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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

Bikemaster chain superbikecoach

Two More Teeth

Bikemaster chain superbikecoachYou guys remember my article ‘Motorcycle Sprocket Job: More Power‘? That’s where this one extends it a little.

So finally time has come that I can also ramp up the game on our Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro Pro. When it’s time for a new chain- that’s also a good time to make these upgrades, and so I took advantage of it.

“Indy” is going to get 2 more teeth on the rear. Does this bike really need more torque?… oh hell no, but pure acceleration and even better ride-ability can’t hurt. The gears were a touch too far apart in my opinion, so that bigger rear sprocket gets them closer together and that gives me more options in regard gear choice on corners. BikeMaster had all the stuff I needed to get the job done, and quick as usual and their pricing is right!

First you want to loose up all sprocket bolts, before you get the rear wheel out. That makes things easier. Now the wheel comes out and the new BikeMaster sprocket replaces that extremely cheep looking Ducati OEM part. I mean… look at it!

Bikemaster chain superbikecoachNext step is the chain. For that reason you put the wheel back in and cut the old chain. Don’t pull it out though, because you want to connect the new chain to it and to pull it through the swing arm and over and out of the front sprocket housing. That way you can save all the work with it. Now put the wheel/axle in the mid range of your chain spanners, which gives you wiggle room for your chain adjustments later. Ones done, you lay the chain up the sprocket to determine the length and so where to take links out. I recommend to look twice which and where you take it out. Now you close the chain with a lock (comes with the chain) and adjust its slack. Don’t forget to tighten up your rear axle… and you are all done.

You can’t add power and torque in a cheaper way. Do yourself a favor and do it. Thank me later :)

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

There is ‘that one bolt’

There is ‘that one bolt’ which extends a simple job in regard time, dirt, and resources… ONE fuckin’ bolt. You know those?!

So I did a brake job on my Multistrada Enduro Pro, because ‘Indy’ was missing braking power, which is already restricted with those knobbie tires. The plan: New brake fluid and bleeding air- new pads and cleaning caliper pistons- and 2 new rotors.

While everything else went well, the rotor bolts are glued in the wheel as shit, and I knew that was coming. Some manufacturers also make it harder by using bolts you’d need Torx tools for. I have, but those are really fragile. One after another coming off, not without a fight though… a bleeding finger and a trip to the hardware store for a new set of Torx tools is what that took. Then there is that one bolt. Out by a quarter and a destroyed head.

“MacGyver mode” is on now, as well as a never surrender mind set. Not enough meat to grab it with clamp pliers. Not enough out to saw its dead head off. Figuring that those cheap bolt removal tools you can buy with those TV commercials are senseless. Drilling the head was next, but the next half size bigger hexa did the job after hammering it in as much as possible. Then turning it as straight and smooth as possible got it finally out.

Four f’n hours and a garage floor covered with dirt, tools, sweat and blood for that one bolt :-)

Coach Tip: Heating up glued in bolts helps too.

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp

COVID-19 and how Superbike-Coach deals with it

I wished I’d have a solution for all of us. Especially I feel for those families who went- or are about to go through the worse with this Corona virus. So I hope YOU- our students and fans, that everything is fine with you so far.

Personally, I am tired of hearing it… wash your hands and keep 6ft distance. It seems though that some are not getting it and calling up for group ride outs and meet ups on social media. That attitude is to find also with churches etc. I mean… a line around shopping centers for toilet paper is a great way to keep spreading. So my conclusion is that they more likely to risk to catch the virus standing in line- than inability to wipe ass… Is that about right?! Simple risk math: How many shits does it take before heading out to ICU?!

I am worried that stupidity keeps the virus coming in waves as we’re waiting for the vaccine, which is the only way to get to the lives we’ve all had before COVID-19. Stupidity will extend the pain and loss, but that’s not all. This ignorance is extremely disrespectful to all those who try to do the right thing, and to all businesses who HAVE to shot down. Don’t be one of them.

So, I already covered how we deal with classes affected by track lock downs. Now I want to take advantage of the ‘extra time’ I’m having and to make videos to keep helping my fellow riders. I’ll also keep writing articles, just like the new one I’ve posted. I want to encourage you to make use of your extra time and to work on your bikes and gear, and to get ready for you to ride again. That way you might get a ‘don’t look back’ attitude, and I am here to answer questions in regard upgrades… or even for some mental support.

Of course, I also want you to know that Superbike-Coach is still here and will be there for you when time is right. Please do your best to slow the spread:

  • Have your own mug when getting a coffee
  • Ride slower as usual- cuz’ you don’t want to go to ANY hospital right now!
  • Have a mask when you know there are people
  • Have gloves when filling up your fuel tank
  • Wipe off shipments
  • Buy your grocery online and pick up, or better have it delivered
  • Call mom and dad!

Hope is good… too much though might blinds you.

Headcoach Can Akkaya, Superbike-Coach Corp