January 24, 2018

Motorcycle adventures – Places to go on a Motorcycle – Motorcycling destinations – or our preferred term – The Bucket List. Call it what you will, these are places to go, people to meet and things to be getting on with. Essentially … Life is short, so ride the damn bike!

Owning a motorcycle and not being aware of the Isle of Man, is perhaps akin to a fish not knowing about water. Nonetheless, on the off-chance that there is someone reading this who isn’t aware of any of the Isle of Man events, here is the deal.

You have the IOM TT Races, the Classic TT which is part of the Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling but still referred to by many as the Manx Grand Prix, the Pre-TT Classic, the Post TT races and the Southern 100 races to choose from. Then there is the Ramsey Sprint, Jurby Circuit, the Isle of Man Trials competitions, Motor Cross, Grass and Sand racing. In short, the Isle of Man has something for everyone, no matter how you like your motorcycles raced.Confessions of a Born Agian Biker - IOM TT Course

The Isle of Man TT races first ran in 1907 and with the exception of wartime and the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak, the races have run every year. Originally held on a “short” course of just 15 miles, the current Snaefell Mountain course came into use in 1911. The Mountain course has varied just slightly over the years, growing from its original length of 37.4 miles to the current length of 37.73 miles (60 KMs), but essentially it is the same open road course. The only section of the course that isn’t open as a public road for the rest of the year, is the small loop past the Isle of Man Governor’s Residence (Governor’s Bridge).

The TT and the Classic TT races are time trials. The riders start at 10 seconds intervals and race the clock, as well as each other, over a set number of laps. It is possible for the winner, the rider with the fastest time for the distance, to be the last rider to finish. However, as the faster riders, those who have raced the Isle of Man before and set competitive times, start first, the winner normally comes from the top 10 or 15 starters.

The start/finish line and the paddock area are in Douglas, which is a highly compressed hive of activity during race and practice weeks. Conversely, if you travel out onto the circuit before the roads close for racing, you will find numerous places, and numerous collectives of like-minded motorcyclists, to watch the racing with.

The Father Confessor and the Venerable Brother Clifford can both attest to the friendliness of the spectators around the track, having been invited to partake in an impromptu picnic, created by people sharing their supplies for the day, while watching from Douglas Road Corner.

The Southern 100 started in 1955 and  uses a 4.25-mile road course known as the Billown Circuit. The club organises 3 events each year:

  • The Pre TT Classic which as the name suggests is for classic racing machinery. The Pre TT Classic normally run in the week before TT Practice week
  • The Post TT Meeting is held on the Saturday after the Senior TT race. Despite having spent 2 weeks racing at the TT, this event often attracts many of the top riders.
  • The Southern 100, held over 4 days in July. The demands of the Billown Circuit are different to those of the TT and it is that challenge that brings so many of the riders back to the island for this event.

Motorcycle racing on closed public roads is permitted on the IOM by an Act of Tynwald (the Isle of Man parliament) and is, therefore likely to continue for as long as people wish to race. To remove the permission to race would require Parliment to remove their approval. In 2018 a new management company, Vision Nine, is scheduled to take over the organisation of the TT races, with the objective of “… further raising the profile of the IOM TT on the world stage.”

With numerous events going on, the process for visiting the IOM is well organised. Such is the popularity of the events though you will need to plan well in advance. During race week at the TT for example, the ferry companies are taking bookings for next year’s event. Reservations for accommodation often roll over from year to year. There are options for camping, “Glamping” (glamorous camping) and the homestay option is becoming more and more popular. Further details for ferries & accommodation can be found on the official IOM TT or Southern 100 websites and the Homestay Community page on Facebook is a good place to start if that is your preferred option.

If this is your first visit then pre-registration with the ferry companies (Manx Ferries and The Steam Packet Line) via their websites is advised. Alternatively, there are flights to the IOM from several airports around the UK. The downside of flying, is that you can’t easily get  your motorcycle on a plane. It is also worth noting that on most of the planes flying to the IOM, you cannot get your helmet in the overhead locker and unless correctly packed, this is something you would not want going through the airport luggage system.

There are several options for motorcycle hire on the Isle of Man, however, the costs are high compared to other popular motorcycling destinations. Demand will be one of the factors driving the price and excessive insurance costs another. With so many motorcyclists condensed into one spot, at least one of us is going to do something silly. Which leads neatly on to riding on the IOM and the Manx Courts view of speeding.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - De-restriction SignDuring the TT races the section across the Mountain is normally restricted to one-way traffic, travelling in the same direction as the race does. When you pass the de-restriction speed limit sign on the Isle of Man, there isn’t an upper-speed limit. The removal of the speed limit, however, doesn’t equate to a sudden increase in talent and you can guess what inevitably happens next. Mad Sunday, as it is known, is the Sunday between practice and race weeks and at times is not for the faint-hearted or the easily lead astray.

Anything with an IOM number plate and ridden by a IOM resident, isn’t worth chasing. Father Confessor knows this – he tried it. It remains one of his perpetual confessions of shame that the Kawasaki Z400 could keep up with the GS750 he was riding across the mountain. He is often found muttering about “front end chatter” before changing the subject.

Whereas the mountain section may not have a speed limit, the Manx Police keenly enforce the other speed limits. Every year there is a special court set up to deal with traffic offences. There is no waiting for the ticket, summons or paperwork to arrive in the post, you are invited to explain yourself in court the next day and the most likely outcome for notable transgressions is that the Court will ban you from driving on the Island. They even take out radio adverts to remind you of their low tolerance and swift action.

All of that said, at least one of the events on the Isle of Man definitely needs to be on your bucket list. In a similar fashion to Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Pikes Peak or the Dakar Rally, there is just nothing else like it.

Whereas the information on these pages is as correct as we could make it, inevitably things will change. We can’t guarantee that everything will be as we describe, but then again where would the fun be in that