Jeff Fredette is a multitime International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) medalist and an AMA Grand National Cross Country, hare scrambles and enduro race winner. Born in Blue Island, Ill., in 1958, Fredette began riding in enduro and observed trials competitions with his father, Wayne. At the age of 12 he began competing in trials on his own.
Fredette’s father was a machinist, and he helped Jeff develop mechanical skills and problem-solving abilities at an early age. These skills would serve Jeff and his fellow riders very well in the years to come.
"We spent many hours at night working on bikes and vehicles, getting ready for races, always tinkering in the garage," Jeff said. "One time we tuned up the car engine for a trip, and then it ran rough. We messed it up because my dad was taking the time to show me how to do it. But that’s how you learn to be thorough, and now, because of those experiences, I’m not afraid to tear into something and see how it works."
By 1975, Fredette was competing in AMA National Enduro events and ice racing during the winter months. In 1977 he received support from Penton Motorcycles, which was later sold to the KTM brand.
At the age of 20, he qualified for the 1978 International Six Day Trials (ISDT) in Sweden. In 1980 the ISDT became known as the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE).
"At that point I had seen 'On Any Sunday,' and I had decided that was what I wanted to do,” Fredette said. “I had entered some qualifiers in Michigan just to gain experience, and in 1978 I decided to ride the qualifiers, just to learn some more, but I didn’t really anticipate that I would actually qualify. Then I ended up qualifying, and every day I would come home and ride hard and practice in the fields around my house, trying to get ready to go.
"I had hung out with the Penton family, and they asked me if I wanted to go over to Austria a week early and prep the KTM bikes. It was the first time I had left the country, and it was like living a dream. Even the journey from Austria to Sweden in a van, it was really fun," he said. "But my first day’s results were terrible. I decided I needed to slow down if I wanted to go faster, and to try and be more consistent. Then each day I started moving up, and I won the gold medal. It was a lot of fun, so I wanted to do it again."
Fredette was recruited by Suzuki in 1979 and raced aboard a PE250. He earned gold medals at the 1979, 1980 and 1981 ISDE events in Germany, France and Italy. In 1981 he was also the overall winner of West Virginia’s prestigious Blackwater 100.
In 1983 Fredette signed with Kawasaki. That relationship would continue through 2009, during which time Fredette captured six more ISDE gold medals, 18 silver medals and one bronze, with numerous AMA Grand National Cross Country class wins and AMA Regional Enduro and hare scrambles titles.
He founded Fredette Racing Products in 1985, selling specialized parts and providing tuning and engine building services for off-road racers. He also worked as an adviser for Kawasaki’s Team Green, and in the few years when he wasn’t able to compete due to injuries, he served American ISDE teams as a chase rider, offering valuable technical advice to teammates and competitors alike.
"The first year I became a chase rider, it was 1990 and I was going to be on the trophy team. I had some injuries, but I thought I could ride anyway,” Fredette said. "The day before I went out to trail ride, and my wrist was no good, so I gave my position to Kelby Pepper. I ended up being the chase rider, and Kelby went on to finish as the top American. But I really got into it, we were rebuilding bikes and it was just a lot of fun.
"The next time, in 1996, I was a chase rider for Ty Davis," Fredette said. "That was my job, so I wanted to do it the best I could. Any info that I thought was important or that I might want as a racer, that was what I gave to Ty. I was ready to help him out, carrying all this stuff in a backpack. But all he needed was a pair of fresh goggles, and he finished as the top American. It was the moral support too, I was there for them, and really, they were there for me too, making my day. It was a lot of fun.”
Fredette was presented with the 1993 AMA Sportsman of the Year Award for overcoming horrid course conditions and repeated mechanical woes at the 1993 ISDE in Holland, where he earned a bronze medal. Jeff and his son, Eric, have also competed in The Great Race cross-country vintage auto competition, earning Top Rookie honors in 2005.
Summing up his philosophy on life and racing, Jeff said: “The high school I went to, their motto was, 'YouGottaWanna.' It’s one of those things that stuck with me. In all my years of racing I can count on two hands the amount of times I’ve quit or broke[n] down, and I hate to break down. I’m going to do the best I can, so there’s no room for failure.”
Fredette was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.