When Lakewood neighbor Ben Spies visits his house in Italy, he can barely walk down the street without people stopping him to request a photo or autograph.
As a former pro motorcycle racer who made a smashing impression on the MotoGP, Spies is a high-profile celebrity in countries such as Italy and Spain, where the general public keeps tabs on motorcycle racing.
In East Dallas, which Spies considers his home base, not so much.
“A lot of it is just the sport in general. It’s just not big in America,” Spies explains. “In Europe it’s like acting or sports. It’s like seeing Dirk [Nowitzki] cruising around; that’s how big it is.”
On the one hand, it’s disappointing that Spies has represented the United States on a world stage without significant American backing. On the other hand, Spies enjoys the relative anonymity his East Dallas home provides.
“I wasn’t really into the whole fame part,” Spies says. “I like the fans, but I wouldn’t do the whole split personalities thing. So it was actually nice for me because when I came back home, only like five people a week recognize me.”
Spies was barely out of diapers when he started riding dirt bikes, and if you’d asked him then what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d tell you he wanted to race motorcycles.
“We have no racing background in our family at all,” Spies says. “I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
He started racing when he was 8 and soon realized he had a knack for it.
In 2006 Spies won the AMA Superbike Championship, and he defended the title in 2007 and 2008, making him the fourth person in history to land the AMA Superbike Championship for three consecutive years.
In 2009, he raced in the Superbike World Championship series and won the championship his rookie year.
The natural next step was the MotoGP, which is a part of the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, in which Spies placed an impressive sixth place in the 2010 MotoGP season and was named “Rookie of the Year.”
He suffered several crashes in 2011, but he also rocketed to second place by the season’s finish, barely missing victory by just 0.015 seconds.
By 2012 the multiple crashes were starting to take a toll on his racing scores. Then a major crash in Malaysia cut his season short, and he finished 10th in the final championship standings.
In 2013 Spies announced his retirement due to injury. Although he didn’t land a MotoGP title, his stellar racing career placed him as the fastest American and within the top five fastest motorcycle racers in the world.
“I can live with those credentials,” Spies says.
Spies doesn’t race motorcycles anymore, but he does race bicycles.
Although he started cycling because it was fun, Spies doesn’t take anything lightly, especially where competition is concerned. He created an amateur bicycle racing team in Texas, called Elbows, which is a nickname Spies earned during his motorcycle racing career because of his riding style.
“In the second year, it was already the second top amateur team in the U.S.,” he says. “We’ve had four guys go from our team to pro teams — a couple in Europe and a couple here. It’s really cool what’s been happening there.”
He’s also part-owner in two Dallas restaurants, Kenichi and Stackhouse Burgers on Gaston.
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