The MotoGP World Champion is remembered with a group ride

By Zap

For anyone with a passion for two-wheeled road racing – especially the throttle twisting variety – the name Nicky Hayden should be well-known.  Nicky was an American icon who grew-up in a racing family out of Owensboro, Kentucky and rose to fame as both a National and World Champion.  Tragically, his life was lost in 2017 when  he was hit  by a car while out on a training ride on his bicycle in Italy.

Nicky had always been an avid cyclist for training,

The eldest of the three racing Hayden brothers,  Nicky was as handsome as he was flamboyant, and he mustered a sense of Southern charm with youthful style to gain a worldwide legion of fans. It was those qualities, along with his intensity on the bike and personality off the bike, that made him stand-out so brightly among his racing peers.

Given that from his youngest days Nicky’s racing number was 69, June 9 has become that day on the calendar when fans, friends and family alike make it a point to remember him. Given SoCal’s large population of both  motorcycle and bicycle enthusiasts, in the  years since his passing there has always been an organized bike ride on June 9 to help keep his memory alive.

This year, the Costa Mesa Specialized shop once again played host for the ride that was co-sponsored by FMF, Ryno Power, and the Nicky Hayden Foundation. As is tradition, the ride was 69 miles long and this year we pedaled down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway through the city of Laguna Beach to the seaside town of Dana Point before looping back. The ride was made up of close to 100 riders which included many two-wheeled celebrities of both the pedal and throttle-twisting  variety.

“Part of what made Nicky so popular is that he seemed genuinely interested in other people, but that was especially true of cyclists. I think professional athletes have a fascination with those from adjacent sports, and it seemed like hanging and riding with cyclists let Nicky escape his main focus as much as he felt comfortable doing (Nicky was never big on complete breaks from motorcycles). We’d regularly get celebrities in the MotoGP garages, but Nicky particularly enjoyed when guys like Marcel Kittel and Richie Porte would come by. It’s obviously tragic that cycling is what cost Nicky his life, but I love the way the pedal community embraced him, when he was living and even more now.” Chris Jonnum, (former) Ducati MotoGP press officer. 



Talk about someone having some pull – the riders enjoyed a police escort for the entire length of the ride…nothing like rolling red lights and stop signs with official approval!


Troy Lee Designs/Factory Gas-Gas rider Justin Barcia is an avid cyclist and made the 69-mile road aboard his 1x Specialized Diverge gravel bike. Next to him his former factory Yamaha MX team manager Jim Perry.


The ride started in Costa Mesa and rolled down the coast to Dana Point on a quintessentially beautiful SoCal day which reminded many that traffic and high taxes notwithstanding, SoCal does have its benefits!


Four-time DS mountain bike world champion Brian Lopes is a SoCal icon in both pedal and moto worlds.


Moto historians took note that beyond their friendship with Nicky Hayden, both Shimano MTB marketing manager Joe Lawwill (L) and multi-time National MX Champion (and legend) Jeff Ward share a very rare common bond – they both starred in Bruce Brown’s epic motorcycling classic film, On Any Sunday when they were kids.


Factory KTM/Red Bull rider Marvin Musquin is one of a handful of pro riders trained by former mountain bike racer Aldon Baker who emphasizes cycling to maintain their fitness.


Former motocross and Supercross champion Jeremy “Showtime” McGrath said he hadn’t ridden a bike for such a distance in over eight years…and when he came up short of 69 miles at the ride’s end, he rode around the block to ensure that he “got the mileage for Nicky.” Bravo.


Along with his Star Racing/Yamaha teammates, recently crowned 2021 west coast Supercross champion and current 250 MX National series points leader Justin Cooper was among the championship caliber riders in attendance.


To the victor goes the spoils and both Star Racing/Yamaha riders Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols arrived in their Toyota of Escondido trucks identifying them as the 2021 AMA east & west Supercross series champions.



Nicky’s smile was infectious and befitting a man renowned for having such a friendly demeanor.


In this famous Bert Shepard photo, Nicky proved he was as adept at hanging it out the dirt ovals as he was the paved circuits.


Before heading off to Europe where he would eventually claim a MotoGP world title, Nicky was the 2002 AMA Superbike Champion riding for Honda.


After spending his entire life chasing his dream of becoming a world champion, Nicky was understandably emotional when he claimed the 2006 MotoGP title.


Following his days at Honda, Nicky moved to the factory Ducati MotoGP team.
The city of Owensboro, Kentucky paid a fitting tribute to their hometown champion with a lifelike bronze statue in his honor.


Nicky Hayden – forever in our hearts. Ride often, ride safe.

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