Ryan and Matthew Kempson’s connection with the wilderness has bonded them in life and in their pursuit of excellence. They feel most comfortable amidst nature’s tranquility, yet possess an undying thirst for competition and intensity. For Ryan and Matt, this point of convergence is racing Spartan and riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
“I ride my Harley because it sets me free,” says Ryan, a pro Spartan athlete since 2014. “It takes away all the distractions of the world and allows me to enjoy the moment. That’s also what’s great about racing. You get there, you have all these anxieties, and then you just kind of forget about it. You just go out and do it and enjoy it.”
Ryan, 31, has been riding Harley-Davidsons since 2012. His younger brother, Matthew Kempson — also a Spartan pro since 2014 and the 2018 Spartan Combine Champion — has been riding Harleys for over a decade.
In Thrill of the Ride, a four-part series brought to you by Spartan and Harley-Davidson, the brothers and elite athletes provide an inside look into their relationship, their desire to outdo one another, and how riding gives them both an escape and a thrill.
“What inspired me to ride a motorcycle is the freedom,” says Ryan, who placed third in the U.S. National Series in 2019. “I grew up in the mountains, in Vermont, free to do whatever, and a bike gives me that same feeling.”
Though they live on opposite sides of the country, the brothers get together frequently to train. And when they’re training together, it becomes a competition in and of itself. They live to beat one another, and as a result, they end up pushing each other to the brink. Ultimately, it helps them reach new heights. And in moments of self-doubt, they have each other to lean on.
Similar to obstacle course racing, riding is about knowing when to push and when to take your foot off the gas and appreciate the beauty that lies ahead.
“In racing and riding, there’s that thin line between intensity and tranquility,” says Ryan, “where you have to find that delicate balance between knowing when to enjoy the ride and [when to] step on that throttle and accelerate with power.”
To watch every episode of Thrill of the Ride — also featuring Emilee and Matt Stevens and Spartan World Champion Robert Killian — click here. For more on Harley-Davidson, and how to get started on two wheels, visit this link.