The news filtered across the internet on Wednesday that a fellow journalist and a highly respected member of the UK motorcycle press had died on a motorcycle launch in South Africa. Kevin Ash will be known by many as an excellent writer, with a deep heritage in the UK print media, from Fast Bikes magazine and MCN as well as the Motorcycling Correspondant for the Telegraph. Many of the current generation of upstarts such as myself have come into this line of work after reading his pieces and being inspired to do something similar so when the tragic news first appeared it made me take stock a little.
I have personally only been on a small number of these industry press events, nothing like the amount that many of my peers attend but something I very much look forward to getting an invite for. Being a relatively new rider compared to most of the attendees of these launches I am almost always the least experienced in terms of road riding but absolutely the bottom of the pile when it comes to the track - I just don't get the opportunity to ride on track as much as I would like.
With this in mind I always carry a certain frame of mind when getting set to travel, staying safe is primarily the thing weighing on my mind. As a father the drive to get home in one piece to see my little girl is greater than pushing my own ability too much and this is something that until now I have always felt a little bit stupid about when I got home, I want to progress, I want to improve and on a press launch in relative safety is the perfect opportunity to do so. You do not have the pressure of not binning your own bike, no worries about how to get home after wards if you do - everything is taken care of so you just get there, do your job, come home and write about it.
Usually the only thing on my mind is injury, having seen a couple of crashes that have led to extended spells of inconvenient recuperation and loss of work I am mindful that accidents can happen but what I experienced when reading about the death of Kevin Ash really shook me - I had never actually contemplated that an accident on a press launch might be fatal, ridiculous, right?
When we have drilled into us that riding on the road is a minefield, we train ourselves to be vigilant and reduce the chance of accidents we are all to aware that things can and do go wrong - so why would it be any different on a press event?
The majority of people I speak to about my exploits on here echo a similar tune, one that thinks I am a lucky sod that gets free holidays, free track time and the choice on a number of brand new motorcycles to ride. This is actually true but only on a lesser extent, the free holidays as people put it are very much a stop and start work day - albeit with flights and quite often a bit of sunshine - but early starts to make a flight, then a transfer, then getting settled in the hotel and usually the work starts shortly after with a presentation and meet and greet.
Fair enough it is not a day down the coal mine by any stretch but this is still our job, to create interesting articles that others will want to read. After being wined and dined it is often an early night - for me especially as I don't want my "ambition to outweigh my talent" as Casey Stoner put it - and I know I need my wits about me to try and get as much from the next day as possible. I don't want to crash, I don't want to get injured, I don't want to mangle anyone else's bike up and I certainly don't want to endanger anyone else, with the little experience I have it is safer to just hit the sack and get some rest. Hardly a holiday so far.
The following day(s) keep to a similar pattern, get up early, hoon around on road or track for a full day which is exhausting in itself and then eat and sleep. By the time you board a flight home you are beaten and your feet have barely had a chance to touch the ground, granted you have probably had an awesome experience and coming home in one piece is the perfect way to end things. For those stalwart members of the UK press who do this week in week out I doff my cap as it must take it's toll and all in the name of entertainment.
Yesterday though my perspective shifted a little bit, I don't actually feel as silly for being quite as cautious and keeping out of trouble. My experience will grow with more practice from opportunities like press launches and with my peers being from racing backgrounds or with huge amounts of riding experience I am probably doing right by not trying too hard to keep up, my job here is to report on an event or product and I cannot see a mention in the terms and conditions about drawing my own blood so slow and steady it is...
For me though the biggest eye opener was the response on Ashonbikes from one of Kevin's daughter's and how that made me feel about getting home safe for my family. I get to have a real blast doing something that I love in the company of some excellent people and nice surroundings, not once have I considered leaving a plan in place with my wife should anything happen or something for my daughter in case daddy does not come home. It has reminded me that life is precious and not to take any situation for granted, that I do what I love primarily to provide for my family but what I love is in fact quite dangerous.
My sympathy goes out to Kevin's wife Caroline and his three daughters who have lost a husband and father but also to the motorcycle fraternity who have lost an inspiring member who brought much entertainment throughout the years to a large number of readers.