BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’.
Getting to the TT by plane is simple. The flight is short and almost always eventful (small planes, often with propellors, lots of wind and rain blowing sideways on arrival) and you can usually book seats quite late (compared to the ferries anyway). But…being on the IoM without a motorcycle is like going to work on your first day without your trousers. Even if you can get a hire car, you’ll spend all week in a queue being swamped by bikes. There’s nowhere to park in the towns (because bikes have all the spaces) and nothing to do when the racing isn’t on.
Going by bike – any bike – is a massive part of the TT experience. Early morning laps, late evening laps, exploring the rest of the island to find the best viewing points and smartest ways to get around when the roads are closed. Or simply just being there, part of the crowd, helping to make the event. There’s a lot more to the TT on a bike than Mad Sunday. Without a motorcycle, the TT is only ever half as good.
Even if you have a week of amazing weather like we had in 2018, there will be times when there’s nothing to do. Waiting for the racing to start, waiting for the roads to re-open, the never-ending ferry journey and delay in the terminal because the ferry home is still in Heysham waiting for the storm to subside. TT week is a perfect opportunity to read all those books you bought and never got around to. Away from the racing exploring and making new friends from far-flung nations, there’s a lot of time to do nothing too. It’s the noisiest, most stimulating and memorable relaxing week you’ll ever have.
A map of the Island
Because it’s much more than just the TT course. Taking some time to get your bearings and find the cunning routes in and out of Douglas and Ramsey in particular makes a huge difference when the roads are closed. It also lets you get access to the more remote, but less well-known vantage points and get away from them too when you need a pie and a poop.
The Isle of Man isn’t part of the UK or the EU – it’s a self-governing British Crown Dependency with its own parliament, government and laws. This means that you don’t get automatic access to free healthcare through your EHIC card, but UK residents can take advantage of a reciprocal emergency healthcare agreement. However, repatriation is not included as part of this agreement, so the Isle of Man government still strongly recommends adequate insurance is in place.
So if you’re travelling to the IoM from the UK or beyond, you still need travel insurance to cover medical emergencies. Your bike insurance will (or should…check your policy) cover damage to your bike or a third party, but your medical needs are not fully covered.
Watching the TT is stunning. If you’ve never done it, then you should…absolutely…it’s a must. If you have been before you’ll know that without a radio the TT is impossible to keep tabs on. Races are broadcast live and the experience is about 1000 times more exciting if you have access to an aeriel.
Apart from the racing, an ear to the radio will let you know of road closures, especially on the mountain circuit, which, sadly happen all too frequently during TT fortnight. It will also let you know what the weather is doing on the Mountain course.
An alarm clock
Everyone on the Island on a bike will want to do an early morning lap. Most think that early means 6am, but in a good week of weather you can be earlier than that and still find a fog-free mountain. Don’t expect to have the roads to yourself, don’t ride like a dick in the speed restricted areas and if someone comes past you riding much, much quicker, think before you go chasing after them – it might be a racer running in a motor (wouldn’t be the first time) or making some adjustments.
A phrase book
At some point in the fortnight you will have a close call with a foreign rider. Mostly they just get it wrong, forget where they are or get giddy. Don’t be cross – we’ve all done the same thing when riding abroad. Instead, learn a few choice phrases in German, Swedish, Dutch and French and surprise them by calling them a ‘son-of-a-flatulent-manx-wallaby’ in their own language.
A book on self-control
At some point you will also have a close call with the local constabulary. On the whole the police on the Island are friendly, helpful and wanting you to enjoy your stay. But if you’re riding like an idiot, they will want a word and, if you behave like an idiot, they’ll nick you. If you spent last night reading your ‘Observers book of not being a dick’ chances are you’ll laugh it off and be on your way with a cheery Manx wave. If not, don’t be surprised to get arrested. And don’t try the old trick of talking in German (see phrase book advice above), because the local Bobbies have been known to augment their ranks with a few Polizei comrades, such are the numbers of German TT fans present each year.
A tool kit
It’s not hard to damage your bike on the IoM. Could be a daft topple coming off the ferry, could be a drunken halfwit knocking it over, might even be a bit too quick into the Verandah as part of your Connor Cummins tribute act. Whatever, you’ll be glad you brought some tools, some cable ties, gaffer tape and a puncture repair outfit. If you are planning on ‘doing a Connor’ you might want to bring a parachute too.
A copy of Island Racer
There’s a huge amount of info around the TT. And not all of it makes it to the mainstream press or websites. BikeSocial tries to fill our site with interesting, original features in the run up to the TT and we try to keep our social media buzzing too. But for those moments inbetween, there’s a publication called Island Racer, which is separate to the official TT programme, put together by genuine TT enthusiasts and always worth a read. www.islandracer.co.uk
Not for the racing, but if you’re staying in Douglas or Ramsey, you’ll need them to get some sleep. Especially if you’re planning on getting up at 5am for a cheeky lap.
Also for riding. If you’ve never had the pleasure of riding on unrestricted roads you’ll be surprised how noisy it is. Ten minutes at 100mph is enough to cause permanent hearing damage. Seriously, ear plugs not only protect your hearing, but allow you to concentrate better and ride faster, better, for longer.
It’s the Isle of Man. It will rain. You know this, so be prepared.
And 30 minutes after it rains or when you reach the other side of the Island it will be blazing sunshine.
There’s nothing like the TT and, for many people it becomes an addiction – an annual pilgrimage. But it is also expensive and not always easy to arrange. So make sure when you are there, you grab the memories in case you don’t get back for a while. Practice taking photos of the bikes as they come past, and get your eye in for the races. Imagine the thrill of getting your own amazing shot of Hickman, Harrison or Dunlop in full flight. That pic above your mantelpiece the one that you took. It takes time to get your eye in, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it.
A detailed timetable of what’s going on
There’s an awful lot happens in TT fortnight. Some of it will be of no interest, but the IoM puts a lot of effort into keeping visitors entertained. Get yourself a guide, buy the local paper and check the pubs for smaller, local events. The TT is motorcycling’s craziest festival – period - and you should go with an open mind, a fat wallet and the intention to make the absolute best of it.
Below: Ready to go!