The Top 5 Isle of Man Classic TT Bikes

Stuart Barker
By Stuart Barker
Editor of the official TT programme and Classic TT programme and author of 'TT Century: 100 Years of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.' He has also written biographies of Barry Sheene, Steve Hislop, Niall Mackenzie, David Jefferies and Evel Knievel.

This year's Classic TT, presented by Bennetts, will see a mouth-watering selection of rare and exotic machinery taking on the world famous TT Mountain Course.

Here's five of the best:

Michael Dunlop

Bike: Suzuki XR69

Team: Team Classic Suzuki

Riders: Michael Dunlop and Danny Webb

Race: Motorsports Merchandise Superbike Classic TT Race

Since the Classic TT started in 2013, Michael Dunlop has won two out of three Superbike races on this replica of an early 1980s Suzuki XR69. The original bikes were raced by the likes of Graeme Crosby and Mick Grant but these modern replicas are making much more power and lapping around 10mph faster than they ever did back in the day. Based around a 1986 Suzuki GSX-R1100 engine, bored out to 1216cc (the original XR69 had a GS1000 lump) this bike pumps out around 175bhp as opposed to the 130bhp of the original. Overall weight is similar at around 160kg. The technical regulations state that the bikes must be 'period' so there's no quick-shifters, slipper clutches or electronic packages allowed, and the bike's builder, Nathan Colombi, says that results in a pretty fierce ride, "It's a man's bike and there's nobody who can better manhandle it round the TT Course than Michael Dunlop."

Yamaha YZR500 with rider Bruce Anstey

Bike: Yamaha YZR500

Team: Valvoline Racing by Padgett's Motorcycles

Rider: Bruce Anstey

Race: Motorsports Merchandise Superbike Classic TT Race

Bruce Anstey set the 2014 Classic TT on fire when he rolled an original 1992 two-stroke 500cc Yamaha YZR500 Grand Prix bike out of his Padgett's garage and blitzed the Formula 1 Classic TT (now known as the Superbike Classic TT). The team claim this is the most authentic bike on the grid, with most parts – including the frame, swingarm, engine and exhaust – being of early '90s vintage. It makes 170bhp and weighed in at a scrawny 120kg before the team added weight with aluminium parts replacing magnesium parts for more weight and, hence, stability.

Anstey blew away any doubts about reliability by setting a new record lap for a two-stroke machine when her got round the 37-73-mile TT Course at an average speed of 123.89mph. A loose exhaust robbed Anstey of another victory last year but he still finished second to Michael Dunlop, proving that the stroker is a genuine match for any classic four-stroke Superbike, including Dunlop's Suzuki XR69. The two men will go head-to-head again this year on the same machinery. But since Dunlop had technical problems in 2014 and Anstey had them in 2015, this may be the first time we see the duel go all the way to the flag without mechanical issues hampering either rider.
Dean Harrison with the gorgeous MV Agusta

Bike: Kay's MV Agusta 500 Triple

Team: Black Eagle Racing

Riders: Dean Harrison and Michael Dunlop

Race: Bennetts Senior Classic TT Race

How do you build an exact replica of a 1971/72 factory MY Agusta Grand Prix bike without any drawings to go by? You borrow Giacomo Agostini's original bike, strip it, measure it, weight it, draw it, and copy every single part! The Kay's 500 triple, built by Mark Kay of Meccanica Verghera Ltd, is so accurate that every single part is interchangeable with those on Ago's bike. Dean harrison won last year's Bennetts 500 Classic TT (now re-named the Bennetts Senior Classic) on the 500 triple and returns to defend his crown this year on the same bike. And if you want one, Mark Kay will build you an exact replica for £115,000! But while his customer bikes are exact replicas of Agostini's machine, the Classic TT bikes have more power, disc front brakes, and Maxton suspension, just to withstand the extreme speeds encountered over four laps of the punishing TT course. The Kay's MV has a top speed of over 150mph and lapped the course at over 110mph last year so will once again start as one of the favourites.

John McGuinness on the Paton

Bike: Paton BIC 500 8v RU

Team: Team Winfield

Riders: John McGuinness and Conor Cummins

Race: Bennetts Senior Classic TT Race

In three years of trying. TT legend John McGuinness has yet to finish a race on Roger Winfield's Paton 500. The bike is clearly fast though (Olie Linsdell won the inaugural 500 Classic race in 2013 on it and the bike won five Classic Manx Grand Prix races prior to that) and no-one can doubt McGuinness' pace but Lady Luck is going to have to play her part too if the 23-times TT winner is to bag his first Classic TT win. The bike is a replica of Paton's 1968 racer and is still built by the same firm – Moto Paton – that built the original, so all the original drawings are still used and, in some cases, even the same moulds. But the bike has been updated with modern materials and the firm labels it a 're-edition' rather than claiming it is an exact replica. Paton has built no fewer than 27 of these bikes for classic race teams around the world and reliability is usually good, so McGuinness clearly needs to have a word with the Manx Fairies!

Like many of the bikes raced in the Classic TT, you can actually buy a Paton 500. A re-edition of the 1968 racer will set you back around £61,000.

William Dunlop on the

Bike: Honda 500-4

Team: Davies Motorsport Honda

Riders: William Dunlop and Alan Oversby

Race: Bennetts Senior Classic TT Race

While some bikes in the Classic TT are modern replicas of older machines and others (like the Padgett's Yamaha YZR500) are original period bikes, the Davies Motorsport Hondas lie somewhere between the two. They're built around original Honda CB500RR engines from the early 1970s and also feature many original parts but, where parts cannot be sourced, they have been replicated. 'They're mostly original' says rider Alan Oversby. 'In fact, they're probably more original than anything else out there. Original crankcases, barrels, heads, everything - as opposed to all the Manx Norton or Matchless G50's which are all built from modern materials. But the early '70s Hondas are all injection-moulded crankcases and stuff like that so they are quite strong.'

Sadly, neither Oversby nor his team-mate, William Dunlop, managed to complete a single racing lap at last year's event so they'll be hoping for more luck this time around.

Davies Motorsport Honda also sell complete bikes and they're far cheaper than some of the other exotica in the Classic TT field. William Dunlop's actual 2014 race bike can be had for a very reasonable £22,000.

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