In gear, year after year
Hydes turn motorcycle racing into family outings
By Emily Sparacino
Photos by Dawn Harrison
Many families spend their weekends at ball fields, watching their children play baseball, softball, soccer and a myriad of other sports.
In the realm of family activities, youth sports at ballparks are the norm.
But for Heidi and Jeff Hyde, and their children, Kathryn and Olivia, their weekends, particularly in the spring and the fall, unfold on motorcycle courses.
“I grew up riding motorcycles,” Heidi, 48, said. “My dad was really into it. Sometimes, I almost think it’s like a guilty pleasure, I love it so much.”
When Heidi and Jeff met and married, they started racing together. They took a break when Kathryn, 18, and Olivia, 12, were young.
Kathryn, however, grew interested in the sport her parents enjoyed.
“When Kathryn got older, she begged us to do it again,” Heidi said.
Racing motorcycles quickly became a family affair.
Earlier this year, Heidi and Kathryn decided to try the 24-Hour Challenge – a lengthy race in Maplesville designed for teams to complete in 24 hours – as a duo.
“Kathryn and I would take turns riding in 24-hour period,” Heidi said, adding the pair alternated riding two 10-mile laps. One rested and ate in their motor home, while the other rode the course, and then they would switch. “Kathryn and I decided at the last minute to go. It’s fun.”
The duo’s team name this year, Shake and Bake, was inspired by the movie “Talladega Nights.”
The race started on a Saturday morning and ended on Sunday.
In the past, Heidi has competed in the 24-Hour Challenge with a team. One year, she even rode with a broken foot so her team didn’t suffer.
“It’s all fun to me except going without sleep,” Heidi said. “To me, that’s the hardest part.”
Kathryn, who graduated from Hoover High School just before the race this year, said pairing up with her mother for the race was “really fun and really relaxed.”
“We just had fun and tried to see how many laps we could do each,” Kathryn said.
Fun and relaxation are two of many reasons the Hydes load up their RV and equipment trailer and journey hundreds of miles to races across the Southeast, and beyond.
“As far as a family, it’s been awesome,” Heidi said. “We all do it and enjoy it. This is something that keeps us all engaged.”
Races like the 24-Hour Challenge offer a family environment, where adults can socialize and still keep an eye on their children as they play on the land.
“The camping aspect of it is a lot of fun,” Heidi said. “We know where our kids are … not on the couch playing video games.”
For the Hyde children, winning isn’t mandatory, but persevering is.
“We don’t push them to be fast or to be first,” Heidi said. “We just push them to participate.”
Kathryn was about 12 years old when she started racing.
“My family always did it before I did it, and I just started wanting to do it again,” she said. “I just like to compete and ride with all my friends.”
Kathryn attends Jacksonville State University, but said she wants to continue racing with her family on the weekends.
“I think in a few years I want to do all of the national races,” she said, adding she has traveled to Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Minnesota in the past. “I think more families (are) involved, and there’s a lot of different kind of people. You meet people who don’t even live in your state.”
With the benefits of motorcycle racing also come the challenges.
The sport is not easy on the time or the wallets of its participants.
Most races require whole weekends, often accompanied by long drives. Equipment needed to race – motorcycles, riding gear, trailers, fuel and more – is expensive.
And the misconception about motorcycle racing being far more dangerous than it is sometimes turns people off to the sport.
“We are not riding motocross; we are riding trails through forests,” Heidi said. “It’s not that you can’t get hurt, but this is not a wild group of people. These are athletes in gear. We have so much protection on. I wish people realized it is a safer sport than they think that it is.”
Jeff is faced with the ongoing challenge of maintaining all of the family’s motorcycles and prepping them for races.
“With four people riding, it’s challenging for him to keep them running,” Heidi said. “Normally, he is getting himself ready to race plus behind-the-scenes stuff. We couldn’t do it without him.”
Last spring, Heidi and Jeff started coaching the Hoover High School mountain bike team, which formed two years ago.
“Now, we have to juggle mountain bikes and motorcycles,” Heidi said. “Even though pace seems crazy at times, it’s a good balance.”