Five Minutes With Fast Freddie Spencer


Freddie Spencer will make his first-ever appearance in Canada this weekend. Despite a lifetime racing everything from flat track to grand prix and superbikes all over the world, Spencer has never yet made it to the Great White North.

He will be here this weekend, hosted by the Toronto Motorcycle Spring Show. Spencer won the 1983 and 1985 500cc World Championships aboard Honda’s legendary NS and NSR500 motorbikes. In 1985 Spencer did the double – taking the 250cc title as well.

Fast Freddie split his time between the world championship and the AMA Superbike series, and fans of historic superbikes will get to hear the 1982 Honda Factory Works 1024cc Superbike that Spencer rode fire up on both days of the show.  

CMG’s Jacob Black caught up with the multiple world champion recently to talk about his new autobiography,  Feel: My Story, and to find out what’s really important to the racing legend.

Freddie Spencer: Travelling the world and talking about motorcycles is a passion, and it’s a privilege for me, it really is.

Even though I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and flew back and forth and traveled all over the world, I really haven’t had an opportunity to visit Canada. I have a lot of Canadian friends, ex-racers like Miguel Duhamel and Steven Crevier, and I have a lot of fans from there so I’m looking forward to coming to Canada and to the Spring Motorcycle show.

Also my book is out now on Kindle, and in a few months you’ll be able to buy it in Canada on hardback.

CMG: If you could take your book and there was only one chapter or one section of the book that you could have your two kids read, which section of the book would you say, “this is the one you have to read”?  

F.S.: Probably the very, very first chapter. And the reason why is because it kind of sets a tone for the book.

I talk about riding in my yard, and all the things motorcycling gave me the opportunity to do, and I talk about the Nations Grand Prix in Mugello. Being just me in this incredible environment, and I mix everything in because I believe everything is connected in that way.

And that’s what I’ve spent my life striving to kind of understand. More than just racing the motorcycle and the adventure, it’s the understanding that came through that — that everything is connected.

The book is about what I believe in. It’s not about religion, but it’s about faith a little bit.

And then it’s also about connecting with others, which is something that is extremely important to me. That goes back to what I was saying before about the privilege and opportunity to share this weekend at the Spring Show and to interact with others. I really love it.

CMG: You talk in the book as well about the importance of connecting with other people, but when you think about motorcycling, it’s a very personal experience, being on a bike…  

F.S.: Yes, exactly. It’s fascinating, because I talk about it as such a personal experience. I talk about what motorcycling gave me. It gave me the opportunity to express myself. I had some trauma when I was a kid and I talk about that in the book, too.

The motorcycle gave me this trust in my own ability to believe in what I could do. And so in turn, throughout my life, it’s given me the chance to have insight and awareness.

That’s when we truly connect with people. You know, we build up these protective barriers, and it’s one reason why people love riding motorcycles. On the bike it’s a pure experience: the interaction you have with the bike and the sense, the feeling it gives you.

When you connect with that, and when you connect yourself with that, you can talk about it with others, because once you’ve gone there, it’s easier then to communicate. You share that experience and other people pick up on that and then they share it with you.

CMG: Motorcycles are sort of your doorway out into the world then?

F.S.: Yeah. Exactly. Motorcycles were never just about adrenalin for me. It was always about more. Even when I wasn’t really aware of that as a young kid, I knew that the bike gave me an opportunity to do more.

And that’s my goal, to really understand that journey. For example, I’ve talked in the book about my interaction with Mr Honda.

CMG: I read an interview where you were talking about the pace of change in the 1980s and how, at the height of development with oval pistons and fuel tanks under the engine, that bikes were breaking all the time, and some people saw it as a failure. You said it was a necessary step to developing the bike and the process. You said it was “Honda at their best” and I wondered, was that how you saw it at the time, or is that something that you’ve come to understand and appreciate only now when you look back on that part of your career?

F.S.: It’s both. I appreciated it at the time. I understood that to get to a certain point because I’m so practical in that aspect of my thinking.

I remember the first time I saw the bike with the gas tank on the bottom that Monday after Suzuka in September ’83.

That was my first time riding the V4 with the gas tank on the bottom – you know, it’s fascinating. At the time I only viewed it in terms of “okay, the gas tank is on the bottom, to get the weight lower, and stabilize the movement weight front and back and help with mid-corner speed. Okay”. Then you go out and work through it and develop it, but you don’t know what’s coming next.

Like with the NR500, you don’t know that the oval piston is going to go on and lead to the Interceptor and things like that…  in that respect, it takes time. You have to be patient, and believe in the process. I believed in the process, even though I didn’t understand exactly where it was going.

Now I see it, I see that it was that willingness to try things that led to understanding. That’s what Feel is about.

CMG: We’ve talked about trust and we’ve talked about feel and we’ve talked about the belief in yourself and in patience. What’s the most important of those virtues as a racer?

F.S.: It’s going to take belief, but not arrogance. Belief can’t be ego driven because that will affect your judgment and you won’t sustain it. The patience to believe in what you’re doing, but also the understanding and humility to believe in the process. That’s key.

Because riding a motorcycle takes respect.

You can meet Freddie Spencer during autograph sessions at Toronto’s Spring Motorcycle Show this weekend. The show is open 10 am-9 pm Saturday, April 7 and 10 am-5 pm Sunday, April 8 at the International Centre in Mississauga, near Pearson International Airport.

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