You may be a motorcycle racing fan, or you may not. If there’s one absolutely true thing about motorcycle racers in general, though, it’s that they love what they do. Nowhere is that more evident than in the vlogs that British Superbikes, North West 200, and IOMTT winner Lee Johnston has been sharing on his YouTube channel.
Prior to May 2023, Johnston was known as an extremely talented, experienced racer. He’d won the North West 200 five times, had won at the Isle of Man TT, was leading the BSB championship—and of course, had been racing for nearly two decades.
Here in September 2023, he’s still all those things. However, at the same time, he’s also given racing and general motorcycle fans around the world a rare glimpse of both what happens when you have a horrific crash, and also how you recover from it. He’s done this via his extremely candid vlogs, which he’s put together with the help of his partner, Christie. Through them, we get to see his family, his team, and everyone who’s loved and supported him as he’s pursued his racing dreams.
For those unaware, Johnston suffered a serious crash during Supersport practice at the 2023 North West 200. The official statement initially read that he was not in critical condition, and that he’d only suffered a broken leg.
It turned out that the actual situation was much more serious. As Johnston himself relates in a vlog where he shares onboard footage of the crash (which he doesn’t remember), even the medical staff didn’t realize that he’d broken his left wrist until it was already mending on its own. By that time, they'd already spent days tending to his myriad other, more serious injuries.
The crash occurred on May 11, 2023. On May 16, 2023, Johnston’s family released an update on his official Instagram page. They noted that he’d suffered a broken femur, shoulder, foot, face, as well as multiple ribs and a collapsed lung (because of the broken ribs).
In the video above, where he shares his crash footage, Johnston also shares x-rays that show the seriousness behind each of those relatively simple descriptions. His broken foot had to be wired, and the wires had to be removed (quite painfully, he says) once the healing got to a certain point. His femur has plates and screws, his shoulder has plates and screws, the broken ribs and collapsed lung meant serious internal bleeding—you get the idea.
In the same video, Johnston talks about having no memory of the crash—and it’s later revealed that he also essentially has no memory of the first week after the crash, either. His partner Christie does, because she was there every day—but he spent a week in Intensive Care before being moved elsewhere in the hospital during his recovery. He was in a coma and on a ventilator part of the time, as well as undergoing multiple surgeries because of the extent of his injuries.
Still, as we said above, racers do what they do while knowing the risks that they run. They do it, very simply, because they love it. That’s true of many riders in general, of course—and those who discover that riding isn’t for them are usually quite happy to stop. Johnston, though—even with all that he’s been through, he still loves it. If his body will let him, he wants to keep doing it. Not everyone can understand that level of commitment—but it’s his, as well as a lot of racers.
In his most recent YouTube vlog (which we've linked in our Sources), Johnston gives an update about how he’s been recovering since the crash in May. Through the help of all his carers, as well as his own efforts, he says that he’s slowly getting back to full fitness.
His broken foot still hurts, but his femur is doing really well. He’s been doing serious physio (that’s physical therapy, to those of us in the States) and getting himself back into good working order. That’s no small feat considering that he had to be carried into his house in his wheelchair when he came home from the hospital.
Above all, he says, he is hopeful that he’ll be able to race with his team, Ashcourt Racing, in 2024. The one thing that he thinks may possibly give him trouble is his shoulder. He’s quite honest in assessing that while he really wants to race and be competitive again, there’s no good way to know how his body will react until he gets back on a bike and finds out.
That’s something that many riders—whether they’re racers or not—can probably relate to. If you’ve ever had a get-off that resulted in any kind of injury, it’s hard to know how your body (and your mind) are going to process things until you’re in that saddle and doing the thing.
In any case, we at RideApart wish Johnston all the best in his recovery and thank him and his family for sharing such rare insight into what goes on when something like this happens. Also, we should all be so lucky as to have the kind of lovely people surrounding us as he has in these videos. Racing paddocks tend to be close-knit communities, and that’s another thing on full and proud display here.