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Q&A: Spero’s road to winning races and training riders. What worked for him? | RideFAR
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Q&A: Spero’s road to winning races and training riders. What worked for him?

Photography by Mark Whitehead

Photography by Mark Whitehead

Spero Benias WMRC #57
WMRC New Racer School Instructor
WMRC Semi-Private Training Instructor
Pitt Meadows Track Day Riding Coach
Jason Pridmore’s STAR School Instructor
Accomplishments, sponsors and more pictures are at the bottom.

Spero is a well known name in the motorcycling community in Vancouver and the local race scene. Our conversation started off with the new Area 27 track in Oliver. This is British Columbia’s newest race track which is absolutely world class. We compared it to The Ridge, Thunderhill and Laguna Seca. All the tracks we talked about are great tracks and worth going to. Any track you ride on, there will be points you don’t like. Trackdays at Area 27 will happen for 2017. On to the questions!

How long have you been riding and what kind of riding do you do?

I started riding in 1989 on a Honda CBR 600 Hurricane and then moved on to a 1991 Honda CBR 600 F2. Later onto a 1998 Honda CBR 900RR. I rode for 12 years on the street before I started riding on the track. Since I started on the track I rarely ride on the street. For me the track is where you can really explore the limits of your motorcycle. I have never been impressed when riders want to show me the lack of chicken strips on the edges of their tires from riding on the street. While I am quick to shake my head on this type of riding I admit I was guilty of it early on. I did crash on the street but was lucky that I was okay even though my bike was written off.

What has been your favorite motorcycle?

I have had the good fortune to ride so many different brands with my race involvement and teaching. Suzuki GSX-R’s won me over and that’s what I race today. Even with today’s motorcycles and how different they may seem, most riders won’t see the complete capabilities of one over the other. A professional rider will know the differences but it really comes down to personal preference.

What is one skill or technique that changed your riding?

It’s not just one skill or technique, it’s a combination of everything. Most of them came from Jason Pridmore’s STAR School. I had been racing for six years before I attended. I took the three day course and I could not believe how much better I could ride a motorcycle. Downshifting was key and so was body positioning. Body positioning on the track was really important, not so much on the street. Everything seemed to click when I finished with the STAR School. It’s interesting to see how MotoGP has evolved with body positioning. Even Valentino Rossi had to change his body positioning to keep up with what was working for other racers.

What mistakes have you made riding?

We’ve all made mistakes but the worst one was during a race. Went up the inside of two riders and I low sided taking out two riders. Those kind of mistakes I am really hard on myself. Off the track we are all friends but on the track it gets competitive. I’ve been taken out too and I’d much rather be the one taken out than be taking someone out. Those are the worst mistakes.

Racing is dangerous but you can still approach it a certain way. You can be the track day regular and become a great rider but you still need to maintain those large passing gaps.

What is the best $100 you have spent on something motorcycle related?

School. 100%. I could have spent $1,000+ on my motor to make it faster but I still would have made the same mistakes. Rather than doing that I put my money into riding at schools. Lots of them. That is how you learn and get better.

What do Motorcycle Manufacturers get right or wrong?

I have been working on motorcycles for a long time but I don’t want to nit pick. All the bikes have become really, really good. Some bikes are harder to take apart and access certain things. There is nothing that stands out in my mind other than a Suzuki GSX-R. They upgraded their brake calipers to Brembos but kept the Nissin master cylinder. I am super excited about the new 2017 Suzuki GSX-R with a Variable Valve Timing system that is so simple and incredibly engineered!

What mistakes are made at the pro level?

On the track it is wasted movements on the bike. I see riders, even at the pro level moving excessively to the middle of the seat instead of going from one side to the other side. This expends an incredible amount of energy and I couldn’t do that for an entire race. 90% of riding a motorcycle is looking where you want to go. Use your peripheral vision instead of target fixating and looking deep into and through the corner. At the track we mandate you tape over your speedometer for the simple reason that if you take your focus away at a critical moment like the braking zone after a long straight you could easily wind up going off track.

Who is a great rider that shouldn’t be?

A rider who rides fast is not necessarily a great rider. On track days, in the intermediate groups there are sometimes riders who are quick on the street and opt to ride in the intermediate group so they can do a lot of passing. They may be relatively quick but make mistakes. I see them getting their body into position on the bike in the braking zone rather than setting up well before it. Downshifting too late and getting on the throttle too early coming out of a corner are common mistakes as well. If the throttle is opened up too aggressively while it is still leaned over, that’s a potential highside. Those are the people I’d like to see get more instruction. I wish people would start on smaller bikes. I started track riding on a GSX-R 750 which was way too much bike for me at the time and I broke my leg from a highside during a race in 2003 which probably wouldn’t have happened on a smaller bike. There are far more smaller bike options for new riders today, which is great!

Who are the trainers that stuck out since you first started riding.

Right from the beginning at WMRC, Scott Borthwick. Troy Burstyk from WCSS and the biggest one is Jason Pridmore. Even though I am an instructor I believe that you can never stop learning. I have done a few sessions with Mark Degross. He is a great instructor. You have to go into all training with zero ego. I’ve heard people say they don’t need school, they have already taken it. I shake my head at the people who think they have finished learning. You have to be willing to learn new things. I had the opportunity to ride with Ken Schwantz at Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit. I absolutely sat down with him to chat. People think you have to go 100% on track days but the real learning happens at riding at 50%. Slow it down to learn it properly. Learn to be smooth. Use the controls smoothly, it takes practice.

Are there any exercises or eating habits for motorcycle riding?

I used to speak on fitness and nutrition at a racer school. While you do not need to be an athlete to ride motorcycles, racing requires a certain level of fitness. I used to ride using my arms a lot and would get fatigued but I learn how to use my lower body more to steer the motorcycle. When I learned to use more lower body more I could ride longer at a higher pace. You have to build up cardio and muscle endurance. Cycling is good and going to the gym. I sometimes watch on board motorcycle videos at the gym. I sit on a bench and get into the body position I would be on a motorcycle and mimic what I would be doing on the track which really works my legs and core.

As for nutrition, stay away from the greasy fried foods especially the day before. Have some pasta, protein and a lot of water the day before the track day/race day. During the day stay hydrated and keep drinking water. During a race day I tend to eat constantly, usually having grilled chicken breast, yams, salad, fruits, protein bars and lots of water. I have a 4L jug of water I drink from so I can monitor my intake.

Do you drink energy drinks at the track?

When I first started racing I used to drink energy drinks which are full of caffeine and I am not a coffee drinker. I used to be so wired going around corners thinking I was going really fast but in reality, pro racers would go by me wondering why I was going so slow. LOL!

Are there any books that you recommend.

Most people have read Twist of the Wrist. I’ve seen the video and gone to the California Superbike School. Anything you can read will help your riding. I am a fan of Andrew Trevitt at Sport Rider Magazine. He used to instruct at the STAR School and it is crazy how much he knows. I am always finding ways to improve my riding and teaching.

Who are the rider you look up to today? MotoGP? Locally?

Valentino Rossi. He epitomizes a motorcycle racer. Even at his ‘advanced age’ he still does very well. Marc Marquez, that guy can ride. Maverick Vinales is a rider that I see becoming a future champion. You can judge yourself by your teammate and Maverick beat out Aleix Espargaro a lot more than anticipated in 2016.
The people I know or met. Jason Pridmore, who is in my opinion the best motorcycle instructor in the world. He has done it all and is still fast. He has raced World Endurance Championship for several years which takes a lot of stamina and consistency. Our local BC legends Ken Lalonde and Steve Crevier who have been racing since the old Westwood days.They have been around and done it all.

What would tell yourself just before you learned how to ride, knowing what you know now?

Get yourself on the race track on the smallest bike you can find and attend lots and lots and lots schools. Nothing will help you more in terms of achieving a higher level of riding. There is always something to learn. I have ridden with some world class riders and I still have a lot to learn. Never be in a hurry to go fast.

Racing Results:
2016 WMRC 600 Supersport Champion
2016 WMRC Formula Ultra Champion

2015 WMRC 600 Supersport Champion
2015 WMRC Open Supersport Champion
2015 WMRC Superbike Champion
2015 WMRC Formula Ultra Champion
2015 Tom Walther Memorial Cup Winner

2014 WMRC 600 Supersport Champion
2014 WMRC Open Supersport Champion
2014 WMRC Superbike Champion
2014 WMRC Formula Ultra Champion
2014 Tom Walther Memorial Cup Winner
2014 Pazzo Cup Winner

2013 WMRC 600 Supersport Champion
2013 WMRC Open Supersport Champion
2013 WMRC Superbike Champion
2013 WMRC Formula Ultra Champion
2013 Tom Walther Memorial Cup Winner
2013 Pazzo Cup Winner

2010 WMRC Expert 600 Supersport Champion
2010 WMRC Expert Open Supersport Champion
2010 WMRC Senior Superbike Champion

2009 WMRC Senior Superbike Champion
2009 WMRC Sportsman Of The Year

Racing Sponsors: – Modern Motorcycling- Suzuki Canada- Mspeed Performance- Pirelli- OPP Racing- Lightech- Flexi-glass- Racer X Leathers- M.A.S. Dyno tuning

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