Darian Hickey: OVERCOMING

We recently had the opportunity to have a chat with Darian Hickey,  a 22 year old professional MotoX racer born and raised in Las Vegas, NV.   She recently graduated from UNLV with a BA in Business Communications, and a minor in Criminal Justice. Growing up she’s always been an “outdoorsy girl”.  When she was 6 years old her family adopted several horses in Sandy Valley, NV, about an hour outside of Las Vegas.  “From there on out, I was a ranch kid!” she proudly proclaimed.  “It was nice to have the best of both worlds, being in the city as well as the outskirts.”  Darian continued.

While growing up, Darian’s father raced dirt bikes who eventually passed that on to her older brother Dakotah.  In a family that loved to ride, it was inevitable that Darian would soon be on two wheels.  She explains, “I grew up riding around our house in the desert on my 50, 80, and then my CRF 250X. Our ranch in Sandy Valley was vision distance from the local Moto track so I finally asked my dad one day if we could take the bikes there and give it a try.”

Darians first time on the track was on her CRF 250X, and the rest is history.  “I was hooked from day one and I enjoyed every second of it. From there on it became more of a lifestyle and a hobby for me going to the track every weekend competing in the local night race series, and I ended up progressing quickly.” She said with a huge smile.  In 2016 she began traveling outside her local track to California and Utah, and eventually made the switch to more GP off-road races.  Also in 2016, Darian entered her first WORCS race in the women’s C class, and took 1st out of the 15 girls competing. In her very next race she bumped up to the B class, and remained there the next 3 years winning championships along the way.  She continued to progress and was on her way to the A class, becoming an expert rider racing in the “Big 6” now called the NGPC Racing Series.  She would race the women’s expert class and placed fourth in the championship.

After several years racing the GP style races, she explained that she began to get a bit bored and restless.  “I wanted something more, I wanted to step outside of the box of what everybody else was doing. In 2018 I got my first taste of a big off-road race in the BITD series.”  She raced her first open desert race: Best in the Desert’s “Vegas to Reno”, a 500+ mile race through the Nevada desert.  Certainly different than the track racing she’s excelled in over the years.  She teamed up with a group of girls and battled the desert.  “I fell in love the first time ever racing V2R.  From then on I knew that race meant something to me.  I felt something deep inside that told me that I needed to race the open desert more.”  She stated.  Two years later, she stepped even more and decided to “Iron Man” the 2020 Best in the Desert series.  For those who don’t know, Iron Maning a race is SOLO.  No teammates, no rider to change when you’re hurt or tired, it’s just you the entire race.  So taking on the entire series of races as Iron Man was huge.  She embarked on her first Iron Man at the 2020 Parker 250, and after a few month hiatus due to Covid-19 she battled Silver State 300.  She then took on the Vegas 2 Reno race once again, but this time solo.  When her racing career was halted abruptly…

2020 Vegas 2 Reno Crash – Resulting in a Broken Back

As Darian’s 2020 season rolled on, and races were beginning to get back to “normal” after the effects of Covid-19, her biggest test was still to come.  The 2020 Best in the Desert’s Vegas 2 Reno.  This is BITD’s Superbowl of events.  It was her favorite race, but she’s never taken on the race solo.  At only 11 minutes into the race she went down.  She saw the danger ahead, a large ditch.  She prepared for it, braked and braced assuming she would work through the obstacle.   When she expected she was in the clear, she was hit from behind and knocked off her bike by another rider.  Darian explained a bit of irony,  “I never wear a GoPro when I ride because I don’t like to be watched, so it was kind of ironic that I decided to wear one for this race.  I knew that this race meant a lot to me, so I decided to wear one. Of course when I wear one, I experience the worst injury of my career on camera.”  Not a trophy we all want, but interesting indeed to look back and view I’m sure.  She goes on to say, “I landed face down with my bike on top of my back, when another rider had to come lift the bike off of me. I couldn’t get up so I’m very thankful that he did that.”  The other rider continued on to the first pit and relayed the info to her parents that he had hit Darian, and that she was a little banged up.  Darian wasn’t sure the extent of her injuries, and felt she could continue on, which she did.  As she came into the pits, she was clearly in rough shape, and the bike had many issues.  

Naturally her pit crew and family were quite concerned.  11 minutes into a 500+ mile race is not how any competitor wanted to end the race.  With adrenaline flowing, Darian decided to continue the race.   Her only concern at the time was her thumb, which she thought was broken.  At the time she thought nothing of her back, as it seemed to have felt fine.  (That’s adrenaline for ya!).  The rest of the race proved to be flawless until mile 498, her motor blew up.   She was dead in the water 20 min from the finish line at 7:30 P.M.  An hour went by, and so did another, and then many more.  Alone in the pitch dark desert, her body bruised and possibly broken she stayed there all night.  Finally, with the help of some spectators that found her, she was able to make it to the finish line…… at 5:30 A.M. the next day.

About a week after the race, Darian noticed she was still feeling pretty bad.  She was quite sore immediately following the race which is to be expected, but something didn’t seem right. After a week of terrible pain to the point of not being able to lift herself out of bed, it was time to pull the trigger:  Off to Urgent Care.  Upon arrival she was asked a series of questions, one of which she answered “ I tasted blood instantly after my crash.  She was immediately directed to the hospital that had a CAT scan machine, to which of course she obliged.  During her hospital visit and CAT scan, it was revealed she did in fact break her T7, a bone located dead center of her spinal cord.  With so many goals and plans for the 2020 season the news obviously devastated Darian, and was really difficult to take in.  With such a significant injury, she was immediately fitted for a custom back brace which she wore for 3 months, and began physical therapy soon after that for 2 months until she was released in December.  Not the way she anticipated how her 2020 would go, it was a devastating blow.

Darian’s First Race After the Accident.  Her Thoughts and Emotions.

Darian’s first race after the accident came in February of 2020 in the Legacy Racing Series Hare Scrambles.  “I was really nervous, because your back absorbs a lot when you are riding so I wasn’t sure how racing would affect my back.”  Darian explained.  Thankfully practicing and riding a bit before the race, she noticed how much better she really felt.  “It kind of feels like I bounced right back!”  She said so proudly.  Knowing full well how truly lucky she is.  Like many of us who have had serious injuries, the only time she feels distinct pain is sleeping at night and waking up in the morning.  That tends to happen as your body lays in long periods of rest.  Going into the Hare Scrambles she was more worried mentally, since she hadn’t raced competitively in seven months.

Race Recap

“I’ll be honest, I was really nervous for this race. Being my first race back in seven months it’s been kind of a numbing feeling to get back into the whole racing scene again. Not only was I uncomfortable because it was a race that I’m not familiar with, in a location I’ve never raced before, but I was on my brand dirt bike and I knew it was going to be hard.”  This was technically Darian’s second Hare Scramble.  “They are definitely different, but to me I’d rather hit huge jumps and go 60 to 80 MPH through the desert. I don’t really find it fun to crash tons of times and to beat up your bike eventually getting frustrated with yourself. It’s kind of like, why do it?”  Fortunately the race went well for Darian, and the bike worked out great.  She continued to express her feeling of accomplishment when she takes on big challenges.  It’s definitely a good feeling for those that step out of their comfort zone.  “I get a great feeling when I take on a challenge during a race that I probably wouldn’t have during practice riding. During a race you are forced to overcome challenges due to the competition.  It’s all about taking the right line, and being smart.”  Some of these technical races really make some racers appreciate the long, easy, fast races.  “It really makes you think about what you’re capable of on a dirt bike.”  She stated.  Darian would go on to place 6th in her class, truly impressive after such a serious back injury.

Biggest Inspirations or Idols

As always we like to know who the great athletes in our sport look up to.  Sometimes we think we might know the answer, and sometimes we are totally surprised.  Darian hit us with a good one!  “I think one of my biggest role models in the racing community would be Liz Karcz. I’m really for people that don’t follow the crowd, take on difficult things, dare to be different and aren’t mainstream. I think for a female in the racing industry to go out and Iron Man one of the hardest off-road races, and complete the whole thing is just totally badass.”  She goes on to explain there aren’t really too many people that stand out to her, that so many people are the same.  “Somebody has to really stand out to get my attention.  I’m not a cocky person, but I think it’s okay to be motivated and inspired by yourself.  I’ve had months and months of downtime to think about my life, the things that I’ve done, the people that I’ve inspired and helped.  To me that’s inspiring.  The ability to make a change in people’s lives and make them think differently, want to try new things and better themselves is amazing to me.  I think being able to take on my first year of off-road racing and do one of the hardest things that you can do with it and succeed as a female in the industry is huge in itself.” 

Darian’s story of OVERCOMING such a devastating injury is truly inspirational.  Some would never get back on a bike again, while others face their fears head on.  Darian would be the latter.  We like to ask people who may have inspired them, when they might not be aware how many others they have truly inspired…

Photo Credit: @karissaruss.com

Rapid Fire Q&A

Top 3 Favorite movies

  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  • Step Brothers / Talladega Nights
  • Fools Gold

Top 3 favorite music artists

  • 3rd eye blind
  • Jason Aldean
  • The Dangerous Summer

Celebrity Crush

  • Matthew McConaughey

ONE thing not many know about you

  • Oh Geez, haha I love to sing, and I smell just about everything!

First Car

  • Chevy Silverado

Biggest Fear in Life?

I don’t really know if I have the biggest fear in life. I know that I am terrified of spiders so that’s a fear. I’m lucky that I don’t live anywhere on the East Coast or by the ocean because I think tsunami‘s and some natural disasters freak me out but other than when it comes to living and doing things I don’t know if I could really say that I have a fear. I think I’ve kind of lost my fear when it came to racing and a couple traumatic experiences that I’ve been in and it’s just made me realize that you can’t live life in fear.  You know if it’s your time, you can’t waste your life worrying about being scared.

Most Memorable Moment in Racing

I’ve had a lot of really great experiences racing, but I think one of my all-time highs was a mud race that I did at Glen Helen Raceway.  I think it was in 2019 and it was one of my first-place wins in a mud race. During the race I lost all the oil in my bike and I raced an entire 50-minute GP race with no oil in my Honda, and I still ended up winning which was very exciting. 

Growing up I’ve always been really close with my family, so we all share very close experiences with each other when it comes to racing. Another all-time high would be racing Vegas.  I think my 2020 racing year was one of my most memorable experiences racing. Doing the whole Iron Man thing is something I will never forget and getting the chance to be by yourself and experience things that are really wrong is so cherishing. I think another thing that I really look forward to is my dad‘s reactions because he raced growing up and he’s passed it on to me.   So to see what he deals with and what my mom deals with and what goes to their minds as I’m racing, especially when I race alone across the desert is just a memory in itself.

Bucket List Item – Both in and Outside of Racing

One of my bucket list things for racing would probably to go do a race in Canada I really would love to go race a Moto race in Canada. Another racing bucket list item would be to race a GNCC race. That is something that I would really love to do, but being on the West Coast it’s really hard to try and put plans together and make things work to travel across the country to race. Outside of racing, I would really love to travel to Australia!

What’s Up Next for Darian?

My plans have been cut short a little bit for the 2021 racing season as i’m not racing as much. Currently I’m just trying to have fun again with racing. After breaking my back, it showed me how dangerous the sport really is, and being young, I have to take that into consideration. I would like to try and get a championship in the new Legacy Racing series. I have also considered returning to the Worcs races again. One of my main things is to try and get into my career. After graduating college in December life has been kind of weird. Trying to figure out what I am going to do with my life, and still try and keep involved with racing. Within the next couple of years I would like to get into Law Enforcement.

Who Helps You Out?

  • My parents/Family
  • 4D’s Racing
  • Uncle Vinny’s Racing
  • Russ Landscape & Design
  • Karissa Russ.Co
  • FXR
  • FLO Vision Goggles
  • Asterisk USA
  • Breaking Breaks
  • Nitro Mousse
  • CST Tires
  • Seven 10 Graphics
  • 6D Helmets
  • Factory Connection
  • IMS
  • Works Connection
  • ODI
  • Patched MX
  • Hinson
  • Berluti
  • Sidi

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