Imagining Nicky Hayden In 20 Years

By Tom Martin

May 24, 2017

Nicky Hayden, American motorcycle racer and 2006 MotoGP champion is gone. I'm not a rider, but probably like many of you, it seems especially sad when anyone from the racing community dies. That sadness is amplified when the death is the result of an unfortunate accident.

Hayden, based on reports, was riding his bicycle in Italy. Apparently he may have missed a red light and been struck by a car crossing the intersection. So, the driver of the car that struck and gravely injured Nicky was probably doing nothing wrong.

While commiserating with some of our mechanics who are riders about Nicky's death, a story came up because of the broad circumstances of his death. In the story, a group of motorcycle lovers was on a ride and had to ride around a group of cyclists. When the riders stopped at a light, one of the motorcyclists muttered "F'ing bicycle wusses".

Our mechanics noted the irony of this. Motorcyclists want drivers to share the road and keep watch for them. Cyclists want the same thing from both drivers and riders. So, by the way, do truckers. But wait, we want others to do what we don't regularly do? That, at a minimum, is a weird ethical system.

Now, as I said, Nicky's cycling accident probably wasn't due to a driver failing to "share the road". But I found myself wondering how Nicky would have thought about the "wusses" comment above in 20 years time. Because Nicky would have been 55 then. And by all accounts, Nicky was a really good guy -- the comments on social media keep repeating that he was one of the nicest riders in the paddock.

So, in my imagination, Nicky would age well. He would be kind and helpful to riders coming up in the sport. He would represent the sport in America and be a model for riders at all levels.

Along with that, I imagine he would ask us to hate less and welcome more. He would suggest that we be less tribal -- it isn't riders over drivers over cyclists. It isn't Honda vs. Yamaha vs. Ducati. It isn't the fast over the slow. It isn't Porsche over Mazda. It isn't F1 over IMSA over Trans-Am. I imagine Nicky would coin a phrase, borrowing from the great golf coach Harvey Penick, something like "If you like going fast, you're my friend." That might help us all remember the right attitude. Because we all forget.

But, that isn't going to happen. Nonetheless, Nicky, we will remember you. And maybe we can imagine what you would have done.