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When Bike Swaps Go Bad. No 6: Freddie Spencer

Published: 31 May 2016

Updated: 03 May 2016

1983 Honda NS500 to 1984 Honda NSR500

reddie Spencer’s nightmare came not from a change of make but of model, from nimble three-cylinder NS500 to the cumbersome V4 NSR. 

The NS was torquey and practical; the NSR an engineers’ pipe-dream. The fuel was carried underneath, the dummy tank filled with expansion chambers. The power was warblingly high up the rev range. And it had carbon-fibre wheels. 

The upside-down horror was so bad Freddie persuaded Honda to bring back the triple mid-season; a massive loss of face. It was too late. First time out in public, one of the wheels broke. 

“It wasn’t so much evil as unusual. Fuel stability was a problem. It also had a breathing problem at high speeds with the venting and the way the carbs were positioned. At Assen I was leading by 10 seconds when a plug cap came off – and the mechanic couldn’t get to it to replace it. The thing was all fuel tank and exhaust.”

Next year Honda went back to a conventional layout, and Freddie was off again, to win the title. 

Words Michael Scott  Photos 2 Snap, Gold and Goose

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