To any other 15-year-old, being a professional road bike racer may seem outrageous. In Setin West's family, it's kind of a tradition.
He's a third generation rider – grandfather used to do it, dad still does – and he's been on a bike since he was 9 years old. Then, it was dirt bikes.
“I just really liked it because you could go fast,” said West, of Decatur, who's thrilled by the tension and control of it. “I started having fun aroun that when I was little, then started working my way up through the bikes. Then, I got into street bikes.”
His dad, Jason, introduced him to the sport. They'd ride dirt bikes in the backyard and with a racing club in Oakley. When he moved up onto the street, the transition was tough.
“On the dirt bike, you're trying to struggle to stay on the bike going through tough terrain,” West said. “Transitioning through that to a really fast, smooth pace. You're practically hanging off of the bike to steer it.”
He earned a racing license in 2014 with the Midwest Cafe Racing Association in St. Louis. From there, the gates opened up to him.
In February, West became a professional in the RC390 Cup Series. This weekend, he's going to Monterey, Calif. for his next race, getting around in an RV. He'll race once more this season in New Jersey in September.
In two of his first races as a professional, West finished 26th and 25th out of 31 riders. It's an improvement after crashing in practice runs.
“You don't really remember it – it goes by so fast,” West said. “One second you're on the bike and the next thing you see the bike is behind you.”
It's hard to imagine now that he's still riding because crashes used to be the thing that made him want to get out of the sport all together.
“I remember a couple times I fell of my bike and I swore I'd never get back on a bike,” West said. "Now I'm racing them on a pro level."
But he's proud to be on a pro circuit and be doing it under his family's flag.
West is represented by the West Road Racing Team, his dad's creation which acts, at least, as a name tag every race weekend.
“So we go around and they know us, what to call us,” West said.
He's proud of other accomplishments, too.
“I'm just proud that I'm faster than my father – that's my one main goal I wanted to do,” West said.
The cup series is a youth circuit hosted by MotoAmerica, the current professional road racing organization in North America. The average age of competitors is about 15 years old. Races last about 30 minutes.