Luis Salom and the irony behind safety in racing



Investigations are going on as we speak as to how Luis Salom lost his bike in that corner the way he did and what could’ve been done to save the 24 year old’s life. It could’ve been a mechanical problem, or a mistake, and the smooth asphalt coupled with a short run-off without gravel could’ve been the aggravating factors. The only thing that can said for sure as of now is that he was unlucky, at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some people find solace in the fact that he died doing something he truly loved, although I’ve personally never seen the logic behind that. The only truth here is that Salom understood the risks, maybe even enjoyed them, but given the option he’d always have chosen life rather than die doing something he truly loved.

What can be described only as a freak accident took him out. It could’ve happened to anybody, anyone over the years of racing at Catalunya, but it didn’t. The official press conference repeatedly stressed the fact that nobody thought of Turn 12 was risky, no one was expected to crash there. In hindsight, a lot of things could’ve been different, but that’s the problem with hindsight, it’s of no use in the present.

But here’s where things get interesting.

The only visible effect of a rider’s death on the track that I could see in qualifying today was probably the lack of too many smiles. Everyone was pushing beyond 100%, there were big moments and huge crashes, and life was back to normal in the pits just a few hours after the storm.

Things were even more remarkable at the Isle of Man TT, with Dunlop and Hutchy fighting for a win, decimating lap records in the process. When you see the TT racers ride the way they do, and take the risks that they take, the death of Luis Salom seems even more heart shattering.

Road racing is far more dangerous than Moto2, with literally no run-offs, plus telephone poles and brick walls to shave speed off. Moto2 riders are probably better paid than TT racers, have better protective kits, and have lightening quick access to medical staff in case of an emergency.

And yet it was Salom who isn’t with us today, and nobody seems to mind that.

If you followed the Twitter feed of IOMTT today, or watched the Catalunya qualifying, apart from the slight references here or there, nobody would be able to tell that something that serious had happened just the day before. Some might call it weird, even cruel, but I think anybody who has ridden a bike will understand.

The sad fact of life is that people die, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can reduce the risks, but you can never eliminate them, and as the risks go away, so does the fun, that visceral feeling of living in the moment can’t be had inside 4 walls, no matter how advanced your gaming console is.

It’s always sad to watch a motorcyclist go, and lately too many of them have been going, but strangely, it changes nothing. You might change your ways, like I have stopped touring, focusing on track much more, but it’s nearly impossible to let go of bikes. Even if you do convince yourself to stop riding, you’ll always end up finding other ways of killing yourself, because once you’ve felt that rush of speed, once you’ve experienced what adventure can do to you, there is no way to make it stop.

So for all the people who ride, I hope you continue riding, one way or the other. Buy the best protective gear you can, take as less risks as possible, and above all, survive. Break as many bones as you like, destroy your bike as many times as you like, but live. Your life is more important than you think it is, not just to you and your family, but to strangers as well who you’ve never met and don’t even know exist. Death will come to us all, but make sure you give life one hell of a fight before letting go.

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