A world traveler on two-wheels, Asphalt & Rubber reader and good friend Colin Evans is attending his first Isle of Man TT this year. We asked him to share his perspective on the trip, as both someone new to the Isle of Man, but also as a veteran of the world and riding motorcycles. Our hope is that it will be an informative, yet different, perspective than your typical coverage of the IOMTT. Please enjoy! -Jensen
Sadly I had to leave before the end of the Isle of Man TT festival but, I admit it: I’m addicted and I’ll definitely be back. But why? It’s just a motorbike race and there are lots of motorbike races that don’t require booking bloody ferry tickets a bloody year in advance.
So what’s so special that brings people back time after time after time?
Case in point, meet Nigel and Paul from Wiltshire, who I met on the ferry leaving Douglas. They’ve got sportbikes at home and have been to the TT many times, but decided that this year they’d go cold turkey and give it a miss. Well how did that work out? Like most addicts, not very well.
Two days before the racing they decided they had to go, they got foot passenger tickets on the ferry from Heysham, drove 250 miles to get there, landed on the island with no accommodation, and spent three days sleeping on the floor of the ferry terminal in order to see the races. That’s the pull of the Isle of Man TT.
Then there’s Alan from Carlisle with the Hunter S. Thompson tattoo who hasn’t missed the TT in years. There are thousands of stories like this. I met folks from Limoges, Munich, Sidney, and everywhere in Europe and the UK who had ridden impossibly overloaded sportbikes just to be here and camp by the TT course this week.
This was my first time here but, as I’m leaving, I’ll offer some personal observations as to why this place and this event are so special.
First, this really is a spectacular setting that truly amplifies the sense of speed and danger and excitement. The course provides complete access for spectators; it’s on public roads, and I managed to ride the course four times, so everyone can experience and see what the racers see and feel.
When they race, the riders are within reach, passing trees and walls that give scale to the terrifying speed along a course that is full of imperfections and impossible to fully learn.
They are exposed to danger in ways that are no longer possible in Formula 1 or even MotoGP; I watched the Canadian Grand Prix this week and it was a complete yawn and even the World Superbike from Portugal on the same day looked tame by comparison.
In both these events, the racers are separated from spectators and from harm by hundreds of feet of gravel and grass but, at the TT, everyone knows that the riders are risking their lives in a very real and tangible and immediate way.
The adrenalin is palpable, substantial, and most importantly, the adrenalin is communal; everyone shares a piece of the thrill that the riders must experience in an vicarious animal way.
Second, the event is unique and immediate. It is not one round in a championship where the title will eventually be decided by a complex formula of points at a sterile venue in Qatar months from now. The TT is here, the results are known immediately, and the celebration and honouring of the victors can start now.
There are other motorbike races, but not here, and not on these roads, and not this length. There’s only one TT and you have to be here to experience it; you cannot get from television the smell and the people and the visceral connection to the machinery passing three feet away at 190 mph.
You have to get on a boat and come on a bike. The Isle of Man TT is Burning Man, the Goodwood Revival, the Palio de Siena, or the bulls in Pamplona – it’s the Haj for bikers.
Fundamentally though it’s all about the people and their connection. The riders are all working class blokes from blue collar backgrounds who happen to have a talent for racing and have had their fear sensors surgically cauterised.
They ride bikes that anyone could buy on roads that everyone recognises as being the roads they ride any weekend; the Isle of man could be Derbyshire or Wales or Kent or Oregon.
All the fans on the island can associate and bond with the riders in a very tribal and concrete way; they are their people, with the same taste in beer, the same strong regional accents, who went to the same local schools, and started in the same oily jobs; these are markers that everyone here understands intimately and immediately.
They are not fantasy creatures like Lewis Hamilton off with Kendall Jenner on a yacht at Monaco or David and Posh Beckham; the TT riders are accessible both physically and emotionally. We all think that could have been us.
Photos: © 2015 Colin Evans / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved