Ryker Moon was just 6 when he climbed on to a motorbike for the first time, spurred on by members of his family to give it a go.
“My cousins Allen and Brady Wagstaff and my uncle Rusty Wagstaff are the ones that really got me and my family into it,” Moon said. “Everything kind of went from there.”
Now 13 and finishing up seventh grade at Evanston Middle School, Moon and his younger brother Tayson, 10, have been taking advantage of the time freed up by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most days, the brothers can be found on their bikes — a 2007 Honda CRF 150R for Ryker, and a 2009 Kawasaki KX 65 for Tayson — ripping around the land surrounding the family ranch just south of Evanston.
After they’re done with their chores, of course.
“They boys spend hours outside riding their dirt bikes, riding their pedal bikes or riding horses,” said the boys’ dad, Cody. “They make a pretty good team most of the time when they aren’t arguing about how to do it.”
Riding dirt bikes has become a family affair, just one of the many activities the Moons enjoy together.
“My wife and I do both ride,” Cody explained. “The kids have had bikes longer than both of us. We always tried to keep up with them on four wheelers but that doesn’t work very well, so we decided we would get some, too.”
Cody understands the trepidation some parents may feel toward dirtbike riding at an early age — it’s not for everyone, and there is a level of nervousness involved every time his sons hop on their bikes, though the same can be said for any activity the kids choose to do.
“I think any parent gets nervous when they watch their kids do any kind of sport,” he said. “This one can be a little more dangerous than others, but that is why we all wear helmets and the other safety gear. My wife always says, ‘It’s better if you just don’t watch.’”
For his part, Ryker said the thrill of riding often outweighs any fear, though it’s always in the back of his mind.
“Sometimes we get scared,” he admitted. “Don’t ever watch a video of the pro dirtbike rider and then go ride because then you think you need to try some of the stupid things they are doing — not a good idea.”
Asked if a particular memory stood out to him as a “What was I thinking?” moment, Ryker said one definitely comes to mind.
“We went on a ride with our uncle one time and ended up riding down part of a muddy waterfall,” he explained. “That was pretty sketchy!”
As with any sport, there are inherent dangers involved with riding dirtbikes, though Ryker said he and Tayson have been fortunate so far to avoid any serious injuries.
“I haven’t had any major injuries from riding — just a few bumps and bruises here and there, and the occasional twisted ankle,” he said. “Tayson kind of the same thing, but he also broke his front tooth on the handlebars and had to get it fixed once.”
For Ryker and Tayson, safety is the most important aspect of riding, as evidenced by their equipment.
“There is quite a bit of safety gear that we wear,” Ryker explained. “A helmet is always a must, my mom says. We also wear a jersey, riding pants, a chest plate and motocross boots.”
While most of the competing Ryker and Tayson do is limited to riding against each other, the pair have competed in a few motocross events, such as the one held each year at the Uinta County Fair.
“The motorsports club has been putting on this race at the fair for quite a few years now,” Ryker said. “My brother and I look forward to it every year. We always get nervous when we are on the starting line, but then when we actually start racing the nerves usually go away.”
The Moon brothers have had success at the fair in recent years, as their skills continue to develop.
“We usually place every year, but last year I ended up winning one of the heats I was in,” Ryker said. “I have to admit, it did feel pretty cool when the announcer said, ‘We have Moon coming in first.’ Tayson always does really well, too. He has finished first a couple times.”
The brothers are looking forward to competing at the fair again this summer, though with the ongoing pandemic, nothing is certain. Events continue to be canceled statewide, with Cheyenne Frontier Days the latest casualty; where that leaves similar events in Wyoming is anybody’s guess.
“We would love to race again this year, but we aren’t sure if they are going to do it because of all this craziness that is going on,” Ryker said.
Until a decision is made, Ryker and Tayson are content to ride against each other. A healthy sibling rivalry exists between the two, but so does a fierce loyalty.
“My brother and I do have a bit of a rivalry when it comes to riding or team roping, but we always look out for each other, too,” Ryker explained. “We are always telling each other to ‘Come try this new thing I learned.’”
“It doesn’t always end well, though,” he added, laughing.
In typical ranch kid fashion, the Moon brothers and their folks enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, many of which they do together. Along with riding snowmobiles and snowboarding in the winter and camping, fishing and hunting during the warmer months, the family also team ropes together. Ryker, who usually competes in football, baseball and wrestling, said he’s taking a year off from sports to focus on roping.
“We try to rope a couple times a week,” Ryker said. “Both my mom and dad team rope, and so does my little brother. We spend quite a bit of time with ropes in our hands between team roping and branding in the spring.”
Both Cody Moon and his wife Bobbi grew up with close families, something they’ve been fortunate to pass on to their two boys.
“My wife and I both grew up in very tight-knit families, so both of us think it is very important to spend as much time with our kids as possible,” Cody said.
“We live on my wife’s family’s ranch, so we are with family everyday and we wouldn’t want to raise our kids any other way. It teaches them responsibilities and respect that they will use for the rest of their lives.”
As spring transitions into summer, and the Moon brothers await a decision on whether there will be any racing to be had, it’s a sure bet you can find them both on their bikes, regardless of the outcome.
“The thrill of riding and how relaxing it can be is what makes it [riding dirt bikes] the most enjoyable,” Ryker said. “You can have had a terrible day, and if you go get on your bike and go for a short ride, it makes things all better.”