I am a motorcyclist and have been for 40 years. I enjoy the freedom of riding and continue to ride as much as I can. I have always ridden Honda motorcycles because of their reliability. One of the greatest Honda Motor GP team riders was “Fast” Freddie Spencer.
I had the opportunity to attend Freddie Spencer’s High Performance Riding School in Las Vegas, Nevada. I not only got to meet the man I was trained by him to ride my motorcycle safely and fast at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Freddie would personally teach each class. His focus was on throttle and brake control. One has to get the feel of the motorcycle in order to push it to the limit.
We all road Honda CBR 600cc motorcycles set up to Freddie’s high standards at the school. Freddie road a CBR 900cc motorcycle on the track. We did time in class and then on the race track to hone our skills as riders. Freddie was relentless in making sure his students learned and then practiced what they learned on the track.
Freddie made me a better motorcycle rider and a safer driver. His lessons are always on my mind even as I ride today.
Perhaps the scariest moment of my time at Freddie’s school was when he pulled in front of my motorcycle on the track, put up his left hand and signaled “follow me.” That meant he wanted me to do what he did so well, ride motorcycles fast, very fast. I dragged my knee on the asphalt following the best of the best, Fast Freddie.
It is interesting that Freddie has titled his new book Feel.
Feel is the story of how Freddie, a small-time boy from humble beginnings in Louisiana, rose to the pantheon of greats, to win the 500cc and 250cc GP Championship in the same year – an historic achievement over three decades ago which has never been repeated.
Freddie and I grew up during the time of Dr. Martin Luther King. Both Freddie and I judged people by feel, not by colour. By their character. Blind to prejudice and discrimination, Freddie formed dynamic connections with people and events, but only years later during his racing afterlife could Freddie come to understand the true power of the things he learned. He passed on his passion and love of riding to me and countless others.
Freddie the teacher, and now author, presents an articulate and compassionate guide as he describes the thrill and horror of racing in an era when death was a perennial threat. He recalls in pin-sharp detail the frenetic high-octane racing duels with the ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, but also describes a parallel internal journey as he struggled to make sense of it all.
Driven by a search for the personal fulfilment that comes through finding your purpose, Freddie’s story is a universal one. In its message of hope, Feel transcends its genre to offer a story for everyone. Part thriller, part philosophical self-exploration, it is a remarkably insightful account of what it is like to have it all, but wonder why.
Freddie notes, “For the first time I will talk about the traumas of my childhood, the contrast between the leaf fire burns, the mistrust and discomfort and the peace and purpose I felt when riding my bike. I didn’t tell my parents about something that happened to me. Why? I felt ashamed, but when I rode I felt connected to everything and the pain in my hand and heart would go away. It gave me the feeling of hope”.