Motocross brothers share rivalry, long relationship with Hannegan Speedway

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 2, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Ryan and Kyle Vandyken's roots at Hannegan Speedway are embedded deep enough a full Thursday night of motocross racing couldn't churn enough dirt to dig them up.

Over 20 years of riding has allowed the Vandyken brothers to stamp their mark on the up-and-down, windy track just off Hannegan Road along the outskirts of Bellingham.

For them, bringing up memories is as easy as taking in a brief panorama view. And there have been some special ones.

Hannegan Speedway is a place Ryan, 37, met his wife years ago. Kyle, 32, estimated a quarter of the riders at the Speedway he's either taught or worked with on his side business, Kyle Vandyken School of Motocross - a dirt bike training school stationed at a track on Kyle's property in Lynden.

Ryan's been riding at Hannegan since he was 15, Kyle since he was 11, and on Thursday, Aug. 1, Ryan's 9-year-old son Caleb, competed in his first race.

"It's pretty cool to see my kid out there racing after all these years," Ryan said, "cause I actually met my wife out here. She used to be a person that worked in the scorekeeper (area). Her brother used to race out here. He was an old pro, too. It's kind of weird to think back. A lot of old timers here are like, 'I remember when you were out here and your parents were signing (a waiver) for you and your wife was in a stroller."

The brothers got into racing thanks to their dad, who trail rode. Soon Ryan and Kyle took to the track and haven't looked back.

Ryan turned pro at 20. Kyle followed soon after at 17. Both competed on the same pro circuit, striking up a rivalry that continues to exist into their 30s.

"I've been racing out here since 1992," Kyle said. "From '99 to 2007, I raced pro pretty competitively, racing all over the place. (Kyle) raced pro at the same time, so we always battled. I usually had the upper hand back in the day. Now, lately, he's gotten faster. Usually we just have death matches, fast races out here."

Even outside Hannegan Speedway, the Vandyken's find time to compete despite busy schedules. When Ryan isn't working at the BP Cherry Point Refinery in Blaine and Kyle isn't helping operate his and his dad's berry farm or giving lessons, they'll get few laps in on their home three-plus acre track.

Ryan doesn't have to travel far, either.

"We're neighbors," the elder Vandyken explained.

Their rivalry is friendly in nature, but neither likes losing. As brotherly relationships go, a win means a dose of bragging rights.

"We probably end up racing each other harder than anybody else," Ryan said with a laugh. "It's great because we're still neighbors and stuff, so we can go riding together on the track and come out here. I'm sure there will always be the brotherly rivalry. We'll probably be racing wheelchairs together."

Ryan and Kyle have battled wire to wire during this year's 30-plus Pro Division races. But although Kyle claims he won more races during the brother's professional early years, Ryan has been claiming checkered flag week after week.

Ryan has won all four races both have entered, and Kyle's finished second each time. Ryan has five wins total. He added to his win total last night, while Kyle suffered an early wreck.

"It's like literally he's beaten me by feet," Kyle said. "It's been a couple of feet each time. He just gets the start on me. We're back and forth. We're the same speed, but I haven't been able to get him this year. I'm very frustrated.

"Usually the older you get the slower you get, but that doesn't seem to be happening with us. We entertain a lot of people. Most people say, 'Oh, you had the best race of the night,' so hopefully that continues."

Kyle can't blame his bike for his streak of runner-ups, either. Both ride nearly identical Yamaha 450s with four-stroke engines.

More important than winning a race, though, is Ryan and Kyle's connection to motocross racing. Ryan, whose always rode for fun, began competitive racing last year after a seven year hiatus, and Kyle continues to make riding his No. 1 hobby.

Neither sees each other slowing down anytime soon, especially since each have young children, who, just like they did years ago at Hannegan, show signs of racing in their genes.

"Like I said, this is the funnest thing I've ever found to do," Kyle said.

"It's just something... you get the bug," added Ryan.

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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