Tales of Courage, Resilience, and the Relentless Pursuit of Dreams
by Dean F. Adams
Thursday, October 26, 2023
Here are what I consider to be the three best rider autobiographies ever written.
Valentino Rossi: What If I Had Never Tried it?Still, 20 years after publication, this is the very best rider autobiography ever written. Incredibly honest and entertaining, tracing his journey from the ratty hill towns of Italy to the international stage. I think, now, Rossi-fumi may wish that he hadn't been so honest (the shoplifting stories, etc) but it makes for fantastic reading. If you have ever spoken to him, you'll know that the book is written exactly in Rossi-speak. "No, seriously ...". Could we have had a good autobiography without hearing the Suzuka 8 hours vomit in his hair story? Yes, but that is VR46.
"What if ..." has been re-printed in paperback, on crap paper and with even poorer printing tech than the first edition so if you're looking to buy a copy try to find the original hardcover.
Aaron Slight: You Don't Know The Half of ItSome days I feel Slight's book even tops Rossi's autobiography. Aaron was one of the most normal guys to race at the world championship level and his book is written in such a humble voice, something very rare at that level. The struggle was real for Aaron in Australian Superbike and then World Superbike, and after vying for the championship he was dealt a health blow by having a brain bleed that required open-skull surgery. Best scar ever! He returned to racing and was fast but was pushed out of World Superbike when Honda decided his career was over. This is the raw, unvarnished truth of Slight's journey— the triumphs, the losses, and the sacrifices made by a genuinely nice guy in a not so nice arena.
Choice stories within:Numerous "being teamed with John Kocinski" tales.
Being afraid to do victory wheelies in Aussie Superbike because of the potential beating Peter Doyle (mechanic) would give him if he heard about a horn mono.
Going WSBK racing on Muzzy Kawasaki with Performance Machine calipers and discs which were even worse than the stock Kawasaki units.
"Half of It" is one of the books in my collection that I keep a back up copy in a second location in case of a house fire.
Neil Hodgson. Back on TrackNever has the cover photo of a racer autobiography revealed more about the content of the book.
Neil was angry when this book was written. Very. Angry. I've seen Neil angry. It's not fun. Like the day that Ben Bostrom told him that having a puppy is the same as having a human child. Neil immediately blew a gasket YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS MATE??! Neil still loves Ben to this day but he can't stand bullsh@t in any form.
When this book was written 100'd been blown out of the World Superbike championship and was forced to return home to the BSB series where there didn't seem to be a lot of faith that he could deliver. He won the championship after a terrific battle against Troy Bayliss and Chris Walker; this book gives a very inside perspective of what Neil went through to return to a championship-winning level. A gripping tale of a man who faced the abyss of despair only to emerge stronger and more determined than ever.
I tried—hard—to get him to update this book after he won the World Superbike championship but he always refused. Why? Because he didn't want to. Welcome to 100 World.
Hodgson's story, one of battling adversity and defying the odds, offers a beacon of hope to anyone who had ever faltered on their own path in life. Neil still walks with some swagger, which he is perfectly entitled to; because for a few months, when this book was written, his career was probably over. He returned to win the World Superbike championship. "Mega" as 100 would say.
Honorable mentions, kindaLeader of the Pack, Barry Sheene
If you are a Sheene fan or can stomach him then this is one of best biographies from the multiple he wrote or co-wrote.
Kenny Roberts by Barry Coleman
Coleman is a good, long-term friend of KR's. Roberts likes him a great deal. Coleman was certainly very nucleus the Roberts inner circle and was literally a co-conspirator along with Roberts. He was there for the three world championships, the World Series and hung out in Modesto with his upper-crust British accent and didn't get his ass beat that I am aware of anyway.
That said, this thing remains the strangest rider biography ever written. The late Henny Ray Abrams could recite many of the bizarre tangents from this book and his biting summation or analogy of passages, in his off-pitch Jewish, Brooklyn accent, were priceless. "A f@cking orange! Can you believe it? Coleman actually thought Roberts and an orange were soulmates!"
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