Monster Energy Yamaha’s Justin Barcia is dealing with the same trouble every other athlete must manage during the coronavirus pandemic: learning to relax and wait when your entire life is built around getting better every day, and then using the results to measure those gains.
There aren’t any results right now, and Barcia, who is in a contract year, has reason to worry. But at age 28, Barcia has become much wiser and more mature, and his perspective has changed. With so much time on his hands, he was able to provide a very deep conversation on a variety of topics. Here’s part one, we’ll have more tomorrow.
Racer X: I ask every single rider this: How are you turning off the, “I have to get better as a racer every single day?” Or have you not turned it off?
Justin Barcia: It is a weird time right now, for sure. When we first found out we were not going racing, I took a little over a week off. Then I did a four-week boot camp which was not that much fun. A lot of training off the bike. A couple days of moto during the week. So that was difficult. Then I took another couple days off and now I’m kind of getting going again on training. So, it’s weird. Definitely trying to get stronger.
What inspired this four-week boot camp? Did somebody tell you to do that?
My trainer, Tom. He thought it was a good idea, I guess! In the long run it would be a good idea. It was normal training. It was definitely some hard stuff on the bicycle and in the gym and things like that.
All the riders say that boot camp is tough. I don’t want fans to get the idea that you guys don’t want to work. When you’re saying it’s tough, it’s because it’s like next level tough, I’m assuming.
Yeah. It’s painful. The body hurts. You’ve got to dig super deep and find those uncomfortable places you don’t want to really go, but it’s good because during racing you have to dig to those places where you don’t want to go. When you go there, you need to know how to handle that. It’s good.
So as far as the general paranoia of being a racer and worrying what you competitors are doing every day, or what you can do to make yourself better, do those thoughts still run through your mind, or are you able to turn that off a little bit right now?
You have to turn it off, honestly. If you don’t, you’ll go nuts. In the beginning, it wasn’t turned off, but I couldn’t do the normal work. I can’t go to California. I can’t go test. The only thing I can do really is work on myself. That’s pretty much all you can do and that’s what I’ve been doing. Obviously I would like to be testing right now and getting ready for motocross, because last year where we were at with motocross with the bike it wasn’t a happy place, so I know we have a lot of work to do, like we had to do before supercross. So, I’m hoping when this quarantine is over, we have time to actually test before motocross, which who knows. It’s up in the air. It’s definitely opened up a whole new life with not racing.
You had praised your team this year for making the bike better for supercross this year, but you haven’t been able to apply any of that to outdoor testing yet?
No, not really. I started on a setting from last year. I do know that I have some suspension coming that the team has built, so I’ll be able to try a few things there. But to get down and dirty pretty much, I need to go to California, and I need to work with the guys, or I need the guys to be here, but that’s not really possible right now, either. It’s definitely going to be interesting when this stuff kind of ends and what will happen.
Right around Daytona and springtime it seems like when people start to maybe sprinkle in some outdoor stuff. So, did you just miss the start of that?
So, we were definitely really focused on supercross. We did make the bike really good in the beginning of the season. Then we searched for a while and got comfortable again. Then the last few weekends we were still kind of searching in supercross for something that I was trying to find, comfort-wise and things like that. Eventually though, the team got approved to have [Ryan] Villopoto do some testing for us. So that was really cool. It took a really long time to get it approved. It had to go, I believe, all the way to the top of Yamaha. But it did get approved. I think they managed to get in a few days of testing, but I don’t think they did it all. I never really heard what went down. Hopefully when this is over RV will get back on the bike, do some testing. But now we’ll be able to go out there and do testing as well. So that was a big step. Last year I had to run through everything and having someone, like Ryan for instance, to run through some stuff before me would cut down my testing time, and that would give me more training time.
No one knows a hundred percent for sure when these races are coming back, but let’s say that it does go June to October or something. How do you manage that schedule?
Yeah, this year was a big year for me. I don’t have a ride for next year. So, this was a super important year. I was doing really good in supercross. Outdoors for me, I’m good at supercross but I like outdoors. That’s how I grew up. I wanted to do really good in outdoors. So, it’s definitely weird now that you have some supercross left and an outdoor season to do. It’s definitely going to be awkward. It’s just weird. It’s all weird! As a racer, when they say, we’re going to race here and now, you need to be ready for here and now because that’s how our life is. So, I’m going to be ready no matter what. If I’m not able to do the testing, so be it. I think all in all, mentally and physically I’m ready for kind of whatever is thrown at me.
Are you one of these guys that’s like super OCD about how all your stuff is laid out? Are you one of those guys where, if your routine gets out of whack, you’re seriously thrown sideways, or are you able to just roll with whatever?
I pretty much just roll with it. Obviously, when supercross stopped it felt really weird and I felt lost for a little bit, and I’m sure a lot of people felt lost. But you kind of just adapt to what’s thrown at you. I’m not really superstitious or anything or need to have a perfect plan in place, but this was definitely a big curve ball.
Do you have a garage or a closet or something where everything is perfectly straight, or are you seriously not OCD at all?
[Laughs] I have certain things. For instance, cars. I like the inside of the car, the outside of the car to be really clean. This might not bother some people. When someone gets in your car and they get out and they slide off your seat and kind of bend the leather in the car. That’s something that drives me nuts! I don’t know why that is. I grew up in crappy old cars, just shit boxes. I don’t know if it’s pride or something and I just don’t want people to slide on the leather. That is something weird that I’ve always been like… But not much bothers me. There are just stupid, little things.
[Laughs] I want to ask about the car thing. I think people see a photo or an Instagram post with a rider showing his cars. Makes it seem like this never-ending collection, which would mean the dude has like fifteen cars, which totals like nine million dollars. We’ve seen you have some cool toys, but do you keep them, or do you sell them?
It’s funny. I went through a stage in my life - I’ve always been obsessed with cars. I’ve loved cars. But when I signed with JGR, it was quite a nice paycheck! I had three or four cool cars. That time went and passed and now I have no cars.
No. I don’t have any cool cars. I have some goals set in place, obviously, where I want to get something, but I got into little VW trucks a couple years ago. My old mechanic, Ben, he was into the VW’s. We got into the little pickups. I have one really nice restored one and I have one I’m working on right now. It’s still in North Carolina. My buddy is doing it up.
Have you thrown your factory bike in the back of one of those?
Not yet. The one I have now is almost like too nice! I don’t want to take it to the track. It’s kind of a low rider a little bit. The one I’m building now; it’s going to be a diesel. It’s on air suspension stuff and it’ll have bigger wheels. I’ll be able to put my bike in it. So I plan on doing some cool stuff with that down the road.
When you’re making a lot of money, I think most people around you would be like, “Hey, man. You work hard. You need to reward yourself. You need to have goals to chase.” Does that work? Or do you almost find it’s the opposite? How do you approach that thing of reward yourself, or don’t reward yourself so you keep hungry?
For sure. I think you should reward yourself. Just like if you were in a normal job and you got a big bonus, you should reward yourself or whatever it may be. I always have goals in place to where if I accomplish those and did that, I will reward myself, but it definitely got out of hand at a certain point. Just being stupid. I don’t regret it. I had such a good time and a lot of fun with the cars. I could obviously have some cool cars right now if I wanted, but that’s not really my life right now. The one thing I did realize, I never had time to use them and they sat in the garage. They were cool to look at and cool to clean, but I never got to drive them, so it was pretty much pointless. Right now, would be a good time if you could drive your car around. It was kind of stupid, but I had a lot of fun.
Like I said, you can’t just total up that they cost this much money, and you threw that money away. You eventually sold them for something—less than you bought them for, but not for nothing.
Yeah. Obviously, cars lose value as soon as you leave the lot, especially exotic cars. It was kind of stupid. You lose a little bit of money. One day I’ll probably be like, I wish I had that money back, but you can’t really look back at it like that. Obviously, I didn’t keep them forever and I sold them.
So, quarantine life for you. Is it just you and your wife? Other people around? Have you not seen other people? How are you dealing with all this?
No. I haven’t seen anybody. It’s just me and my wife and my parents. We’re at our house here in Tallahassee. We drive out to the track. I have my old gym there and the track and stuff, so been able to do that. But no, we haven’t been around anybody since it started. So, it’s definitely been different, but it’s nice. Our dogs are here, and they’re stoked that we’re home. Just isolation pretty much.
But you seem like a social guy. You don’t stop talking, I feel like, all weekend. I think some dudes would say, “Whatever, man. I’m going to watch TV and work in my garage all day. It’s going to be the greatest thing ever. Leave me alone.” I feel like you like hanging out, though!
Yeah! I do enjoy it and I enjoy being around people and riding with other people and training and things like that. So, it’s definitely been a change. Been probably driving my wife nuts, running around the house. I’ve done some projects. The other week I power washed the whole concrete in the back of the house. That took half the day. Just little projects here and there. But definitely my ADD kicks in in certain parts of the day and I’m just like, going nuts.
By the way, you kind of live in that motocross central area. Isn’t MTF [Millsaps Training Facility] nearby, Carmichael’s place and all that?
Yeah. Ricky lives in town. His track is only thirty minutes from here. Plessinger is based here now. There’s quite a few racers. MTF is an hour away. My track is here. GPF’s here [Georgia Practice Facility]. There’s quite a bit of people up there.
Do you still hear people riding or is it kind of weird and shut down?
I’m not sure. By the looks of it, it looks like people at GPF were still there and MTF. I know people are at Carmichael’s. So, I think there’s a group of people at every place riding and stuff. That’s cool.
As you said, it would be cool if you had those cars to drive right now because you have all this time. I’ve actually heard a lot of dealerships and parts people tell me they’re selling more bikes and parts, because this is the best time to get that project done. It’s kind of weird how that works sometimes.
Yeah, I’m sure. Probably selling some bikes and off-road bikes and trail bikes and stuff because people probably have the time. They’re not working, so they can go and ride. You can ride by yourself, which is good. Hopefully the motorcycle industry is going to be all right when this is gone.
You mentioned you’re in this contract year, which you haven’t been shy about. You can drive yourself crazy, because you have no control over anything right now, and you can’t just get out there and earn a new contract. Have you had to take steps mentally to calm down, just control what you can control?
Not necessarily. In life in general I’m pretty happy right now. I’m in a good place. So I’ve learned to just kind of let things happen. All I can do is work really hard, be a good person, and just do the best I can do, because that’s all I can control. At the end of the day, if I don’t get a ride, we’ll just see what happens and let it come. But this has been my best supercross season so far. I won the first race, got on the podium a few times. It’s been a good year. For me, I’ve been ready to win. I feel like this year I’m really capable of that. For the team, I think we were definitely making a building year, for sure, with the motorcycle and some new employees and things like that. So I think next year would be the year for Yamaha to really be in a championship hunt. I think everybody there should be happy and is happy. Hopefully we can continue on.
The Yamaha guys you see every weekend, are those even the guys that you would be talking about with contract stuff, or do contract decisions come from higher up? Are there times you’re looking someone in the eye and wondering if they know something you don’t know?
Upper management, but at the races obviously they know, I think, what’s going on, usually. So, it can get awkward, I feel like, sometimes a little bit. [Laughs] It’s like, “So, what’s your plan? Are you going to tell me anything or what?” I don’t know. I think they probably have some options. So, we’ll just see. Like I said, at the end of the day all I know is I’m interested in this ride. Things have been good. I’ll just keep working and doing the best that I can.
Would have been more freaked five years ago, ten years ago? Are you better at this now?
When I didn’t have a ride last time, I wasn’t putting in good results and I was not in a good place, so it was definitely really difficult. But right now, I’m mentally super confident in myself and I feel like I belong here. It’s not over. I’m in a good place.
I hear this from every racer. It’s not just results on paper or the contract that you have to sign. Really, you just know if you’re riding well and you’re putting in the work. Everyone seems calm as long as they can feel they’re riding well and putting in the best effort. That’s usually the gauge that most riders use—not numbers.
Yeah, for sure. For me, I’m riding good, comfortable on the bike and in a happy place in general, so it’s no stress. You’ve got to let that other stuff come to you. In the past when I left JGR and was without a ride, I wasn’t comfortable, and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t riding good. So, it was just not good.