“It’s been wild, man, for sure. My goal was to get the bike back and that’s what happened.”
How longtime Kentucky privateer Michael Akaydin actually got his bike back is just as strange as how it was stolen in the first place. The 28-year-old parked his bike in the tunnel after finishing tenth in the 450SX LCQ at Anaheim on Saturday. After watching that night’s main event, Akaydin returned to find his bike missing. While he initially thought it was a joke, Akaydin soon realized someone had stolen his bike from the stadium tunnel.
What happened over the course of the next two days is a long, winding trip of how social media, perseverance and the support of the industry played a major part in the recovery. Here’s Akaydin’s story.
Racer X: You’ve had quite the weekend.
Michael Akaydin: You have no idea. It’s been wild, man, for sure. My goal was to get the bike back and that’s what happened.
Let’s start at the beginning. What actually happened? It was in the tunnel, right?
Yeah, so I finished the LCQ, and didn’t make the main. I did what I pretty much always do, just throw the bike in the tunnel there. It’s kind of out of the way, but still right there with the ambulance, and the port-a-potty. I want to watch the mains. I’m a fan of the sport. I came back down after the 450 main and it was gone. I thought somebody was kind of joking with me at first. Still in the back of my mind like, it’s probably someone pulling a joke. I run back to the pit and the bike is not there. That’s when I freaked out. That’s what started the whole thing.
I saw your Instagram post. You had pictures from the security cameras. When you see it’s gone, what goes through your head? I’m sure you’re freaking out. What’s the next step? How do you go about finding where it went?
Well, basically I got very, very lucky. As soon as I knew it was gone I was like, honestly, I doubt I’ll see it again. I really did. It wouldn’t have stopped me from trying, for sure. So right away we got on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and made a post saying, keep an eye out for this bike. I can’t believe how many people shared that and reposted it. That was overwhelming to me, but that’s what it took. It was everybody’s quick actions that ultimately led to Brandon Biro seeing the post and then the truck with my bike in the back of it, passing him on the highway north of the stadium. He got me pictures of the license plate with the bike in the truck. He then got ahold of me. At that point I was like, yes, there’s hope! We have a license plate, so within time we can get a name and address and all this and that. At that point we were pretty stoked to have a lead.
Without social media you would have to think that the bike probably have been gone for good.
Yeah, for sure. That was the biggest help right there.
I saw that he ripped the graphics off already. Do you know who he was?
The guy was involved in dirt bikes. He’s kind of like a California hillbilly, and has quads and stuff like that too. So basically he got in with a basic press pass, that I guess he had made up. I got a picture of that. I got a picture of his face at the supercross to kind of prove people that want to help out and kind of knew him and this and that. We had some good evidence after a while, and definitely the footage from the security camera. We had a decent case but without that license plate number I don’t know if we could have found him.
He just comes in, starts your bike up, rides it out and then throws it in the back of a pickup?
That’s right, dude. The electric start button was the key. He saw that and he was like this would be the easiest one.
Maybe you should put a kick-starter back on that thing!
I guess, something. I’m going to definitely look into some kind of lock for the sprocket or something like that. At least disconnect the spark plug or something like that.
It’s just crazy to me that that can even happen. You’re in the show. You do the night show. You’re in the stadium. You don’t expect to get your stuff stolen.
No. It’s always in the back of my mind as I leave it there, but I’ve done it for five or six years and never had a problem. It’s always in the back of your mind, but definitely came back and bit me there.
So that happens when the 450 main event was going on. You’ve been riding all day and you’re tired. I’m sure you didn’t sleep until you found it, right?
Yeah, pretty much. We found the license plate within about an hour. What’s crazy is the police did not want to do anything. They said we couldn’t do anything until Monday morning when our detectives come in. I was just blown away. I was like, we can find out who it is. We have a license plate. That’s all we really need. When they said they couldn’t do anything then I was like, all right, fine, then I’ll do it. I’m not going to sleep. Basically I had to go back to my house, which is an hour in the wrong direction. I got my laptop out and started researching some stuff. There’s a sticker on the back of the truck that said Taylor Tech. It was like a little shop. He was getting bashed online because he was kind of associated with the theft.
The owner of Taylor Tech reached out to me and he’s like I want to help you out. I’m pretty sure I know who this is. I can find you some addresses. At the same time as that there’s a kid out here, Carter Halpain, he’s a pretty fast rider. His dad is an investigator for an electronic company. He was a detective and wanted to reach out and help me too. He was like, “I can probably find some addresses for you.” Between those two guys I got three addresses. I was like, all right, I’m not going to go to sleep. I’m going to find this thing.
I grabbed my buddy Jake Rice and woke him up. I was like, dude, let’s go find this thing. We took off about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. It took us about two and a half hours to get up to that area. At that point we had the addresses. We just kept going around to these three addresses. One was a business so it didn’t really turn up much Sunday morning real early. We went to all these addresses twice. We got a tip from a neighbor at one point saying he’s going through a divorce and he’s staying up in this other neighborhood. We drove to this neighborhood, trying to see if we see any truck or anything. At this point we’re like six hours in, still no sleep. It’s like 9:00 or 10:00. The investigator that was helping us out, the detective, he suggested this one address, but we couldn’t see the house from the road. It had a gated driveway. So we couldn’t even really see if it was there. The detective suggested going on a hike up this mountain, kind of around the backside his house, and seeing what we could see. I was like, all right, we’ll give that a shot. I can’t make this stuff up.
By chance the guy that I drove out to California with from Kentucky brought a pair of binoculars. I was kind of giving him some crap for it. We grabbed those, and we literally hiked up a grassy mountain and kind of walked across this field where we can see the house with binoculars. By sheer dumb luck within five minutes this white truck starts rolling in off this back dirt road, kind of like a back entrance to his house. We saw something in the back. It looked like red trash to me, but we got the binoculars out and my friend was like, dude, that’s your bike! I was like, no way, give me the binoculars! I checked it out and sure enough that was my bike. It was such a surreal feeling, seeing the bike that you thought was gone. Then the guy proceeds to pull up to the house, and he has a big old blue shipping container behind his house. He unloads the bike, puts it in the shipping container, closes it up, locks it up, and drives back down this dirt road.
At this point we knew where the bike was. I was like, I’m not going to leave this area until we have it. We called the local cops there and said, hey, I had my bike stolen last night. I know exactly where it is. Can you come please meet us? We walked back down the hill and then kind of off the side of the road, out of sight from the house. We gave them the information to try to catch them up on what happened. Going through the whole thing and then literally within 10 minutes of being there the guy drives by in his truck. I was like, that’s him, grab him! Within a quarter mile they had him pulled over. At that point we were on cloud nine. We were so pumped. My hope was just to get the bike back. Not only did we get that back but we got the guy caught too.
You have to feel like a detective yourself right now because of all the work you just did. It sounds like a movie.
Yeah, honestly it was just sheer dumb luck that we happened to see the guy within five minutes of being there. It could have been any time during the day. Obviously Biro snapping that pic of the license plate and truck was huge. Everything just worked out so well for me.
It was probably really hard for you to not do anything when you called the cops. When you saw the bike in the back you probably just wanted to get over there and confront the guy.
Kind of, he’s a big dude, though. Actually, our coach out here that we’re staying with, he said one of his friends got shot and killed trying to recover a bike. He already put the scare into me a little bit, so we were like, yeah, we better just call the cops.
You definitely did the right thing but I can understand how mad you were and the emotions you were feeling.
For sure, at that point we were so happy to know where the bike was. Then for him to actually get pulled over, it was just a whole other thing.
You’ve literally seen the best part of the sport of motocross and the worst part. This guy, the thief, the worst part, and then literally everybody chipping in helping you find it. You have a Vital MX thread about it that’s like 12 pages long. Everybody’s sharing your stuff and making sure you get your bike back. How do you feel about all the support?
That was the coolest thing, honestly. Just having everybody do what they can, even if they share a post and get the word out, but it seems like everybody did that. That was really, really cool. It meant a lot to me.
Let’s get to your program for 2016. You’re out racing the West Coast. How are you able to do that? Talk about yourself a little bit instead of just the bike being stolen.
Basically my wife and I, we fund 75 percent of my racing. I’m definitely blessed that she’s still down to do it. She loves the sport too. Really we just do it for fun. We’re smart about what we spend. We don’t have the best bikes or anything. I only got one bike right now anyway. We love what we do, and we’re able to make a little bit of money from it. So that’s why we keep going. I do have a backup plan. It’s not like I’m just wasting my life away. I have a mechanical engineering degree and an MBA as well. I’ve got plans for the rest of my life, but you’re only young once. Honestly, I’ve never heard anybody tell me a reason why I shouldn't do what I’m doing right now. I just love it, man.
I don’t know if many people know that about you.
I don’t really advertise it very much. I don’t make a whole lot of noise. Basically I had to do that to be able to race. My parents said, if we’re going to support you you’re going to still get a good education. I actually worked hard enough in high school to get a full academic scholarship to engineering school. It’s pretty unique as far as motocrossers go.
It definitely is. It’s a rare breed. Where did you go to college at?
It was University of Louisville.
You’re already done with all the schooling and now you’re racing again. You’re still racing. I don’t think you ever stopped.
Basically I did what my parents wanted me to do and got an education. I don’t regret it one bit. It was an awesome thing to do. I got married three and a half years ago and ever since then it’s been 100 percent on Maggie and myself. It’s definitely been tougher, but at the same time with that I’ve worked harder and harder. My results have gotten better and better. It’s almost a blessing to have to pay for things on your own. That just makes you work harder. It’s been good.
You can’t beat that. You got your bike back, that’s good. Good things happen to good people.
I’m still floored by it all. It’s cool.
You’re doing big things. You’re on the West Coast racing supercross and you’re from Kentucky. It’s awesome how it works out.
Yeah. It’s awesome that I can travel the world and do what I love to do and still make a little bit of money on the side. Actually when I get back east I still have a full-time job. They are flexible to let me come out here for the first six races and then go back east. Like last year I worked 40 hours before six or seven of the East Coast races. I just drive on Friday after work and make it to the track. That’s just the cherry on top there.
It definitely keeps you busy. I’m working for Maggie’s dad at a plumbing company and they’re into the racing and they’re super flexible letting me have Fridays off if I need it or this whole month and a half off. So it’s cool. I like it.
You can’t beat the family business, always gives you a little leeway and helps you get to the races and stuff like that, so that’s good.
Yeah. Here’s another little cool thing. When the officer was kind of writing the report after we found the bike, she didn’t even know how to fill out the release form to release the bike back because they said they never had that done. That was a pretty cool little thing there. They were floored themselves that we found the bike and made it all happen. It’s super, super rare for anybody to recover a dirt bike. You can imagine, the police aren’t going to do anything for a full 36 hours, of course and they hardly recover anything.
That’s a good point. I’ve never really thought about it that way. You don’t expect to get it back because it’s so hard to trace it. You don’t really know where it ends up. You definitely got lucky.
I can understand the police have other things to worry about, probably more serious things to worry about. The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t going to let the bike get away. It’s not even my bike—it’s actually the shop’s bike, Pro Action KTM. They lent me the bike for the season. Initially I was like, man, I owe them $9,000 and then I’m still out a bike. That was just more motivation to really go and find the thing.
It seems like a fairytale ending right now. Did he mess up the bike at all?
No. Really he just ripped the graphics off. He left the glue on there, like a moron. Just ripped the graphics off and that’s it. Everything else was perfect. Even where it was lying in the bed of the truck, nothing’s wrong.
Nice. Now you can continue to just get ready for this weekend and keep plugging away at it.
That’s the plan.
Getting new graphics for it I hope?
Yeah, they’re coming!