With one championship and 38 career Cup-level wins, Matt Kenseth knows how to wheel his way around racetracks from Concord to Fontana on four wheels.
But the soon-to-be 45-year-old (March 10) native of Cambridge, Wisconsin is also pretty slick on two wheels, too.
In a recent story on Bicycling.com, Kenseth’s love for two-wheel riding was made quite evident. He rides a high-tech Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod, wears a heart rate monitor under his jersey, and typically rides with friends including seven-time NASCAR premier series champ Jimmie Johnson and fellow driver Josh Wise, among others.
“We’ve been racing for so many years that when we get away and we go out and ride, it’s kind of a release,” Kenseth told the website/magazine. “The last thing you’re really feeling like talking about (while riding bikes) is (NASCAR) racing.”
While Kenseth will start his 18th full-time season in NASCAR’s top level in 2017, he’s only been riding a bike for about three years.
But he’s proven to be a quick learner, first mountain biking and then road racing.
“I started mountain biking a few years ago with my crew chief, Jason [Ratcliff],” Kenseth told Bicycling.com. “A lot of the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing like to ride mountain bikes, and Jimmie (Johnson) has a group; we started riding MTB Tuesday afternoons after our team meetings.”
Johnson has been one of the biggest influences when Kenseth indulges his two-wheeled alter-ego.
“Of the people I race against, Jimmie is probably the one I ride with the most time, and we’ve always gotten along really well,” Kenseth told Bicycling.com. “Where some people don’t care if you’re behind them or not – because they’re fast and they don’t wanna ride with you – Jimmie’s the guy who’ll ride with you all the time and if he’s in one of his days where he’s really fast and you’re in one of your days where you don’t feel so good, he’ll typically stop somewhere and wait.”
While he has no fear taking chances on an auto racetrack, Kenseth is totally different on two wheels.
As author Hannah Weinberger wrote:
“What Kenseth doesn’t do, though, is take risks. He’s signaling turns, staying out of the drops, and hugging the shoulder because he believes it safer. It’s a cautionary approach markedly different from the way he races (in a race car).”
Bike riding is more than just a passion for Kenseth; it’s also helping him keep his game sharp on the racetrack. He’s one of the oldest full-time racers on NASCAR’s top-level circuit and pedaling 50 miles or more at a time keeps him in tip-top shape both in and out of a race car.
“Certainly you can’t stop the clock, and I think that also has been some of the motivation about me exercising more often and harder than I ever have before,” Kenseth told Bicycling.com. “As the number gets bigger, you certainly spend a little more time thinking about it and certainly, you know, fighting it.
“… There’s not many things worse for me than standing inside of the gym and running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. Cycling is more fun. And I get to see a lot of different parts of the country I wouldn’t otherwise. And I’ve got a lot of friends and people I know ride as well so, it turned into a little bit of a social event, too. Instead of going to the gym by yourself, you get to see some friends, you get to meet and ride with a lot of cool people.”