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Kevin Ash, one year on

Wed, 08 Jan 2014

I’ve lost dozens of friends in bike racing over the years, and while each death was a shock and incredibly sad, I’ve always had some kind of internal coping mechanism that allowed me to carry on relatively unaffected.  Maybe it’s because I was always extremely passionate and committed when taking part in my dangerous sport so was also prepared to pay the ultimate price should things go wrong.  Rightly or wrongly I’ve taken comfort from the fact that these unfortunate racers have checked out while doing something they love.  

I’ve also lost a few journalist friends in bike accidents over the years but for some reason these have hit me harder.  The worst and possibly as it is the most recent is Kevin Ash who was killed last January while on a BMW launch in South Africa.  Starting in 2001, over a period of ten years, I was in Kevin’s company on countless new bike launches in pretty much every corner of the world. 

At times he was cocky and occasionally irritating but always entertaining with a wicked sense of humour.  He was many things but no one can deny he was a brilliant journalist and his technical knowledge was second to none.  I always appreciated his complete enthusiasm to all things biking as he would ride through any weather on a daily basis to jobs or airports and seemed to always be tinkering with winter projects (mainly Ducatis) at home. 

I also admired how much work he got through as he had columns in more than one weekly publication plus all his launch and web work. He was a competent safe rider who was certainly quick enough to evaluate any new bike thrown his way.  Kevin also drove a Porsche but then none of us are perfect!  

I looked to Kevin as a wise Owl so not long after I started working with TWO/ Visordown, I asked him on an R1 launch in Australia he thought the motorcycle industry was currently in a good place.  His reply was, ‘we’ve just been flown here business class, been taken by speed boat to our five star hotel under Sydney Harbour Bridge, Yamaha have wined and dined us and furnished us with expensive gifts each day, what do you think Niall?  How times have changed. 

On the subject on air travel he once told me, ‘when travelling business or first class it’s not about the pampering, comfy beds or fine dining, the important part is looking smug as you walk straight past all the people lining up at the cattle class check in! On more than one occasion I had food or drink spurt out when Kevin would deliver unexpected one line funnies at the dinner table. He certainly could hand out some stick but he could take it as well which in my book is absolutely fine. Above all, I could tell Kevin was a dedicated family man as he regularly talked fondly of his wife Caroline and daughters, Laurien, Kirsten and Ingrid.  Being a father myself, I could tell he was an awesome Dad.

I still travel on a regular basis and that is probably why Kevin is never far from my mind.  I shared many departure lounges around the world with Kevin so quite often when I’m sitting at the departure gate nowadays some fond or amusing KA memory will come to mind.  The most recent was last month in Cape Town when I was returning from a family holiday.  Ironically, after a brilliant two bike BMW launch in 2007 Kevin and I were delayed and totally bored so decided to play game. The deal was, we had to spend the rest of our lives with every seventh women that passed by.  Stupid and childish? Yes, but hilarious, bless you Kevin Ash.  

By Niall Mackenzie

See also: Day 4 Dakar 2014: Juan Pedrero Wins Stage Aboard Sherco, Day 3 Dakar 2014: Barreda Maintains Overall Lead, Despres Catches Up, 2014 AMA Supercross – Anaheim 1 Results.