Can Akkaya with HRC technician in Zolder Circuit, Belgium 1993

How to become a professional motorcycle racer

If I would get a dollar, each time someone asks me on how to become a professional racer…

I am a strong believer in dreams, because all good things BEGIN WITH A DREAM, but becoming a professional racer is something only a few can turn into reality. I was one, and now I’m a professional coach- which is why I know. An easy way to look at it is: You gotta be THAT GOOD at it, that you get paid for it.

Just this explains a lot and makes dreams pop like soap bubbles already, right?! Especially when you just started racing and look out to those stars already by asking that question too early. Cuz’ how do you know that you’ll ever be THAT GOOD at it?! If you look for it too early, you just make yourselves a four years old who says ‘I wanna be an astronaut when I’m grown up’. Not saying it’s impossible- but it kinda skips quite some significant steps there. Btw… nova days you kinda have to be on the race bike at an age of 4 years already to eventually make pro level. If you are not, then I suggest to make sure to graduate school so that you have a plan B. Sorry for brutal honesty.

Let’s clean something up before we go deeper into this. I noticed that some claiming the title ‘professional’ because their fast- or someone calls an instructor at a track day a ‘professional’ while they are not actually. It seems this term has become a indicator for skill level, like: Amateur> Advanced> Professional. So like a replacement for Expert kinda thing. In fact- they are not professionals, unless they can make a living of it so that they don’t have to follow any other regular full or part time jobs anymore. That’s a professional.

To become one of those few comes with broken bones, blood, dedication, discipline, soul, live changing decisions, sweat, fitness, age, management skills, organization, relationships, and a drop dead killer instinct. There is way more going into this. Things which are off bike and track. You are doing things according to create or to maintain your ‘market value’. At this point… OMG, just overthinking all the facets is almost impossible to bring this together here. But let me try…

how to become a professional motorcycle racer, superbike-coachBeing a professional racer is a 24/7, 365 days a year job. You have ‘vacation’ during the time your bones are healing and skin slowing closes wounds. I did 30 kilometers per day on a mountain-bike. Your daily nutrition is carefully picked (in other words, also your family etc has to play along with your racer life cycle!). Between scheduled testing new parts, you travel a lot from track to track or to the team quarters. You have an appointment for a TV show or a radio podcast interview to do. Magazines or newspapers calling for interviews. You’re sending pictures and autograph cards to fans. You organize team travel and dates for an entire calendar year. Just think of the time and money that point consumes. One of your local sponsors has an event and wants you to pick up your new mountain-bike, which he gives you for that. You shake lots of hands and smile into cameras even if you don’t feel like it. You have lots of dinners with team owners who want you to race for them. You have to evaluate a lot and make the right career decisions. In-between you do Moto Cross and whatnot, just to kick and haulin ass. You have dinners with sponsors or those who hopefully become one.

This is just a fraction of the ‘pro package’, and if you call someone a professional while they are not… then you literally slap those few in the face and take their credit away from being a real professional, because they are THAT GOOD at it- on and off the race bike.

Though…

Remember Michael ‘Eddie the Eagle’ Edwards? He never was that good at Ski Jumping actually, but his ‘Never Surrender’ attitude, the shortest jumps in Olympics ever, and his cricket way to jump got him into the hearts of the crowd. ‘Eddie’ had more publicity than the actual competition winner and got TV, radio and the press. That is marketing value, and so he got into lots of lucrative sponsorships. Proof that anyone can make it. Go get creative if you aren’t THAT GOOD at it :-)

how to become a professional motorcycle racer, superbike-coachGetting hired?

Most likely you won’t, unless you are already THAT GOOD at it. If so, than this is either the so called ‘Works team‘ (for example: Yamaha Factory Racing, HRC Honda Racing Corporation, etc)- a ‘Satellite Racing Team‘ (like: LCR, Tech3, etc). By then though, you are professional for a while already.

You’ll most likely run this just like a business. You won’t EVER get a million dollar RedBull contract of the batch. It takes time to find the right relationships. They start to trust you and discounts turn into free of charge products. If you really getting that much better, you’ll be able to have no more costs in regard bike and gear.

As your calendar fills up and you got tons better, you could turn product sponsorship contracts to monetary support a little, From here it might be enough to have a regular part time job now, and boom- you’d be a Semi-Pro. At this point you’ll pay taxes for this and your life has been immensely changed by then.

All of a sudden there is this championship winning team who just lost their number one racer due to injuries. They call you because they know that you are about to be THAT GOOD at it, and you go contact the relationships you’ve built and tell them about this opportunity. An opportunity which attracts press, fans, other teams… and the circle is closing! You are about to be a professional racer, who gets paid because he’s THAT GOOD at it.

how to become a professional motorcycle racer, superbike-coachHow much can you make?

A pro racer is a promoting machine which has a market value. That value depends on many things: Character, personality, skill, fan base, intelligence, press attractive and much more- all that grows into your racing skill/appearance. Look, if you don’t have the personality to close a sponsor contract with a bunch of zero’s, then you walk away with 2 sets of tires, right?! Your race personality plays into that. Some have more fans crashing all the time just because their ‘bad ass’. Make sense?

There was a German world champion in the 90’s ones. While he barley collected $300k for his next MotoGP season, some upcoming Italian got $7 million for finishing the season 5th. Honda Racing saw more in this guy, and to be able to promote the brand. If you look like you’d ‘race for free’ and the umbrella girl next to you steals the show, then you know. You’re not walking through the paddock, low on confidence and in healthy flip flops- but expect to be seen by fans, press and sponsors. There has to be an aura, attitude, personality, race intelligence.

So there is no exact amount. It’s pretty much what you can make of it. Sky can be the limit, and that could be product sponsorships, monetary sponsorships, licensing, TV rights/share, Merchandising. season bonuses, cash for wins/results, or/and top league… a permanent pay check from a team.

What now?

I know. It sounds like that you’d have to be born with all this to become a professional. Trust me, all this is learnable and you grow into it. Let’s not destroy dreams… let’s have many. Now here is what I want you to do as an amateur racer…

You go race the living dead out of it. You develop a racing intelligence. Have an attitude and show personality god damn it. Be the one to beat and make others feel this. Create little relationships with sponsors. Ask for discounts, then for this or that product for free- and when time comes and competition level grows, you ask for money. Run your own team and learn things around it. Look good- just like you could promote something. Then you might become THAT GOOD at it that some team calls you up and ask you to race for them- OR you find sponsors so you can buy yourself into a team (they hand-pick!) which has man and equipment power to win international championships.

Then… you might don’t need to do a regular job anymore. BUT make sure you play and race real well, because pro athletes have an expiration date. Pro racers are like comets… they are glowing bright for a short moment in time only.

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

can akkaya headcoach perfection

Addicted to Perfection

As usual, I want to describe scenes from professional racing. That doesn’t mean this is about racing and doesn’t apply to you, so go grab a beer and listen closely, cuz’ you get something for free from a professional…

can akkaya about routineFor the most professional racers I know, and that included myself- EVERYTHING needs to be 100% in order. In the right place, at the right time, and in a complete routine. Only THEN it can channel positive energy to make the moment count and also to be ‘perfect’. The moment when your team leaves the starting grid and you are on your own. This routine literally restarts after a race- winding back/up for the next one. It doesn’t feel this way, but it’s there. While the racer goes for some Supermoto and lots of mountain biking… he already dials towards that moment of perfection next Sunday. He’s talking to his friends and laughs. It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s there. It has begun already. The bike gets prepared down to look at each bolt. The office works to organize travels for each member. The team arrives in the paddock and sets everything up. There is fun- lots of fun so that it doesn’t feel like it… but it’s there. Practice sessions- qualifying sessions and warm up… it surly feels different all the time, but all and everyone is following routines. A routine that chases perfection. Now you’re standing on your starting grid again. Warm up sign comes up and the pace car leaves, and so your team members. You are on your own and all you think- all you feel is “…everything is perfect. I am ready!”.

The finish flag falls and you are relieved for a couple of hours before it all restarts… the strive for perfection- for that particular moment.

It’s almost like a solid OCD isn’t it? But do you see what I am pointing out here? It all channels to ‘a perfect moment’. Nothing is perfect forever ones you or someone else decides to have ‘reached perfection’. But that’s something most of you are chasing… to be perfect forever. Nothing is perfect forever. There is always something better you could do or have done. There is always the next bike you want to have- the ice cream you eat- the helmet you wear. I could go on forever one this because this one goes in all live directions.

Let me tell you something which philosophy I decided to follow. Perfection is an illusion! Don’t ever decide to have reached perfection- cuz’ where to go when you’re there? Unless you have the urge of a professional racer to chase and to channel positive energy up to THAT MOMENT, which allows you to snap into the competitor you HAVE TO BE… for you my friends, I hope you never reach perfection.

Because the moment you think you did- that moment is dangerous because you stop searching, you stop striving. Your journey is over. Just make sure you keep that strive in a healthy balance with ‘fun’, because too much of chasing and the feel to never be ‘like that guy’ (or whatever you categorize to be perfect) can lead you right into dark rooms. I’ve been there, which is why I know. A room enriched with frustration, confidence breaking energies and not knowing where the f’n door is out of the darkness.

So don’t chase perfection, cuz’ you never reach it anyway. It’s a dilemma. Instead- enjoy your imperfections. Learn to laugh about yourself, because perfection means pressure! :-)

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

Welcome Back Bridgestone Tires

I can happily announce that Superbike-Coach is back together with Bridgestone Motorcycle Tires and Sportbike Upgrades, which is there distributor for race tires.

Their portfolio covers all motorcycle categories, so something you should look into. A Bridgestone tire is a fast and long living tire for its grip level, but what I like the most is that they are transparent. That means that they have a gentle way to tell you that you’ve reached their limits. Also a positive thing is, that they are very easy on almost any suspension set up and that they deliver decent grip while warming them up.

The entire Superbike-Coach team uses Battlax slick race tires for the Supermotos and other track/race bikes, but I can assure you that their Battlax RS10 or S22 hypersport street tires are rock solid in performance and transparency as well. Give it a shot. You’ll be surprised.

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

In Inner Peace with the Violence

Racers are a different breed, especially the ones you can find on top 10 result lists. Then there is the mid-field, which are about to develop something specific- and there is the back of the field which might, or might not make it to the mid-field one day. This doesn’t go for the MotoGP racers btw, because they have it and it is also why they are in MotoGP.

These racers are highly motivated aggressive machines. They are ego driven- no team player type of athletes, and no prisoners making competitors. But where the hell am I seeing a connection to you the regular street rider or amateur racer?! Well, let’s see.

Crashing in MotoGP happens ones or twice in average per race weekend. Their bodies are covered with scars and titanium plates. Blood, bandages and the smell of some kind of pain easing sport lotion on those bruises is your new aftershave cloud. A Mick Doohan almost lost his leg if the doctors wouldn’t have stitched his other leg over it to support blood circulation. He joined the championship in the same year, but he lost the title. Impressive huh?!

A Jorge Lorenzo crashes and breaks his collarbone again (that bone goes most of the time first). He flies home to Barcelona to get fixed up from the doctor he trusts, and he does. Next morning, Jorge flew back to join the race with literally an open wound and ‘gotta get use to it titanium bolts’. Now you can come with another lame one like ‘well, he’s filled up with pain killing injections’, and I’d give you right on this… but what would go through you mentally, thinking you could crash right back onto it etc?! However, Jorge made a podium spot that race!

I remember I crashed so hard at Bruno Circuit in Czechoslovakia in qualifying ones. One of the highest high-siders I’ve ever had, and landing on my hip bone. This is like dropping out of 2nd floor right on the hip and adding about 100 miles an our to it. It turns it wasn’t broken, but the bruise and pain made me walk like Quasimodo for four weeks. On the way home I called my team for tests at Nuerburgring, where they had to lift me on the bike.

Go and ask Wayne Rainy if he would do all of this again if he could reverse time and his horrific back injury which ended his career. What would he might say?!

Now let’s just put a away the most lame and quite arrogant conclusion, that this is their job and what they are all get well paid for. At this point you can trust me when I’m saying that they would do this even for free, so why and how the hell is ‘being like this’ even possible?! What is it that makes them come back after injuries you’d quit for, and performing on almost the same level where they were at before the crash?!

It’s because they love what they do, and they living their passion and dreams. It’s because they have distinctive goals- they are on a life mission. What’s stronger than fears and to get hurt is ‘passion and love’. That’s the gas of their mental motors, so it should be yours. Be driven by passion and love instead of being controlled by fears. Sound’s easy huh? :-)

Am I saying just go crazy, way over you abilities? NO I don’t. Just keep doing what you’re doing and have at least a fraction of that mentality. Have goals, work on something. That keeps you brain busy in a positive way. Think of how much you enjoy to be in this particular turn right now. Ride with passion in your comfort zone and stop thinking what could possibly happen. Racers don’t think this far. Were they at where you are?… oh yes, but they’ve learned how not to think this far. So you can… inner peace is freedom!

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

Featuring Arai Helmets USA

As a kid you have idols you look up to. Bands, actors, or athletes. Needless to say that they have an influence on us, so I wanted to learn to play the guitar just like Angus Young of the rock band AC/DC. The big goal was, to have my own Marshall Amplifier and to rip it. The problem… those are hell of expensive and totally out of reach for me. That dream never left and today I have the damn Amp.

Can Akkaya on Honda RSR250, Hockenheimring 1987

So my first helmet was a German product, a UVEX for 60 bux. Goofing around the town on mopeds in that way to big helmet- which actually broke my nose on a crash one day. Somewhen then, I’ve stumbled over motorcycle racing while zapping through the four TV stations we had back then, and there was that American racer who looked so different then all the others. His name was Freddie Spencer and he was wearing a Arai helmet. Needless to say that I wanted to have one myself, but the price was totally out of my league. Years later, when I was racing myself… I finally had one, a Spencer Replica RX-V.

Man was I proud for it, but damn it killed my finances. Though, I had comparison to what’s wrong and what’s right, and in this case it’s not just the quality which comes to account. I’ve learned the hard way what difference a good lid can make, cuz’ you’ve got only one head- one life. I lost that Arai in a actually horrifying crash on public roads, when I hit against a static object outside a turn. I would have died in a other helmet. I know!

Making my way through amateur racing, semi-pro and finally professionally- also the sponsorship contracts are developing. Until finding the ‘right’ relationship, I had to wear top notch helmets from multiple manufactures but I ended up with Arai Germany as a coach until I left Europe in 2008. Again… I had comparison to what’s wrong and what’s right, and I was super happy that Arai Helmets USA took over and to continue this relationship till today!

Here are some insights:

#araihelmetsusa #arai

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp