The TT is special. Very, very special. From the moment you pull on to Liverpool’s waterfront to wait for your ferry you know that you’re entering a different world, a world where two wheels are king. It doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride yourself, all that matters is that you’re here to worship at the altar of motorcycle racing. This is my first TT, and the atmosphere waiting to board the boat is electric.
The first thing that strikes me looking at the mass swarm of bikes on the quayside is just how broad the appeal of the TT is; sports bikes, cruisers, tourers, classics, sidecars, crossers, customs, rat bikes, monkey bikes – the machines on display are just as varied as the nationality of the number plate they’re sporting. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you ride, or where you’re from, the appeal of watching the ultimate test of man and machine across the 37.8-mile island circuit is universal.
As we dock in Douglas there’s a break in the weather and we decide to make the most of the dry conditions and ride a bit of the circuit. You don’t have to ride too far to appreciate just how challenging the TT is, to both rider and machine. TV coverage doesn’t give a true reflection of just how steep, bumpy and narrow the island’s roads are. It’s a thousand times removed from the short circuit racing scene back in the UK – there are no crash barriers and no gravel traps here. There’s no room for error. The roads are bumpy, really really bumpy, the bike’s suspension is working overtime to try and smooth out the ride, and the only protection offered to the competitors are the ubiquitous airbags. They’re everywhere – tethered to the red telephone boxes, lampposts, dry stone walls. You just can’t get your head around how hard it must be to ride a bike that fast around here.
We pull into grandstand area, line the bikes up for some pictures and stretch our legs with a stroll through the paddock area. As we’re walking around the third thing that strikes me is just how accessible the whole event is. It’s the polar opposite of the sanitised MotoGP circus – here it’s about being inclusive, not exclusive. There’s Guy Martin, signing a young girl’s T-Shirt, William Dunlop sharing a joke with a couple of mechanics, Keith Flint laughing with his rider Steve Mercer and Bruce Anstey chewing the fat with a couple of race goers under the Mugen awning. You really can get as close to the bikes, the riders and the action as you like.
Want to watch superbikes roar past at some 160mph just metres away your feet on a grass bank at Cronk Y Voddy? No problem. Want to see the Norton team spannering Cam Donald’s bike? Step this way. Want to check just how firm the front end of a Lightweight race bike is? Go and say hello to MCN’s Adam ‘Chad’ Child.
That’s what I mean about ‘special’, and I haven’t even ridden the Mountain yet…