After a decade-long Supersport career that promised so much and ended in a freak accident, Kieran Clarke admits he’s lucky to be here.
That he is and is still making videos declaring his passion for riding despite the chilling encounter with death, speaks volumes for his character.
Throw in the fact that he’s working as a stunt advisor to Hollywood movie legends and appearing in Triumph’s new Street Scrambler brand videos and you get the idea that he’s not about to give up on his first love any time soon.
Two years after doctors told him to say goodbye to his family as he lay dying on a hospital stretcher, his inherent ‘pursuit of perfection’ still runs deep.
Erudite, intensely driven and analytical, his devotion to motorcycle racing and the single-mindedness needed to succeed in the sport is, perversely, what has kept him alive.
“I was awake as my vital organs were packing in and when the docs told me there was nothing they could do and suggested I had my loved ones around me, I was frightened,” he admits, almost matter-of-factly now.
“I was upset about what they would have to go through – not me – but then I put myself in a calm state and in the end I didn’t sneak off.”
After more than a decade of intoxicating Supersport riding, it was – ironically – a freak training accident that saw him rushed to hospital, where surgeons said they couldn’t operate because his spleen and kidney were so badly damaged any anaesthetic would kill him.
But after a week of blood transfusions and clotting agents, he defied science to pull through and embark on what he calls the next chapter in an incredible 31-year life story.
“It was different,” he jokes, with understated dry humour, before returning to the subject closest to his heart… motorcycle riding and the sense of freedom it brings.
“In bike racing, time stands still and your senses are alert and alive. You’re on another plane, there’s beauty in the movement of the bike and it’s just about yourself as an individual and this incredible feeling of honesty because you can’t hide anything. You can’t lie.”
‘Race mode’ he calls it, before conceding that the same mental toughness helped him past the most important winning post of all: “The power of self belief is important on the track and I remember after seeing my family that this wasn’t going to be it. I would win the ultimate race.”
He has. And despite a few wobbles where ‘I had to reacclimatise to being alive’, he is now working with movie icon Tom Cruise as a motorcycle coach on the Mission Impossible franchise and has just completed this thought provoking video project with a group of friends.
“Racing is a cruel mistress, but when I realised that the accident would be the end of my racing career, it hit me hard. Since then, I’ve learned so much about what really matters. The people who stuck around are the ones that matter. Relationships mean a lot more to me now,” he says.
“Getting involved with Triumph has revitalised and refreshed me and got me reconnected with riding. It’s been a joy to meet passionate people with a traditional ethos and the Street Scrambler is just a joy to ride.”
Kieran, a rider since two, adds: “On the shoot, the Scrambler did exactly what you wanted it to. It was fun, it’s a bike without pretence or arrogance. It’s honest, as understated as you want it to be or as loud and brash as you like. I suppose that’s a bit like me.”
The Nottingham, UK-based rider is now touring the world advising Cruise on risk-assessed stunts, as well as working on the Transformers and Mummy 2 blockbusters.
“It’s weird how life works out. When the accident happened, my parents knew I’d want to get straight back to it and said ‘at least this won’t affect your stunt work’. They know that I have to ride and keep chasing perfection, so it seems that out of the darkness, there is light.”