Keith Hedin started racing rolling stock four decades ago when he was growing up on his parents’ ten-acre spread just west of 43rd Avenue in Vero Beach. Now, he’s giving his own children a similar experience, teaching them to ride four-wheelers on his own west side property.
Hedin, his wife and “pit mom” Jennifer, and children Kalob, 8, Karlee, 7, and Karson, 6, are known as Team Hedin with Florida Trail Riders, a group that puts on 14 races a year in pastures around the state. Earlier this month, Keith and all three children won awards from the group at ceremonies in Daytona Beach.
Born in Annapolis, Md., in 1965, Hedin moved to Vero Beach with his family when he was 2. The family’s home was considered to be in the country, far west of the beach, so surfing and swimming in the ocean weren’t regular pastimes for Keith. Instead, he started racing motorcycles when he was 8 and built and raced cars with his father, the late Karl Hedin.
“Throughout the years Keith has raced karts, both dirt and enduro, open wheel dirt carts and late model stock cars,” the Florida Trail Riders magazine wrote.
As Hedin put it, “It’s been with me my whole life — motorcycles, go-karts, race cars, bikes, whatever.”
He played football, basketball and baseball at St. Edward’s School. and suffered a knee injury while playing football. The surgery and recuperation made it difficult for him to resume team sports, so he turned to wheels instead. His first bike was a Honda 50.
He admits to having been being young and foolish when he hit his top speed of 150 miles per hour on a motorcycle late one night on I-95.
“The world goes by you in a hurry,” he said, “and you start to think about what would happen if a tire blew, or an animal ran across the road in front of you.”
He’s had a total of 11 knee surgeries, including two replacements. As Florida Trail Riders magazine put it, he “cut his teeth on two-wheels and said he loves Motocross,” but after all the knee problems “he has been persuaded to continue on four wheels.”
Before he and Jennifer were married, he said he asked her if she wanted children — she said she did — and if she could mind if they learned to race. They said she wouldn’t.
Heidin started putting the children behind the wheel of toy tractors when they were tots. Then they graduated to small bicycles, and when they were 3 or 4, their dad put them on four wheelers for a few minutes at a time. Everything they needed was at hand – trails in the back yard with the motorized equipment stored in a trailer at home. Hedin now owns about 15 four wheelers and two wheelers, and usually takes 10 of them to a race to have replacements available if something breaks in one of them and can’t be repaired quickly.
“I’m so blessed,” he said. “It’s much easier if you can just walk out your back door and do these things.
He says he tells his children about the importance of safety and of having a positive attitude.
“You have to respect the bike,” he said, “You have to respect the terrain, what’s around you. With me it’s not always about speed. I’m not a speed junky.”
He was proud to watch Kalob get back on the four-wheeler he was driving and finish a race last year after colliding with another racer. Obviously, no one knew it at the time, but Kalob had a broken collarbone. The boy was behind the wheel of a vehicle he wasn’t used to — his sister’s less powerful, pink four-wheeler — because a part had broken on his own vehicle.
“We’re teaching our children that you win sometimes, you lose sometimes and sometimes the bike breaks,” Hedin said. “We all get upset but I don’t want them to show their anger or negativity because they had a bad day or their bike broke. At the end of every race, I ask them if they had fun. If they ever say no, we’ll think about doing something else.
Hedin owns Keith Oil Can, automotive oil change centers on Old Dixie Highway and State Road 60, and Keith’s Mini-Storage. Jennifer works with him in the business and also teaches at Christi’s Fitness Center. She handles paperwork and other vital details on race days, and on the sidelines “cheers for all the children, not just ours,” Hedin said.
At home, the Hedins have a pond for swimming and a tractor with a loading bucket that lets the kids jump into the water from 25 feet up. The children also enjoy playing video games and “kicking the soccer ball around,” Hedin said.
“I try to let our children be children,” he said.
He hopes they’ll stick with racing throughout their lives, as he has done.
“My three children are progressing at their own ability,” he said. “I know it can be dangerous, but high diving can be dangerous. I have ways to keep the power low in their bikes. You have to know what you’re doing. The children never ride at home or anywhere without my being there.”
For Hedin, racing is a good way to get a lot of activity in a short amount of time. “I can race for an hour and a half and I’m good for the next two weeks. At the age of 47, I’m not going to get any better at this. The children are a different story. Everything I do is geared to them.”
At the recent awards ceremony, Team Hedin got two first place awards, one third place award and two fourths. They were the only family with three children competing.
“I’m trying to outpower everyone by having more kids out there,” he said. “If it was up to me, I’d have ten kids out there!”