Superbike-Coach 'Crazy Can' Can Akkaya

You know, when you start racing you figure there are two types of amateur racers around you. One is the over-thinker- and the other is the gung-ho kinda racer. That doesn’t mean the over-thinkers are much slower, especially when they have this sickness going on- called ‘speed junky’. That was me right there.

Before racing came into my life, I was haulin’ ass on street bikes. I was pretty much a gung-ho kinda guy. Everything was just happening and it seem to come easy to me. The only thing I knew for sure was- nobody could even get close to me. When I got to racing though- it made me an over-thinker. Confused?… Yea, so was I.

I don’t want to go into the ‘why’ for that one, cuz’ I want to go somewhere else with this. My analysis for the change is that race bikes are different breeds and tracks are intimidating for a while. Even worse… to deal with opponents who could beat me actually. So yea… that makes you thinkin’, you know!?

However… During my early years as an amateur racer I was chasing the guy I use to be, and the kind of freedom which comes with being gung-ho. Trust me I tried, and sometimes it seems to come out. When it did… I crashed. It seemed that this sport has more facets than I believed to know and that racing is way more then just about how big your balls are.

I felt bad about myself but I understood that being an over-thinker is a necessary phase to go through, because there is a lot you are up against: Tracks, race bikes, race tires, engine management, suspensions, opponents, fears, exploring limits, crashing, strategies, an unforgiving and violent environment, psychological games, and yourself. Master all of this, and you’ll make the next step forward.

I was a semi-pro when that time came and a quantum leap ahead of the rider I ones was. It all comes together and the pain blood and sweat pays off. It also creates what I call a ‘race intelligence’, but that happens to a few only I believe. As a full-pro racer, I was tough as nails and I even found ‘that guy’ in me again- that gung-ho kinda guy. By then though, I was able to let that gung-ho guy off the leash as a was in control of all those things.

So, if you couldn’t conclude what I am saying here actually…

Being gung-ho makes you maybe being faster in the beginning, but also hurt more. That might will break your learning curve and cost a lot. On the other hand- don’t feel bad being an over-thinker. It’ll take you longer to ‘arrive’, but ones you are…

Marc Marquez is a great example for what I am pointing out right now, and btw… some racers get their nicknames during their gung-ho era ;-)

‘Crazy Can’ Akkaya, Headcoach Superbike-Coach Corp

Coach article A Child's Heart

racing injuriesImagine you could race like there is no tomorrow. You would live in a mental state where there are no regrets or any worries. Not even the subconsciousness of pain or even death. A world in a different time zone in space where you are 7 ft tall and fucking bullet proof. No remorse, regret to might hurt yourselves or others. A state of pure invincibility. Total freedom on the inside, which makes you glare on the outside for opponents to feel.

This is truly happening for those few who are about to become ‘truly good at it’. A short phase in a racing career where you just like that kid who doesn’t know pain YET. A child’s heart which hasn’t confronted with the term DEATH is free and can fly up high as it wants. It ain’t restricted by survival instincts.

By this way… maybe next time you see a real young kid racing and conclude ‘how talented and fearless it is’- you might ask yourself if that older racer with all those open wounds, scars and twisted bones is actually the braver one- the one who has faced all those facets of mental and physical pain. Anyway, that’s not my point.

You might say that also racing kids go down many times. I agree, but they don’t lose any front brake power at a 260 km/h. I know that this is maybe an extreme example, but there is one more. One which separates the boys from the man at the end of this phase. Let me explain this with a very current example.

Marc Márquez was racing with a child’s heart pretty much all his life. That made him what he is- or let’s say what he ones was. See where this is going? Oh yea- he always got physically hurt. For years actually, and pretty much twice per weekend. It actually has become part of it and his life to be bandaged up and to have the smell of pain relieving lotion on him for weeks. Nothing he couldn’t smile away and to be even more bad ass as he was before already.

moto racing crashWith all that been said… this isn’t even about the physical hurt, sweat, blood and broken bones. This is about the subconscious realization that you actually have an expiration date. That you are not invincible. Don’t get this wrong. This is not that a racer on this level grows much more fears of getting hurt or to die. This type of fear goes much deeper. It’s a career deciding fear for the most, which is why I mentioned in the beginning that only a few make it through this kind of phase. This is about ‘thinking’.

Time isn’t always a good healer. This operates against racers. Here is Marc. He was absolute dominant, especially the day when he crashed out- twice. The second one was physically quite extreme and it was over. His fighter heart rejected to give up, but a surgery didn’t help to be able to make pushups in front of the commissioners. Now you take the embarrassment of crashing twice into a very long healing phase… a lot of time to think about things.

Besides frustration to see your opponents sharing ‘your’ championship points, anger arouses because you can’t do what you are suppose to be born for… to race. That is out for months to come and you can’t even do your daily gym chores. Everything seems wrong because your routine- your momentum is fucked up. But also the healing period has an end and you can’t wait to get back on track to kick ass again.

It takes a while and some tests to get back to your lap times, but even only half a second short on it makes you worry. While others are impressed with you- you just can’t accept it because you subconsciously knew that this is going to happen and this was exactly what you were so afraid of all the time. You are fighting now a mental fight with yourself. Hold backs growing for crashing and to bend those titanium plates in your arm which would take you off the roster again. These are feelings you never even knew till here. You’re confused and you race under deep aggression, and you wonder, because you never had to be that way to be dominant.

You start leading races here and there again, but ‘something’ is holding you back. You reject that these are fears to get hurt. Sometimes you are successful with it- sometimes you don’t. You feel embarrassed not to be the big dog anymore. The one who sets the bar, and you realize that your opponents know now that you are not unbeatable- that also you have an expiration date, and so your outside glare fades. Subconsciously, you are actually afraid that all this could happen in the very next race again. The child’s heart is broken. From here, you won’t be ever the same again, even if you are able to win championships. You’ve lost that immense freedom.

You might don’t like this article for reasons I even understand. There will be the time where you will though, and when you don’t have to ask me how I knew. I might cover the way of reestablishment in a additional article, but the solution is more or less personal and differs from racer to racer.

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

I know and understand you have expectations, but it’s you who has to understand something here. Learning is not always a steep and straight line up. That’s not impossible, but I can tell you that this doesn’t happen a lot. Then there are others whom learning curve goes in waves slowly going up. With those, it’s what granny use to say: “Sometimes you make a step backwards to finally make two forward”. But for the most track riders and racers- their learning curve is going to hit a plateau, and they stuck there for a long time if they don’t grasp this here…

As for now, you are like this… you are confused. You don’t understand why you hit plateau because you’ve learned so much. You’ve read all those f’n books, watched videos, and you might even been through some good schooling. You’re questioning what you’ve learned is right. Nothing feels right actually, and the harder you try- the worse it seems to get. You are deeply frustrated and the first thoughts of quitting popping up. Eventually not, because you could keep that away by finding some excuses. What?!… you feel offended by honesty? Why don’t you ask me how I know this shit?! I’ve been there too.

Besides that knowledge and try-and-error creates your learning curve- you pretty much have no influence of it’s waves. Those depend on other things, like you, your character, situations happening and/or how many times you’ve crashed. You’ll also learn from crashing- the bad things, but it’ll cost you making a step backwards first. See what I’m saying? Let me give you some examples.

the learning curveLook at the picture above. That’s a section on Nuerburgring Nordschleife in Germany, which was my home track by the way. Let’s say I would teach you that you could fly through this section at a 147 miles an hour on a particular line and also told you what the absolute latest braking marker would be. That teaching would be 100% right on the money… but would you be able to pull this off from the go get?… No, you more likely would get hurt on that try. That track is 12 miles long and has 154 turns. I could teach you on the dime exact where to brake and every inch of the line, but YOU are the one who has to explore what their potential is. That’s on YOU!

Let’s say I’d lead you on and off for 10 laps. Your lap times would go up and down, but in the end with an up tendency, correct? That is good this way, because if you would have the mental strength and riding abilities which allow you to go at the possible maximum- you’d die, just because you can’t memories 154 mostly blind turns within 10 laps!

Knowledge is an elevated resource- taking advantage of the potential of a newly exposed recourse takes time. The dangerous part of this is, that if you don’t SEE THIS at a time when you hit that plateau. You will get hurt mentally and eventually physically if you have a strong competitive nature. Frustration takes over and you’ll questioning what you’ve learned is even right. Wanna read the Nordschleife example ones more to get what I am saying?!

Let me give you another, maybe a more feel-able example. Let’s say you use to be riding on shitty tires, but now we put you some of the finest tires on your bike- MotoGP race tires which you can even buy even if you’d have the money for them. Now you’re going out again and you eventually make a little progress- but it is extremely unlikely that you are capable of riding them at their fullest possible potential. They deliver you a recourse you’ll have to explore on your own. That MotoGP tire engineer can tell you how they have to be ridden, so information is 100% right but the exploration depends on you and your capabilities.

If you allow impatience and/or frustration to get in-between, you will only extend your ‘plateau time’ in your learning curve. Important by then is this: honesty, trust, smartness, relaxation, reset. Truth is a sharp knife, but it cuts best!

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

I hate the word ‘talent’. Nobody is born with a ‘racing DNA’. Just because your dad rode bikes or even raced, doesn’t mean ‘you got it’. They might be able to teach you though, but that’s not what I want to throw a light on. Let’s take a deeper look what that word might does to you.

You see a rider or watch MotoGP racing and go… man, this guy is talented! But you, personally, don’t see such mystical medical phenomena running through your vanes. You are not even confident enough to lie to yourself that you are some kinda ‘talented’. And here ya go… your road block is set, because you don’t believe you don’t have talent- you’re not even trying to get there. You might think this all came naturally to those who are ‘talented’.

To be honest, you didn’t just extended learning curve- you also put a crack into your own confidence. Oh, and you also just took the credit of all those racers who dedicated their life to become what and where they are. They gave their blood, sweat and bones to ‘learn’ everything which you might see as naturally gifted. That’s not right, cuz’ some even have died to get there. Nothing good comes for free, naturally, or in a nice gift box in this sport. Nothing. Everything you see is learnable, so don’t ‘hide’ behind a fancy, lazy, and mystically glowing word.

Though, there is something in one or the other. Those who have a good eye-hand coordination. Those who have a good feel for distance and speed. A person with ‘this’ is probably good with any other sports too. If you have ‘this’, then you might pick things up quick. If you don’t… don’t worry. Just don’t hide behind the word, stand up and say ‘I can get there too no matter how long it’ll take’. It just needs self-honesty and allowances to have a less steep learning curve. If you can arrange that with yourself, then you are on a more health path actually. Let’s see why.

Superbike-Coach level chartNow let’s say have a good eye-hand-coordination. Everything seems to get to you easier and quicker. Being a quick learner sounds incredibly positive, doesn’t it? But is it really?! Let me tell you why not with this time line. The red line reflects all the physical skills you’ve learned, so braking steering, shifting etc. The better your eye-hand-coordination, feel for distance and speed, and also depending on your size of balls- that line goes up quickly. Too quick for the most, because with all the physical skill set you’ll become TOO EARLY TOO FAST!

By then, your eyes and brain are not trained yet- not ready yet. Your instinct hasn’t developed yet. That blue line right there takes up way more time to create. This line feeds on all the stuff during your time as a rider or racer. Feeling the front tire limit the first time in your life is quite an experience. The difference of a good/bad line. A stressed out bike at maximum braking power and so on and so on. All this creates muscle memory. Feels, sounds, smalls, time, distance, sight, memory. It’s what granny use to say… you’ll learn more from loosing than from winning, and she’s damn right!

So why are you trying so hard to learn all those physical skills so fast?! Rome hasn’t build in one f’n day. Take your time, because if those two lines through your time isn’t in a health balance… you’re screwed. It begins to work against you. Go, ask me how I know…

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

Can Akkaya with HRC technician in Zolder Circuit, Belgium 1993

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…

Being 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 :-)

Getting 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 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