Born and raised in Kentucky, Michael Akaydin relies on his strong work ethic and southern Christian values to manage life as a husband, plumbing contractor, and professional racer. While an inhabitant of “Privateer Island,” Akaydin is also an educated man. With a bachelor’s degree, as well as an MBA, to his credit—along with supercross main event experience—life is anything but dull for the #918 Kawasaki out of Louisville. We had the chance to catch up with Akaydin this week to see how preparations for 2018 are coming along.
Racer X: Hey, Michael, what are you doing right this second?
Michael Akaydin: I finally got a second to sit down. [Laughs] It’s been a long day!
A long day of what? Playing plumber or dirt bike racer? You're a man of many hats.
I wore both hats today, like always. I was at the shop this morning before 7, operated a backhoe and excavator on a warehouse job we have going, stopped by BigO Tires on my way home so my buddy Sebastian could get my van serviced for the trip to California, then just finished an hour on the stationary since it’s good and cold right now. It’s in the single digits, bro.
For those who don't really know you that well, let the world wide web know who you are, what you do for a living, that sort of thing.
To start, I’m a guy who is blessed to have the opportunities to do what I love to do. I work for my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law at a plumbing company and enjoy learning the different aspects of bidding contract jobs and overall construction. This job is flexible for my racing demands, but I’ll be at work 100 percent if I can be. [For example] several months ago I had a plate and screws put on my collarbone but operated equipment the next day. Dirt bikes are my main focus, so having this flexibility from my job is very important. It works out well for what I’m trying to accomplish right now.
Does it get difficult at times to manage life as a professional racer, yet you have real responsibilities Monday through Friday as well?
Absolutely, but when you are so passionate about the sport you love and are able to compete in, you will jump over all the hurdles thrown at you. I don’t get to ride much at all during the week, but I will train off the bike quite a bit. My go-to exercise is running, but with the temperatures lately, I’ve been going to IronTribe fitness, then cycling and rowing in my basement.
And you have a pretty supporting wife at home as well. I know she plays a pretty important role in your program.
She really does! Maggie and I have been married for five years now and she supports my ambitions and dreams. She helps out with many things throughout the season and makes the program roll a lot smoother. Besides that, she is pretty knowledgeable with what goes on and can spot things on the track or anything throughout the day that I can clean up.
She fills the mechanic role for you at times as well, correct?
Yes! Maggie always brings her pit shirt in case I’m not able to get a qualified mechanic lined up for a race. She does a great job and keeps my nerves down before the race because I don’t have to worry about her. She knows what to do and doesn’t cut me any slack. This year she was my mechanic in Dallas, Toronto, and Budds Creek. If only I can get her to clean my bike! [Laughs] Actually, I’m very picky and usually like to wash it myself anyways.
Something interesting about you is that you're actually very educated. You may be the most educated professional supercross racer, ever.
Credit goes to my parents for that one. They made it absolutely clear at the beginning of this motocross journey that education was the priority. I remember getting a D on a test in eighth grade and then sat out racing that weekend, so I knew they were serious. They pushed me, I pushed myself, and earned a full academic scholarship to University of Louisville and obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Then I took online classes to get an MBA (masters of business administration). I haven’t directly used either degree yet, but I’m proud of my education and I believe it helped shape my work ethic. I was racing professionally throughout my entire college education, so my days consisted of being in class, studying, working out, or riding, and that’s it. I’m fortunate that my parents pushed me to have an education, and it gives me a great future after racing.
Speaking of racing, let's talk 2018. You just announced a new "team" structure for this season. How's your program looking, heading into A1?
Yes sir. This year Bubba Pauli and I put our heads together and decided that the only way to put a professional-looking team together is to start off looking the same on the track. We are both on Kawasakis this year and our gear is the same from head to toe with a growing gear company—Skillz—doing some custom designs for us. This alone made us much more marketable to sponsors and helped us find a title sponsor. TXS Productions came on board and are helping cover some of the costs, so we will have a great-looking setup at the races this year. Bubba wrapped his van and we are all-in, so we are excited to get the season started. We will be looking good, but the riding is still up to us and we will continue to work hard and put ourselves in a good position.
What class will you be competing in, and how many rounds are you planning to do?
Team TXS Productions will be racing Kawasakis in the 450 class in 2018, and we will be at every round again. Bubba and I plan to drive to all the races besides one or two where the schedule gets crazy with a lot of back and forth driving. We will have to figure out how to get our bikes to those couple races, but then we will catch a flight out. Racing-wise, I really believe that I can be in more main events. Bubba made a breakthrough this year, and I think in 2018 he will see more success. He works hard, and that’s one thing I really like about him. We get along great and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.
What's something that you're looking forward to the most this season—fans, traveling, racing—what are you most stoked on?
Honestly, I love that for the next five months, there won’t be a dull moment. Everything mixed together gives one great experience. I will be doing what I love, racing with a bunch of bad dudes, and traveling with great company and people who share similar goals, not just in racing but in faith, family, and life as well. If I had to narrow it down to one thing, it would be the reason we all started down this path: I love to race my dirt bike and challenge myself.
You mentioned traveling. Will it be just you and Pauli, or will your wife and Diesel the dog be joining in on the adventures as well?
Me and Bubba for sure, and sometimes another rider, like our buddy Brice Klippel. Maggie can make it to more than half of the races with her work schedule as a nurse, and then we always have friends that can come to certain races, so it will never be the same exact crew. Every weekend is a little bit different, and that keeps it really fun. #Dieselthedog will come to two or three races, and there’s a 97 percent chance that he will sleep in my gear bag during the day and love every minute of it. He gets up to eat, pee, and sign autographs; that’s it.
Lastly, we all know that this sport is a sport of learning. Sometimes the lessons can be pretty tough. What's the greatest thing that being a privateer motocross racer has taught you?
To work hard and never give up. I never would have made a couple 450 main events had I called it quits when I wasn’t having any success. It’s such a great life lesson to give something every ounce of your attention and energy, and success will appear; you just have to believe in yourself and trust the process. I have gained a lot of mental toughness from working with our coach Bryan McDonald that has helped me on the track and will continue to help me the rest of my life. A second lesson coming from “Privateer Island” would be to never wait for someone else to do something for you. If you want something done, get up and make it happen.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat. Any sponsors you'd like to thank?
Absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity. TXS Productions, RL Vuckson Excavating, Embree Racing, Gateway Cycles, Skillz , Top Secret Designs, Pirelli, No Toil, Shoei, Sidi, Dragon, Works Connection, Atlas, Rekluse, Amsoil/Mathis, Yoshimura, Engine Ice, St. Louis Tattoo, TZR, Mika, BigO Tires, IronTribe, PRL, SunStar, Braking, FCA MX, LYD MX, Bolt, Novik, Acerbis.