Always wanted to see the most legendary of real road races? This is the KTM BLOG´s pocket guide to the Isle of Man.
Speak to any racing fan, regardless of how many wheels are involved, about bucket lists, and you will find the Isle of Man TT is on just about everyone.
The 37.73 mile ‘circuit’ is made up from pure public roads and the Tourist Trophy celebrates its 110th birthday in 2017. In a world that increasingly has to bow to more risk aversive events due to appeasing health and safety rules, the Isle of Man TT stands alone in its history, present and future.
This race isn’t exclusive only to the motorcycle community as it is open to everyone. What makes it unique is the close access, the open paddock, the emotions and the very real danger. Unlike most racing these days, spectators aren’t kept from the action behind tires, barriers, and bars. Hedges and the roadsides are your grandstands, just inches from the riders. Let’s put it into another perspective: The lap record, held by 13-time winner Michael Dunlop, stands at 16 minutes 53.929 seconds. Around a lap of almost 40 miles his average speed was 133.962mph. We repeat – average speed …
Due to its incredible challenge, the TT offers one of the most diverse cross-sections of racers and race fans you can find; riding around the island you’ll see everything from KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R to full dress Harley Davidson Road Kings – every pocket is represented.
Ahead of the annual TT fortnight beginning on May 27 and concluding on June 9, we’ve pulled together a quick guide to one of the best bike festivals on earth!
There are two ways onto the IOM; by boat or by plane. If you are coming with a bike this year, then you need to book with Steam Packet pretty quickly. Although last minute reservations are possible. Avoid booking on the website, instead, call the company, and they will find you any available space. You can expect to pay around £100 as a foot passenger and up to £300 with a bike or car. Prices do vary.
Located in the middle of the Northern Irish Sea, it can get a little bit rough on the waves so immobilize all your security alarms for the crossing – please! If you have a bike on a trailer or in the van, remember this too! The crew working on the ship are well versed in securing bikes to the deck. So relax and let them do their jobs. However, you may want to leave something over your seat – like a piece of foam or jumper – as occasionally the process can leave indents when strapping down.
Heading over by air is often quick and cheaper than the ferry and makes more sense when coming in from Europe or further afield. However, it does mean you will be on foot when you arrive, and this can make getting around the island a little more complicated. Rental cars soon book up and taxis soon add up. Forget about a bicycle unless you’re a Tour de France hero (Mark Cavendish is a local).
Where To Stay?
Residential B&B’s will give you the most authentic stay at the TT and families will have the best local knowledge and there are some exclusive hotel stays. However, you do need to remember that a lot of these places are booked up a year in advance. Camping is the heart of this event though. Pick one of these for the best viewing and amenities.
Silly Moos, Ramsey. Close viewing of the races and plenty of sockets for charging phones. The site is dog friendly too.
Quarterbridge TT Campsite, Douglas is great for first timers. Right in the heart of the action. Plenty of facilities and a bar. Viewing is great here however, it isn’t going to set your heart on fire so get out and explore the rest of the circuit.
Glenlough Campsite is situated 3 miles out of Douglas and gives access to the Manx Heritage Trial, a nice walk which starts at the Quay in Douglas and takes you all the way to Peel.
For the TT Festival, you can bring a camper or caravan over. However, you will need a permit from the Isle of Man Government. Steam Packet will let you on without a permit but won’t let you off without one! Details can be found here.
Rules of the Road
Rules you should be aware of include speed limits. Through the island, you will find speed restrictions of 20, 30 and 40 mph and the local police don’t mess about during the TT two weeks when it comes to speeding fines and a good telling off. They want everyone to be safe and go home.
No Speed Limit?!
However, there is no national speed limit. This means across ‘The Mountain’ you need to be prepared for bikers to be reaching speeds of 200 mph. It can be pretty scary as you are hitting 150 mph to suddenly have bikes whizzing past you. Keep your nerve and ride to YOUR limits. Mornings, before 10 am, are the best times to ride out. It is best to keep off the main circuit from 3 pm as it gets very cluttered before the practice sessions start. Road closures are highlighted, so you do get plenty of notice. The Mountain is restricted to one way for the whole TT festival.
It’s not called the TT fortnight for no reason. Week one is practice week and this is simply the best time to head out and get to know the island before it gets too busy as, obviously, race week is the most popular.
Practice takes place in the evening and requires extensive road closures and safety checks across the entire 36-mile lap. A lot of work, largely made possible thanks to a huge swathe of volunteer marshals. If you’ve got an understanding boss and the time, it’s also a good chance to get your bearings for race week …
This is all about spectating in the day and having fun in the evening. Gorse Lea, Glen Helen, Blackfield are all exciting to sit in a hedge and feel your heart knocked through your chest as the riders come past. They also give you plenty of fields to set up an all-day spot in.
If you want to see riders getting air, then head to the end of the Cronk ny Voddy straight. There are a few fields here and also plenty of pubs if you walk down into the residential area. Ideal for high-speed viewing!
The Mountain is spectacular. It is also the worst place to get stuck for 8 hours if you don’t have enough food, water, the radio or dry clothes. If the weather is right, get up there and take the whole day. If the weather is bad, ensure you have the right kit to keep you warm, safe and dry!
Hit Douglas for a day, access the paddock for free and watch the Red Arrows over the bay!
Preparation is essential! Don’t just head out and assume you can last 4 hours. The course has been shut for 9 hours before. With no racing and a ton of rain. Think worst case and pack for that.
Top Tips For Watching
Plan your exit route! Accidents happen during race week, and you can end up stuck in one place for up to 9 hours. It’s smart to leave your bike on an exit road then walk to your spot across fields. This means you can escape!
Pack a radio. Manx TT Radio is on 24 hours a day. Most of the course isn’t set up with Tannoys, so if you don’t have a radio, you won’t know what’s going on.
Take plenty of water not just beer! It can get hot if the weather is right and if the course is closed you can run out pretty quick.#
Don’t plan to BBQ in the fields’ course side. You will be asked to put it out. Instead take a picnic, plenty of sandwiches and snacks.
Sort your international data and calls before you leave. Or grab a sim from SureIOM. You will be charged international rates when on the IOM.
Buy a Charge pack for your mobile phone. If you are out all day, comms can get tricky to manage!
Where to Eat
Firstly, head to Peel and get stuck into a Kipper bap! Mad Sunday is a great day to hit Peel as they hold a brilliant festival.
Douglas Quay is full of beautiful restaurants with a slightly higher price tag. Samphire being one of the best. If the Queenie and Lobster Fritter is on, eat that. Queenies on the IOM are the best you will ever eat. Another great place to sample them is Niabryl. The cafe at the top offers delicious food. Waking Ned was filmed here and the rocks provide perfect opportunity to catch your own mackerel!
There are plenty of fish and chip shops on the IOM but the one most locals will send you to is Port Jack Chippy in Onchan. For most, it may involve a little drive, but it is worth it. For those wanting a sophisticated chippy head back to Douglas to the Little Fish Cafe. It’s small but serves up delicious classics. Try the Battered Cod and Chips with a glass of prosecco for £18. A very refined chippy!
The Alternative TT
Probably one of the best places to ride Trials and Enduro, green lanes are aplenty on the IOM so you can head out and follow the tracks of David Knight MBE. They are clearly marked but allow access to horses too. You share rights so be polite and aware. You can take Trials tours of the island which run throughout the festival.
Ditching the engine and heading out on a mountain bike is also a very good idea, it’s awesome for nipping in and out on race week too. There are plenty of routes which will give you some of the best downhill riding out there. Check out these maps from the Manx Mountain Bike Club.
The island is small and doesn’t take more than a day to explore the coastline. There are lots of coves, but the Calf of Man is the best spot if you want to see grey seals. You can also head out on a boat tour or hire a Kayak to get even closer.
The best advice for any TT first timers is to speak to the locals. They are passionate about the festival and are eager to help you experience the TT the best way possible. So get into the local pub, shop or head to the paddock and do your research!
The IOM TT kicks off on Saturday May 27 and wraps up on June 9.