We’re sitting outside a café in a small Spanish town, “Tres cafés por favor” says the familiar voice of MCE British Superbikes star Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.
It confuses me for a second, we’re so used to hearing Shakey talk in his usual cheeky southern-chap Kent accent that I hadn’t even contemplated he’d be able to speak better Spanish than I could understand. He continues to order food for his two children, Zack and Lilly, again in perfect Spanish.
As the kids tuck into their chips and chicken nuggets, I pause for a moment to think. Not that long ago, this bloke won a record fifth British Superbike title and now he’s sat in an unassuming Spanish café ordering his kids something to eat while wife Petra is out for a run in the hills. Back on full-time Daddy duty.
“Since winning the title I haven’t really done anything special,” he explained. “We’ve not been anywhere, done anything, we’ve just been planning and looking forward to getting out here.”
By ‘here’, he’s referring to their holiday retreat on the North Eastern Spanish coast where he and his family spend almost every school holiday without fail.
“After the season ended we took the kids out of school for a couple of days so we could make this a ten-day trip, as when we come out here during the race season it turns in to a bit of a training camp! When we spent six weeks here in the summer every day was a balance between myself going out and doing anything from two to six hours on the push bike and Petra going out and doing god knows how many miles running in the mountains. This time, now we’ve got the championship boxed off, it’s a lot more relaxed and chilled out.”
'These are the only people that never judge me'
It’s not hard to see just how chilled out Shakey is. When we arrived in his town, we met him at the local skate park where he was playing with Zack (8) and Lilly (5) on scooters. It was everything you’d expect, Dad showing the kids how it’s done, the kids in fits of giggles as he nearly falls off and then, of course, the tears and sulking when one of the kids slips off while the other, fulfilling their obligatory duties as a sibling, laughs and pokes fun.
“These are the only people that never judge me. They are the only people I don’t have to impress and they are the only people I want to make happy,” he tells us.
Having first raced in 1996, Byrne has been around the block a few times in his 20 years on track. When he won his first BSB title in 2003, he was both young and carefree – something he thought gave him the edge on his older competitors.
“When I was coming through the ranks in Superbikes, I’d look at the likes of Hizzy and John Reynolds – the guys who were older than me with kids and families – and think ‘how can they be as focused as I am? I had no mortgage, no bills and no other worries, all I wanted to do was succeed.
“But when Petra and I first had Zack, I realised what having kids really does for you and it’s the days when things don’t go so well that it really makes a difference. No matter what has happened, when I get back to the motorhome, the kids are pleased to see me. They don’t care if I finish first, tenth, 20th or whatever.
Despite having already become the most successful British Superbike racer in history, Byrne has just penned a new two-year deal to continue racing in Britain – something he enjoys as it doesn’t interfere with family life.
“The thing with BSB is that it really suits having a family, apart from that they are a bit anal about taking kids on scooters!” he laughs. “I like my life to be chilled out, and in racing BSB I can always have the kids with me, but I can also be at home to put them in bed on a Sunday night and then get up and take them to school. It works perfectly.”
Not just a holiday...
While the post-championship trip is a way for Byrne to chill out with Petra and the kids, this doesn’t stop him training and working towards his ultimate goal of winning even more British Superbike titles.
“I don’t train any more or any less than I ever have, but I probably train a bit smarter,” he says. “I understand what I need and how I need to feel on my race bike and my way of achieving that feeling is my little routine. I don’t need somebody telling me to do 20,000 chin ups and 15,000 press ups and whatever else to be fast on a motorbike. I need to be in a good place mentally, and my family and my life in general puts me in that place while the physical exercise I do takes care of the physical demands of racing a Superbike.
“I like cycling a lot, cycling around here in 24 degrees with such beautiful views, seeing the sea and riding in the mountains is what cycling is all about. Riding around in Kent when it’s five degrees, pouring with rain and blowing a gale isn’t quite so much fun so over the winter in the UK I’ll do two or three longer, gentle runs and then more intense stuff on the turbo trainer at home.”
While most of his training focuses on pedal power, Byrne, like many other racers, admits it is essential to get that horsepower fix through the winter.
“I do like to keep fit by doing a bit of motocross, but I actually bust myself up quite badly this time last year. I over-jumped a jump slightly, landed hard and badly broke my leg. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it at the time as the deal with Ducati was just happening, but I don’t mind telling you now that walking around the NEC show two weeks later was uncomfortable!
“But at the end of the day, Superbike racing is a dangerous occupation and there’s a very high chance of getting hurt at some point or another. You could argue that you don’t need to put yourself at any more risk by riding a motocross bike, but ultimately we need to ride bikes. I’m fairly tempted to ask Ducati for a road bike for the winter so I can maybe pop down to Spain and just ride bikes on tracks. There’s nothing other than my family and kids that I love more than riding motorbikes anyway, so spending as much time on them is good for me!”
For the full, exclusive interview - check out the latest issue of MCN Sport, available online with free P&P here.
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