Some kids grow up playing baseball or soccer while others get into hoops or football at an early age. Even hockey, gymnastics and swimming have become popular choices as more and more opportunities emerge.
Levi and Seth Bendle, though, aren’t like most kids.
The 14-year-old twin brothers, who will be freshmen at Buckeye Valley in the fall, got into a more unique sport to rev their competitive engines: motorcycle racing.
The brothers have been racing around a track as long as they can remember, and while their sport of choice isn’t one of the usual suspects, they got hooked the same way most kids do.
“I got into racing because of my dad (Josh Bendle),” Seth said. “He’s raced his whole life, so I’ve been around motorcycles since I was a baby. I got my first dirt bike when I was four and have been riding and racing ever since.”
Levi said it’s the speed that keeps him coming back for more.
“My favorite thing about motorcycle racing is the thrill of how fast I’m going around the track,” he said. “And off the track I like to talk to my buddies about how they liked the track and what lines (around it) worked best for them.”
The countless trips around a track have paid off, too, as the duo will be competing in the 250cc amateur modified class — a group loaded with the top kids from across the country — at this weekend’s American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) amateur grad national flat track races in Du Quoin, Illinois.
Coming out on top won’t be easy, but the boys have experience on their side. This year marks their third time competing in the AMA nationals. Two years ago, the brothers placed fourth and fifth in the 85cc, 12-15 age group.
“One thing I learned (from past events) is to relax, but still be competitive,” Seth said. “It helped me in the past and I hope it will this year. Every track is different, so you learn something new each time.”
After all, racing is a head game as much as anything else.
“I’ve learned a lot from my past experiences at the AMA nationals,” Levi said, “but one of the most important is to use my head and think through the whole race. It’s like my dad has told me … racing is a mind game.”
The brothers, or twins in a van with a plan — a team name which pays homage to their early days, when they traveled to all of their races in an extended GMC van — will leave for Illinois today to get set for their first race, which is slated for Friday.
Levi said a key to coming out on top will be throttle control.
“Throttle control is a big part of how I race because it matters how deep I hold it into the corner and how early I get back on it,” he said. “I expect to use my head a lot, too, and do my best and try to go for the win.”
Seth also said he’ll need to use his head if he wants to leave with a win.
“What I need to do to be successful is just use my head and think while I’m out there,” he said. “Thinking is such an important part of racing. When you think, you see new lines and you can focus on passing and how the bike feels. That’s how you know if you need to make a change or not.
“My expectation is to go out, give it my all and try to win.”
The twins said they wouldn’t be where they are today without plenty of help. Among those they wanted to thank for helping them chase their dreams of racing at the professional level include Rebel Gears, Monique Minor at Langbros Leathers, Skinny Ricky of Skinny, Inc., Mike Luczak of Luczak Racin’ (motor work), Mark Guthrie at Waldo Tire & Automotive and a handful of good friends who have wanted to be a part of their dream.
If you’d like to follow their journey, check them out on Instagram (@twins_in_a_van_with_a_plan).