It’s June. The sun is here, the footie’s over and, for us bikers at least, the TT’s here. For 48 weeks of the year, this quaint little island in the Irish sea is home to financiers, blue rinsers and tax exiles, but for the two weeks that straddle May and June (as well as the amateur Manx GP in August) the island takes on a new complexion. It is a mecca for motorcyclists.
I’m going to say it. If you’ve never been, you really should go. At least once. Really, you should. And I’m not even that big a fan of it.
Barring wars and outbreaks of Foot and Mouth, the Isle of Man TT has been a permanent fixture in the world of motorcycle racing since 1907.
Sure, its global importance has waned since the heydays of the 50s and 60s, when the TT was essentially the British GP. Concerns over safety, the fatality figures didn’t lie, saw the TT lose GP, and then eventually world championship, status but, rather than roll over and die, the TT has done something amazing. It has reinvented itself.
The local government has been very smart, creating a motorcycle festival that could never be replicated anywhere else. Sure, the racing is still there, but in a unique sort of way. The racetrack is almost 38 miles of public roads, closed for the occasion, with riders setting off at 10 second intervals. The TT is racing’s equivalent of climbing Everest, or running the marathon. It is a solitary journey into an individual’s soul. The ultimate challenge for any racer. The top guys are touching 200mph down the straights, and average over 130mph for the lap. It is astounding.
Depending on where you view, watching the racing can be lazy, sometimes boring. But watch at some of the faster places (try the bottom of Bray Hill, if you get a chance) and your mouth will drop at the sheer violence of the racing.
Range of motorbikes
The majority of riders will be mounted on the ubiquitous Fireblades and R1s, but another unique aspect of the TT are the range of bikes you’ll find out there. Nortons, ER-6 Kawasakis, sidecars, electric prototypes from the TT Zero class. This is not homogenous GP racing…
Buy and sell interesting and classic bikes
And while there is a diverse range of bikes on the race track, it is not half as varied as those you’ll find on the promenade. Sure, the GS and GSX-R (or Gixxer as the boy racers like to call them) are in plentiful demand, but you’ll find a real wide range of motorcyclists from across the world make the pilgrimage to the island, on all kind of bikes. All lined up, it’s also a great place to buy and sell interesting and classic bikes.
Entertainment is plenty. Beer, shows, music, stunts – organised and impromptu… Whether you ride a Honda or Harley, Suzuki or Triumph, the TT is one big party.
The spirit of motorcycling
Personally, I’m not a big fan. I detest the annual casualty rate that inevitably grabs the headlines, yet stand back in admiration and rejoice that these brave men and women can still pursue their passion in these nannied times. My middle age means I’m happier with a cappuccino than a can of Skol, but I am still so glad that the TT exists. It encapsulates all that is great about the spirit of motorcycling, wrapped up in a modern package.
Michael Dunlop is dominating proceedings on the roads at this year’s event, so make sure that you catch the action on ITV4’s excellent nightly coverage.
And just make sure that someday you make the trip to the Island for yourself. At least once in your life.