Catching up with Kyle Keast

October 21, 2016

By Dawn McClintock

Just fresh off a recently inked contract with the FXR family, we catch up with Ontario native, Kyle Keast. For years Keast has been “The Ontario Guy” in the Canadian motocross national circuit. Known as the working man’s privateer with dashes of factory team experiences (sometimes good…sometimes bad), Kyle has always balanced his pro motocross career with full-time employment where he runs his own company. After hanging up crisscrossing this country, chasing the Canadian Pro National series, Keast finds himself still the hardworking self-employed guy but now with a new wrinkle in his career. Here what he has to say about his new venture. His plans are large and when he sees something he wants, just like on the track, you can bet he’s going to go for it.

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Keast all smiles at the Barrie AX in his new vented kit. | Billy Rainford photo

I’m sure I’ve caught you on the job site. What are you working on right now?
I’m up in Ottawa doing a fitness center. The whole entrance is wood panel so we are getting that going and we should be finished up in a couple of weeks.

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Look for Keast to line up at a lot more indoor events south of the border. | Summer Denzler photo

First off, welcome to the FXR family! How are you liking the gear so far?
Thank you. I actually really like it. I already knew it looks really nice but every gear fits different and feels different when you’re wearing it. I didn’t know how it would feel and how comfy it would be. I’m super impressed with the gloves. They’re probably my favourite gloves I’ve ever worn. They’re unreal. The jerseys are awesome being super vented. I got the vented ones and they’re awesome and the pants are surprisingly comfy. I’m really happy with them.

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Keeping it on two wheels was a challenge at the Barrie AX. Here’s Kyle charging through the whoops. | Billy Rainford photo

You were behind the scenes at the Walton TransCan this summer. Tell us about your involvement with the Walton crew.
Every year my dad usually helps Barry (Hetherington) out there. We’ve known Barry for a long time and also Brett. Obviously, I’ve known Brett since I was a kid. Just seeing Brett doing it now, I guess his fourth year in a row a little more on his own. It seemed like he needed a hand with certain things, that maybe as an outside guy looking in that he didn’t see what we saw. So I just wanted to help him out with a little better facility with building projects that he’s maybe not as good in that aspect on. We to start and keep going on with Walton to keep it growing obviously in the racing aspect but we want to get the facility looking the way I can see it should look. With building the podium and we’re kind of thinking ahead about the leaning tower there. Getting that thing fixed up or actually build a brand new one. So that’s kind of my involvement with Brett. I just called him up and asked if there’s something I can do to help and my company could help sponsor the event in that way so I brought a crew up and we built the podium and fixed up some fencing and gates and I brought my dozer up there so my dad could work on the track with Barry. It’s just more help than anything. I think Brett needs a little more man power there to make that event the way it should be run. So I just wanted to help out any way I could. We’ll see where it goes in the future.

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The Alpha MX track all prepped and ready for practice. | Danny Brault photo

You’ve recently added a training compound to your property and the track looks pretty sweet. Fill us in on what your plan is.
I want to have it open full time for practice. That’s where I want to start with it. Right now we are doing Tuesday nights and I want to grow it to be open three days a week. Obviously, I’d like it to be open more but I don’t want to irritate any neighbours or go too far. Seven days a week, the track gets beat down too much. For me I want it to be a practice facility first and grow it into where I want to have my own semi little team and train riders out there. Now that we have our studio in town as a spin studio and more cardio. The gym we have at home we are going to have it as a full weight gym. Just growing it a little, bit by bit. I’d like to expand and put in a hybrid between a supercross and an arenacross track in that will probably get built next spring. I’d like to do an endurocross track so I was thinking of calling up Wojo [Brian Wojnarowski] and seeing if he’d like to design some kind of endurocross track and I think that would bring out some of the guys that do the woods and maybe they get a little bored of going to ride trails and they want to do something different. Just keep growing it and growing it and eventually do an event. Maybe some one-off events and just make it a little bigger than normal. Maybe get some bands out there and obviously the camping will be there. I want to do it bit by bit and make sure that it’s done the way I’ve always seen motocross tracks being built. My long term goal I would have infrastructure on the property with buildings, sign in booths, with proper bathrooms and showers and our own big stage where we’d like to have our own concerts every Saturday night. I’d like to have the supercross track to be lit up and have supercross races on Saturday nights and just keep going. Put the money that I make from this one company into the other company and grow it.

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Brent Thirnbeck and his little buddy Jamieson MacDonald put in some training time before Jamie left to compete at the Las Vegas Monster Energy Cup. | Danny Brault photo

You are training some real fast up-and-comers. Who have you got on your short list of riders we should be watching out for?
Everyone knows I train Ross Thirnbeck and his little brother Brent. I spend a lot of time with Ross. Brent is at that stage right now where he’s still pretty young and he hangs out with his buddies. Ross is at that age where he’s got to start taking it a little more seriously if he wants to go to where he tells me he wants to go and he tells his parents he wants to go. Ross I think is going to be someone to look out for, well he already is. As soon as he got on the big bike, he really stepped it up even more and I was pretty pumped with him. Mitch Wright started with me right before Walton. Everyone knows him as ‘Booker’. He’s been with me now for two months on and off. He’s busy with work. In the winter time he’s going to be on a program with me and his friend Cole Wilson, I’ve been helping him out a little bit with bike set up. He said he wants to come on board and start training with us and start riding. So look out for those guys. Obviously, Ross is my main guy. That’s kind of my whole plan. I want a group of kids that I like and I like to work with. It just makes it fun and I like to have them on somewhat of a support program, two years down the road where I have my own little team, they train with me, they ride the same brand bikes as me, same gear that I have, everything the same and help them out as much as I can. Something else on my plate [laughs].

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Keast’s main guy, young up-and-comer Ross Thirnbeck. Keast has been mentoring Ross and they’ve got some big plans for 2017. | Danny Brault photo

You kind of have a package deal going on with your girlfriend, Shandell’s cycle and training studio. Tell us about her program.
She’s been a personal trainer for a long time, before I even met her. Once we were together and she always wanted to go on her own so we made that happen and we started small just at the farm and built her a little studio. It got to the point where it was way too busy in there. We made the decision in the winter time that in the spring we were going to look for places. We found a place in town. It’s a little two storey level with a loft, so we have a spin studio up top where she teaches. She teaches her TRX classes, UgiBall Classes. Just a bunch of cool unique things. All the new age stuff that’s coming out for your core and cardio and high intensity training. In the spring we found the spot and Kevin Thirnbeck, Ross’ dad, from KTC Construction came in with his guys and helped frame up some walls and get the electrical stuff. My cousin Cory is an electrician and he was in there helping us out and we had the drywall guys come in and got the floors down. It was a busy one month. A lot of late nights. She’s doing awesome. It’s getting busier and busier. I explained to her that she can’t expect it to be swamped right off the bat. It’s going to be a bit of a struggle at the beginning. It’s now finally started on the up with the money aspects of it. She is pumped and she has fun doing it. It all kind of ties in with everything that I enjoy. If I want to start training again, then I obviously go to her and she loves riding so I help her out with that. It’s a pretty cool program we have going on right now.

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Keast wasn’t happy with his results at the Barrie AX, but knows what he needs to work on for his indoors game. | Summer Denzler photo

We see you lined up for some arenacross last weekend in Barrie. How did that go for you?
Not the results that I wanted obviously but that’s just the struggle with not getting a good start and it’s so tight and banging bars and going down. My speed I felt was fine for not really doing the normal which is training and riding and practicing and testing, that some of the top guys do like Blose and Colton. So for me I was happy with my speed. I felt it was right there but just maybe dumb decisions out on the track, or just a little bit of bad luck and not being aggressive enough I think in some aspects. I had fun and I think it’s awesome what the Thompsons are doing. Having that series is awesome and as it grows and grows it would be sweet to see it more in the winter time because we can still ride in the outdoors right now so it’s hard for the amateurs to adapt so fast when we still have races going on. I know it’s hard for them because Justin has his own series down in the states that he does. I’m just pumped that they’re doing something and trying to grow it and make it bigger. Just the spectator turnout. I don’t know what it is. They’ve got to find a way to get spectators and get people out there to sit down and watch the race and get hooked on it to get more people there because it didn’t seem like a huge turnout for spectators. I just feel bad because I know how much money goes into that to build that race and that event. All-in-all it was fun. They did a decent job on the track. They were organized and they all looked professional. I think it’s neat and had fun racing it. After that I got a little taste again and I’m going to go down and do some of the AMA stuff in the winter. It will be something fun and I want to take Ross and get him experienced in doing well in that stuff too.

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Moving over to the Husky seems to be working out really well for The Dozer. He’s super happy with the performance from the Husky’s and to boot, he’s getting his bikes from long-time sponsor, John Nelson who now works for St. Onge Recreation. | Summer Denzler photo

You’ve recently made the switch over to Husky’s. How are you liking it?
I love them. Obviously everyone knows they’re pretty much the same as the KTM but there’s a few little differences. One big thing that I noticed is the bike does handle different and I don’t know if it’s from that composite sub-frame or not but it feels like it settles better in the corners and it turns nice. The whole feel of it, the chassis, the seat and everything are different so I prefer that bike over the KTM. I obviously wanted to deal with John Nelson and he sells Husqvarnas. We just couldn’t make it happen for the season that just passed due to not being able to get bikes. So we made it happen as soon as he got his new 2017’s in.

John has kind of been your guy for a lot of years.
He’s easy to deal with and he knows what I need and it just all kind of works together.

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Do you miss doing the national circuit or are you kind of over it?
I love competing and I would love to race obviously, Benoit, Millsaps and Colton again but I’m so fed up with the BS that goes on with the nationals that I can’t stand being there. I’m 100% doing races next year. I’m going to do five AMA rounds; I want to do Loretta Lynn’s qualifiers; I want to do Loretta’s; I’m going to be racing a lot next year. It’s going to be busy but as for the Canadian stuff I hate racers not being listened to. Tracks are promised to look a certain way with proper banners and proper this and proper that and it’s just the same old thing every single year. I struggle with it because I know it doesn’t take a whole lot more work in order to make a place look unreal or to give back to the racers.

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Keast will be taking things on the road with Ross Thirnbeck to test the water south of the border next summer. | Danny Brault photo

What is your plan for next season?
I wanted to do some AMA stuff this year but it didn’t work out with the track and everything being busy but next year 100% because I want to take Ross down there and get him riding with some of those guys. Get him faster and faster and I want him to try and do Loretta’s. That’s my plan for next year. I wished I had done more of that when I was younger and that’s what I’m trying to explain to Ross. It’s just going to benefit him in the long run with racing.

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FXR Ride Day at the Alpha MX track? Anyone? Stay tuned for some cool things in the works.

I have to ask, who’s that guy that is doing such a great job with your social media?
[Laughs] Well everyone seems to know that it’s not me. It’s Danny Brault. He’s obviously with me working together and he’s been helping with the track. He’s always been wanting to hold his own race or do something with the motocross track so it’s nice to be able to work together and get his opinions on the marketing side, the looks, what you guys see, what kids see. I want everyone’s opinion on what everybody wants in a track and try and build that so that it’s one of the best, coolest places to go ride.

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“If you build it, they will come.” — Field of Dreams

Thanks for taking time to chat with us on your coffee break Kyle. We are excited for what’s to come in the Keast camp next year!
No problem at all Dawn. Thanks a lot.