More than 100 cyclists participated in an Orange County, Calif., bicycle ride in memory of 2006 MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden, who died May 22 following injuries incurred in a May 17 bicycle accident in Italy.
“Ride for Nicky” covered 69 miles (matching Nicky's signature racing number) through Irvine, Modjeska, Rancho Santa Margarita, Ladera Ranch, San Clemente, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach. The ride raised money for the Nicky Hayden Memorial Fund, which benefits children in the Owensboro, Kentucky, community that Nicky called home, and raised motorists’ awareness of cyclists on the road. In addition to donating money, participants used the social-media hashtags #RideForNicky and #PeaceOnTheRoad to promote those objectives. Participants included motorcycle racing heroes like Jeff Ward, Johnny O'Mara, Ben and Eric Bostrom.
Ride for Nicky was the vision of motocross-track-builder Marc Peters, who was himself inspired by a similar ride held last month by off-road motorcycle racer Josh Strang and NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson near Charlotte, North Carolina. Peters enlisted the help of bicycle-race promoter and former personal watercraft champion Victor Sheldon, as well as Rock N’ Road Cyclery founder and partner Matt Ford, whose shops served as start/finish and feed stations. An additional feed stop was held at the Troy Lee Designs boutique in Laguna Beach. Nicky Hayden commemorative water bottles and socks were donated by Specialized and DeFeet, respectively, and Red Bull and Monster donated food and beverages. American Honda and Erion Racing displayed two of Nicky's race bikes.
“It was really special to see all these people come out and support an event like this,” said Hayden’s older brother Tommy Hayden, who flew in from Kentucky to do the ride. “It’s definitely something I think Nicky would’ve been proud of. It has meant a lot to our family to see people making these kinds of gestures. It’s been a little bit comforting to us, to see that Nicky has touched so many people. I know everyone’s busy, and for people to take off work on a Wednesday and come out to spend the day doing this in his honor is pretty cool. I was glad to be here and see everyone. Thanks to everyone who came out. It was a great day.”
“It wasn’t an easy 69 miles,” Ford said. “We had a little over 4,000 feet of total climbing and some warm temperatures. Everybody here is a champion, and I don’t think Nicky would’ve wanted it to be too easy. It was legit, and it seems like everyone had a good time. It was a great way for everybody to get together and remember our friend and hero.”
“All in all I think we had a really good day celebrating the life of Nicky,” Sheldon said. “My biggest memory of Nicky is that after talking with him, I’d always think, ‘That is one nice guy,’ and I think the people here today would probably agree. He was a champion, but he was also a great person, and I’m glad we were able to honor him and remember him on the bike.”
Sheldon added that the goal is to make Ride for Nicky an annual event.