Motorcycle Mecca: The Isle of Man TT

Making the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man TT - why you want to go.

| January/February 2012

  • Isle Of Man
    The south tip of the Isle of Man (and the Calf of Man).
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Vintage Bike Show
    The Ramsey Sprints and vintage bike show by the sea.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Giacomo Agostini
    Giacomo Agostini after killing some bugs in the Milestones of the Mountain parade lap aboard a vintage MV Agusta.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • ARE Collection
    The exterior of the A.R.E. Classic Bike Collection building.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • ARE Collection Inside
    The A.R.E. Classic Bike Collection in Kirk Michael houses more than 40 motorcycles, mostly antique British bikes. Lovely.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Peter Duke
    Peter Duke aboard a Norton before the Milestones of the Mountain parade lap.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Two Stroke Yamaha
    Loud but lovely was the sound of this two-stroke Yamaha.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Levis Motorcycle
    A Levis motorcycle at the Ramsey Bike Show.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Guy Martin
    Guy Martin shoots flames coming through Signpost Corner.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Handmade Boat
    How’s this for a nice way to get to the TT? A handmade boat docked in the fishing village of Peel, with dirtbikes on it.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Peel Street
    Though the streets look quiet, Peel, like most of the port villages, has plenty of pubs full of TT fans during the event.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Warning Sign
    Small warning signs remind those who stray too close to the course.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Hillberry Corner
    Hillberry Corner is another great place to watch the racing action.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Steve Baker
    Steve Baker aboard a Seventies-era Yamaha OW31.
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Motorcycle Racetrack
    Isle of Man
    Photo by Ken Richardson
  • Electric Motorcycles
    Mark Miller and the Segway Team MotoCzysz’s electric racebikes.
    Photo by Ken Richardson

  • Isle Of Man
  • Vintage Bike Show
  • Giacomo Agostini
  • ARE Collection
  • ARE Collection Inside
  • Peter Duke
  • Two Stroke Yamaha
  • Levis Motorcycle
  • Guy Martin
  • Handmade Boat
  • Peel Street
  • Warning Sign
  • Hillberry Corner
  • Steve Baker
  • Motorcycle Racetrack
  • Electric Motorcycles

Every self-respecting gearhead has a running list of places he or she wants to visit before the end of the gasoline age. When I was a kid, seeing photographs of salt-encrusted streamliners at Bonneville earned the Salt Flats a spot on my list. Images of Superbikes in the Eighties on the banks of Daytona added the raceway to my list. Seen On Any Sunday? Yup, Baja is on my list, too. And then there’s the Isle of Man TT.

Crossing one motorcycle race off the list

The thing that put the Isle of Man TT on my list was seeing a video of Dave Roper doing a lap of the TT course on the Team Obsolete factory Benelli 350 in 1993. The first time I saw it, there was no voice over, just the sound of the Benelli four-cylinder winding up and down through the gears, the camera looking from behind the bubble with the tachometer bouncing around at the bottom of the screen. Since then I’ve seen many videos and photographs of the 100-year-old TT road course, but that on-bike footage is my favorite.

Watching stone walls, trees, villages and signs blurring past while listening to the rider’s overdubbed recounting of shift points, brake points and general wisdom of the TT course makes it difficult to sit still. I find myself leaning involuntarily and gripping my armrests in an attempt to process the Star Wars-like warp speeds. Watch the footage of Guy Martin doing a lap in 2007 on a liter bike. You’ll do the same. (Go to the Wheels on Reels blog to see this and other IOM racing footage).

In the past, I made excuses why I couldn’t go. But when I heard Dave Roper was going to parade a 1911 Indian for the 2011 event, I decided this would be my year. I have gotten to know Dave over the years at USCRA (United States Classic Racing Association) Moto Giros and events at the races at Louden, N.H., so I called him to see if he had anyone taking photos of his efforts with the Indian. Dave was enthusiastic, so I rounded up a travel partner in friend and gearhead Bill Burke (aka The Minister of Transportation), who had been to the IOMTT three times and doesn’t need much convincing for such a trip.



First things first. How do I get to the Isle of Man TT?

I quickly bought a non-refundable ticket so I couldn’t change my mind. I settled on an Aer Lingus flight from Boston to Dublin, then a prop plane from Dublin to Douglas, Isle of Man, on Aer Lingus’ partner Aer Arann. I bought my tickets in late February and had many choices through the websites of the two airlines. A fellow Bostonian I ran into at the TT bought his tickets in late April using Orbitz, and despite being only about five weeks before the TT Celebration he had no problem getting flights and a place to stay.

This self-governed U.K. island is in the middle of the Irish Sea, so you can fly to Dublin, Belfast, London or any number of European cites and take a plane or ferry there. While at the races we met American Courtney Olive, who stuck out of the crowd because of his rare-in-Europe Aerostich suit. Courtney flew from Oregon to Belfast and rented a KTM 690 Duke from 11-time TT winner Phillip MacCallen’s dealership in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, and rode around Ireland before taking a ferry to the Isle of Man. He said that renting a bike was fairly easy, and once it was lined up, he got the plane and ferry tickets easily online.






November December Vintage Motorcycle Events

Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet and Vintage Ride


Make plans for the 28th Annual Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet on Saturday, Oct. 27, followed by the Blue Moon Cycle Vintage Ride on Sunday, Oct. 28!

LEARN MORE