Nicky Hayden’s Death Affects Riders Everywhere

You don’t have to be a racing fan to feel the loss of a great motorcyclist.

byJustin Hughes| PUBLISHED May 23, 2017 1:36 PM
Nicky Hayden’s Death Affects Riders Everywhere

As we reported yesterday, motorcycle racer Nicky Hayden has died from injuries suffered in a bicycle crash involving a motor vehicle last week. The racing community is of course mourning his loss. But the effect of his death is rippling across the broader motorcycle community. Nicky was an amazing rider, but he was also one of us. Though we don't like to think about it, we all know that anytime we swing a leg over a saddle, we might not come home. Nicky's death is an unpleasant reminder that this can happen to any of us. The fact that he met his end on a bicycle rather than hurtling around a track at triple-digit speeds makes it even more shocking.

This isn't the first time a freak accident unrelated to racing has taken—or taken out—a racing legend. In 2006, Sebastien Loeb won the World Rally Championship from his sofa after breaking his arm in a mountain bike accident. A year later, another rally legend, Colin McRae, died in a helicopter crash near his home. Being a rally fan, that hit me hard. But more than rally racing, motorcycling is something many people not only relate to, but participate in personally. The struggle with "cagers," as we call drivers, is real. Whether your two-wheeled transportation has an engine or runs on pedal power, there's always a chance of an inattentive driver not seeing you—or simply not caring—and colliding with you. And since a car weighs several orders of magnitude more than a bike, it's the bike that gets the short end of the stick. As the great engineer Montgomery Scott said, "Ye canna change the laws of physics."

There's a bit of nationalism involved, too. Nicky was the only American currently competing in the Superbike World Championship, and was the last American to compete in MotoGP. The way he began riding young and worked his way from local dirt track competition all the way to the top of the game is the embodiment of the American dream. Many of us could relate to him, especially with his friendly and down-to-earth attitude.

Ride on, Kentucky Kid. We will miss you.