I’ve been asked the same question throughout my riding career, “Motorcycles are so dangerous. Aren’t you afraid you’ll die?” 

I understand it’s coming from a place of concern, but I’ve been riding since I was 17. Two decades have come and gone. Don’t you think I’ve already answered this? I long ago made my peace with the risks as, no matter what discipline of motorcycling you engage in, whether it’s off-roading, dirt biking, regular old street rides, or road racing, the acceptance of the potential for death is necessary to ride motorcycles. 

We’re all keenly aware of our mortality; far more so than the non-riders who ask us that question or comment on races like the Isle of Man TT

Now, I won’t say what I do while riding on the street or dirt is the same as the racers at the TT do. But the potential risks associated are the same: serious injury or death. It’s what binds every rider together.

Nearly a decade ago, I crashed hard. Midway through a canyon turn, my front tire caught unseen gravel, washed out, and I did my level best to save it from sliding out from under me. That, however, was incredibly dumb in hindsight as it bucked back and high-sided me into a cliff wall where I proceeded to rag-doll along its face. I broke my shoulder, bruised my spine and lung, and found myself with another concussion to add to the list. 

And yet, two months later, I was back riding. I was back doing something I couldn’t live without. And I was well aware of the potential outcomes of me hopping back onto a motorcycle. 

Since that day, my life has only changed more dramatically as I’m now a dad of three. I’m even more aware of those potentialities whenever I go out for a ride, leave to test some new motorcycle, or just tool around in our backyard with my daughter on her Kawasaki Elektrode. I know that if I catch another patch of gravel, go off a jump the wrong way, or find myself in the path of an inattentive driver or fake-ass “self-driving” software, I may not return home to their smiling faces.

Every motorcyclist knows the risks. And we all accept those risks whenever we put a leg over a motorcycle. We accept those risks because living without one of our passions wouldn’t be living at all. RideApart’s own Robbie Bacon—who grew up watching road racing in Ireland—describes why more eloquently, saying “Riding is like a virus that I live with. Only I get sick when I don’t do it. If I could swap it for another, safer virus, I would. But I can’t. Neither can these guys.”

He’s talking about the TT riders. 

Every single year in the modern era, there has been an opinion piece accompanying the Isle of Man TT. The denunciations of the historic road race, calling for its cancellation and/or changing—usually without real suggestions on how to do so—because people die each year. These are from well-meaning folks, for sure. No one wants to watch someone die—two each year, on average. But these opinion pieces about the TT are almost always from non-riders. People who don’t understand how or why motorcyclists accept those risks. 

Peter Hickman’s Isle of Man TT-Winning BMW M 1000 RR - Ridden
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They fill their articles with language of the concerned—almost concerned trolling—most of which reads as being pretty reasonable. “Deaths are a tradition at the Isle of Man TT. They shouldn’t be,” reads one headline. And I do believe we should do everything in our power to limit racer deaths. But racing, especially motorcycle road racing, is an inherently dangerous sport. Far more so than MotoGP, which itself is already incredibly dangerous. TT riders update their wills ahead of the race, and letters are written to be passed along to friends and family if the worst were to occur. 

They get the risks. 

The limits at the Isle of Man TT’s mountain course are infinitesimal, where trees, shrubs, and rock walls line the roads as racers fly by at over 200 mph. It’s the hardest, most dangerous race around. But that’s what attracts riders to the TT. They want to test their limits in the most extreme way possible, not unlike other sports. 

But the Isle of Man TT gets pure negativity while others are highlighted and celebrated. 

Think of big wave surfing, which kills a handful of surfers each year, running with the bulls, base jumping, freestyle motocross, or climbing El Capitan without a safety line. I mean, the latter got an Oscar out of what could’ve been the goriest climbing fall ever. Where are the calls from concerned writers about those? Where are the opinion pieces stating that free-climbing, motocross, surfing, hill climbs, or mountaineering to be stopped? 

Do you see my point?

2024 Isle of Man TT Dates Announced

The Isle of Man TT can be made better to help reduce accidents and injuries. There are calls for enhanced medical services throughout the course, including more medical helicopters on standby. Rider safety technology like airbag jackets and pants, as well as better helmets, gloves and boots have been adopted. But even those can be bettered. And the organizers could stand to do better in terms of how they work with the local government on roadway fixes along the course, as riders have complained in the past when supposed “fixes” become dangerous. 

Those, however, are tangible things we could do to increase rider safety. They’re not merely concerned rhetoric. And many of them are being done. Safety, however, is only ever absolute when you completely stop doing something. And that’s more the vibe I get from these opinion pieces. They don’t want the Isle of Man TT race to continue. It’s too antiquated. Too dangerous to exist. 

But the world is a dangerous place. No one gets out alive. And again, I and everyone who rides, including those at the Isle of Man TT, are aware of the risks. We accept them, even if you can’t. And it’s our choice to get onto a motorcycle each and every time. 

I can’t express how much motorcycling means to me and my mental health. There have been times in my life when a motorcycle has helped me through some seriously dark times. Helped me grieve and understand and be all right with this shitty-ass world we live in. Riding is something I love despite the risks involved. 

The risks I and my ilk gladly accept. 

Death of Carlin Dunne

I’m reminded of what occurred after motorcycle racer Carlin Dunne passed away at Pikes Peak. Motorcycles had been a mainstay of the race for decades, inspiring many to tackle the famous hill climb atop two wheels. But after Dunne passed away in 2019 at the race, the organizers announced that motorcycles would be banned from competition. Too dangerous, was how they spun it. 

Now, if there was ever a voice in the room that’d likely agree with the Pikes Peak organizers, you’d expect it to be Carlin’s mom, right? Wrong. Carlin’s mom understood what motorcycle racing was to her son. She knew her son understood the risks. He understood what was at stake whenever he got on a motorcycle and took off. He didn’t need to be lectured or nannied by someone who didn’t get it. 

The 2024 Isle of Man TT practice week is already underway, with the races to start on Saturday, June 1. There are likely to be more concerned citizen opinion pieces published in the next few days, as well as following the races. But I urge those folks to talk to people who ride and maybe listen to them before writing a single word. 

And that’s why I’ll leave you with Carlin’s mom’s own words, given to the press only two weeks after her son passed away. Though it's not about the Isle of Man TT, it may as well be. 

“Carlin loved the mountain. She challenged and enticed him, calling him back again and again. He gave her due respect. He was fully aware of her ability to “take.” With that being said, I know for a fact that he would ​not​ want the motorcycle program to end. He would want us to learn from this tragedy. He would encourage the official accident reconstruction authorities do what they are trained to do, and for the race officials to implement additional safety precautions required.

Three days after Carlin’s crash a reporter asked me, “How do you feel about the race now?” To which I replied, “The same way I felt on June 29t​h​, the day before he crashed.” All his life I’ve known that losing him was a possibility. We went into this with eyes-wide-open. We were aware of the flip side of this sport. I was committed to him and his dreams. He was doing what he loved. So, who are we to take away other racers’ dreams of racing Pikes Peak International Hill Climb?”

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