The Real Chiefs of the Mountain


Rachael Clegg
Black Hut, one of Rachael Clegg’s art photographs from her series, Milestones, illustrating the history of the Isle of Man TT. Photographer, Ian Parry/Artist, Rachael Clegg.

It’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m standing on a plinth, naked, 1,400 feet above sea level. It’s freezing and my Indian head dress is seriously itchy. But it’s worth it: The light is beautiful and I’m near the highest point of the Isle of Man TT course.

My name’s Rachael Clegg. I’m an artist, classic motorcycle journalist, and daughter and granddaughter to TT racers Noel and Tom Clegg. Indeed, the TT course is my spiritual home. But we’re not here to talk about that …

The image Black Hut is part of an on-going series of art photographs, Milestones, that illustrate the TT’s 111-year history. Black Hut (which is the name of the location at which the image was shot on the mountain section of the TT course) celebrates one of the most important moments in motorcycle history: Indian’s victory at the 1911 Senior TT and its technological dominance of the mountain section.

Move to the mountain

The Isle of Man TT started in 1907 and initially took place on a fairly flat, 15.5-mile course. By 1911, the event had grown in size and stature, with entries from across the globe spanning dozens of motorcycle marques, from AJS to Zenith.

For the 1911 TT, organizers decided to incorporate the 1,400-foot climb (from sea level) to the top of mystical Snaefell mountain. This ascent would present a huge challenge to man and machine — a challenge that would hasten motorcycle development and profoundly shape its future forever. Indian was already ahead of the game, however, and the 1911 Isle of Man TT was dubbed “the Indian Summer” for good reason: You’ll see why as the story unfolds …

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