Ryan is the brother of Steve Sanders, one of two of the "flying monkey children" Steve refers to, the other being their brother Austin Sanders. Ryan appeared to be more reasonable and mature than Austin, especially in the later years.
Ryan and Austin first came to stay with Steve on New Year's Eve in 1995, immediately causing trouble by toilet papering the house and sneaking into the Peach Pit After Dark. However, Steve found them at the club and had them thrown out. They then put shaving cream all over Steve's car. Steve was determined to tell their father, Rush Sanders how horrible the duo behaved under his care, but when he realized Rush treated them as bad as he did himself, he lied and told Rush they were well-behaved. Ryan was next seen with his brother Austin at a party at Casa Walsh trying to score beer. Ryan, however, stole too much and ended up with alcohol poisoning. His life was saved by Greg Meyer.
During the Beverly Hills Beach Club reunion, Ryan competed with his brother Austin over a girl, Beth Rawlings. Despite Beth being interested in Ryan, Austin's bad influence caused Ryan problems when they decided to spy on the women changing in the tents at the reunion, caught by Beth when they fall into the tent. Ryan and Austin then got into an argument before Steve gave them a lecture on respecting women. Later in the year, Ryan accompanied Steve and Clare on a double date to Pacific Park with Katie, a girl he had been pursuing for some time. Ryan seemed to be ready to have sex with Katie, but Steve offered his advice to Ryan to wait. Ryan attended Steve's graduation with Austin and he became infatuated with Kelly Taylor's sister, Joy Taylor. They spent some time together, though she would later return home.
Ryan returned in season 10 as a pre-med student visiting from Amherst. After meeting Janet Sosna and Madeline Sanders, he and Steve go out for some catching up on life. After a few days of fun, Ryan informed them that he flunked out of school because he partied too much. He started hanging out at the club with Noah Hunter, even working as a barback there. Steve became furious with Ryan, feeling he was wasting his life away. They bickered back and forth before Ryan decided on delaying college and traveling for a while in Europe before he enrolled at California University.