Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Blessed by nature?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Blessed by nature?

The third of our four Hall of Fame blogs examines the dazzling skills of the so-called natural riders: Freddie Spencer, Kevin Schwantz and Casey Stoner

People often talk about naturally talented bike racers, but does such a thing as natural talent to ride a motorcycle actually exist?

It seems unlikely. Our distant ancestor homo erectus lived 1.9 million years ago, while the motorcycle, in any useful form, arrived a little over a hundred years ago, which works out as 0.005 percent of mankind’s time on earth. It doesn’t seem possible that in such a short time a gene might exist that allows some of us to control machinery better than others.

Of course, some people do have superior hand-to-eye coordination, spatial awareness, bravery and so on, but the riders we believe to be blessed with natural talent for riding motorcycle actually have nothing of the sort.

There is, however, something that unites all the greatest so-called natural talents: a childhood spent hooning around on minibikes. And possibly none more so than Freddie Spencer, Casey Stoner and Kevin Schwantz.

All three of these men seemed beyond mortal when they raced. They were capable of doing things on a motorcycle that would make even their greatest rivals blink and gulp in awe. (I use the past tense for Stoner, because he is a retired racer until he says otherwise.)

Spencer was like that on Honda’s superb NS500 triple in the early 1980s, sliding the front and rear tyres, modulating the throttle to increase or decrease load and grip to the front and rear as he deemed appropriate.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Total votes: 96
Total votes: 87

Back to top

Comments

I like reading Mat Oxley's editorials, he knows more about motorcycle racing than I ever will, and every time I read one of his columns, my knowledge of the sport increases. I'm sure that starting off riding a motorcycle at a very early age gives you an advantage, but I'm sure there has to be a talent there also. Riding longer is going to give you more experience, but that "feeling" has to come from within oneself. I believe all the very best "superstar" sportsmen have that inner talent that can't be learned. Max Biaggi started racing at 18, was that learned?

Total votes: 114

I agree, it's having the dedication and attitude to nurture whatever spark you discover within yourself. I think it's a character in The Stand that talks about a theory that maybe people who are naturals at things which are man made is a sign of evolution. It's a cool way of looking at it.

Total votes: 108

It's true, the fast riders winning now were the same ones always winning at age 7... ex-dirt racer Travis Pastrana tells about as a kid his father would make him start the race on the line pointing the exact opposite direction as the rest... himself and the bike, or his dad would just hold him for 30-40 seconds at the start... and he'd still always win.

There is definitely something in the DNA.

If you like Matt Oxley, read RoadRacing World. He writes for them regularly and he always has the best insight and most interesting interviews with riders. They always reveal something to him on the record you rarely hear elsewhere.

Total votes: 123

Back in the day (~1992)

I used to wonder is there a guy working in a convenience store that could hop on a bike and beat the worlds best. Back then I thought yes, now, not so much.

Total votes: 107