its motocross bikes and even had a hand in helping design full-face helmets for motocross racing.
In 1996, DeCoster returned to Suzuki and took over as Team Manager for Suzuki’s motocross team. Under his direction, Suzuki won its first AMA 250cc National Motocross championship (with Greg Albertyn in 1999) in 18 years. DeCoster also continued to help guide the United States to victories in the Motocross des Nations, as well.
When DeCoster was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, he was continuing to work with Suzuki and lived in Southern California. He was also named to the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Michigan, in 1994, becoming only the seventh motorcyclist and the first foreign-born rider inducted. Cycle News named him Motocrosser of the Century. In addition to his duties at Suzuki, DeCoster also writes a monthly column for Dirt Bike magazine.