Released in April 2017 ‘Feel: My Story’ is the long awaited autobiography of the American motorcycle World Champion ‘Fast Freddie’ Spencer. Freddie’s story is both one of incredible success and struggle. Having burst onto the world stage in the early 1980s Spencer instantly proved to be on, or beyond, the level of Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene! In 1983, at just 21 years of age, he became the youngest ever to win the 500cc world title (a record only beaten in 2013 by Marc Marquez at 20). Again riding for Honda in 1985, he claimed a further 500cc title. That season he also became the only rider in history to take the 250cc/500cc world titles in the same year – an extraordinary feat that would see him racing in back-to-back events on quite different machines.
‘Feel’ is an engaging, intelligent and well written book. It’s an easy read that gives insight into the mind of a true champion across time. Freddie is open and honest about his childhood, his incredible success on both dirt tracks and road circuits, and about the path his life has taken since. It’s a neatly structured work that swings to-and-from the glory days of the past, the struggles of bodily pain from crashes and the present day as he finds himself reimagining life after a painful divorce and the closure of his business.
Back in the 80s I remember ‘Fast Freddie’ being hailed by Christian journalists as a hero of the faith and Church and yet unsurprisingly he says the press added much. Freddie certainly states that he “always had faith”, and it’s clear that by ‘faith’ he means a real Christian faith, not a cultural faith (he’s from Louisiana). He says that he never went to church as a kid and it becomes evident that it’s his friend Mr Williams, a church-going Baptist who accompanied him to many races, who is the important voice, mentor and friend for Freddie, and his faith. In fact the book is dedicated to Mr Williams as being a man who helped him to know his “purpose in life”. Freddie also talks of reading his Bible regularly too.
While initially the faith element of the book seems infrequent and unintentional (and faith is deeply personal to Spencer), sovereignty and divine guidance slowly unfold as being totally intrinsic to his story. The book revolves around the idea that life can be compared to controlling a race bike. Freddie rode by ‘feel’ (God-given talent, intuition and sensory ability), not by using braking markers and pointers, and so similarly, the message is that we need to exhibit ‘feel’ in life for spiritual guidance.
For Freddie, ‘everything happens for a reason’ (not by chance or fate), and this makes sense of our own journeys through life. He is effectively suggesting that we’ll know which way to turn if we are attuned to the signs – the moments, things and people that happen across our path as we travel (feel). Spencer demonstrates in practical terms by example that divine guidance is available if we respond to these ‘coincidences’ and if we care about who is around us, and why. In addition to this, it is not too strong to say that Freddie embraces and exhibits a repentant turning from the times he has missed those spiritual signals – through being too absorbed in racing, business and ambition. By ‘feel’, rebirth is indeed possible. An inspiring read. Perhaps ‘feel’ equals faith – the certain knowledge of things unseen…