My boyfriend races motorbikes.
He actively chooses to ride on narrow, country roads at over 100mph, 116mph average to be exact. All for his own enjoyment.
He’s actually pretty good at it. This motorbike world is still relatively new to me, and I’d be lying if I said I completely get it. When we first met, I realllllly didn’t get it. I couldn’t see the appeal, or how the enjoyment could outweigh the risks. However he loved it so I decided to get clued up about it. I found that the more time I spent surrounded by bikes the more I learnt and started to see the thrilling side of it.
Both Rich and his brother race Norton Rotaries and a Honda 600 cc (I think..anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) at circuits all around the UK and then once a year Rich does road racing on the Isle of Man. To begin with I didn’t have to foggiest idea about what was involved and I’d never heard of the prestigious road race – Mum actually had, along with a lot of other people. Anyway, I was shown onboard videos of laps and watched programmes about the TT. Even after all that, and you’ll have to excuse my ignorance, my first impression was that it was just a load of hot headed, adrenaline fuelled men trying to get a thrill at, sometimes, the expense of their lives.
It wasn’t until I went over to the Isle of Man last year and was thrown head first into the madness that I began to understand. I was and driven around the course and told all about the turns & bends, the gear changes & the apexes. It didn’t take long for me to see it in a completely different light.
Its not without its risks and it’s certainly not a walk in the park, but there’s a lot to be said for those who do it. They have to know every bump, turn, straight, pavement, tree and chicken of the whole course. You don’t just rock up and give it a go…not if you want to be flying around at the speeds he goes at.
Anyway I went over for a week to watch the Classic TT and the Manx Grand Prix.
So the TT is a big festival of motorbikes in May/June. Lots of professional riders go over to tackle the 37 mile long course and try to make it into the history books. It’s pretty infamous and a lot more people know about it than I first realised.
At the end of August there’s another festival. It’s two weeks long and plays host to the Classic TT, which is where older, classic bikes race followed by The Manx Grand Prix where people who are a little bit more amateur can race the course and it can then be used as a feeder for the TT in May/June.
Even though I was nervous about going over at first I ended up having the best, most exciting week! Because I’d been before I knew what to expect, so I was nowhere near as naive and definitely appreciated it all a lot more. Racing began and I saw legends of the TT, not many of which I recognised, went in the pit lane, watched from the start line and waited nervously as lap times, speeds and positions would come up on the website as they went past checkpoints.
^ Ed getting ready for the TT legends parade at Jurby.
It’s impossible not to be supportive after you see how much it means to everyone over there. I’ve watched the boys working hard in the shed for a year. Hours upon hours spent preparing and it all comes down to these two weeks. So of course you want everything to go well..which unfortunately doesn’t always happen. In the Classic TT they race the Norton’s. The boys are the only people in the world who race Norton rotary engines so they’ve pretty popular among motorbike fanatics. The bikes have a pretty distinctive sound – music to bike lovers ears.
It’s a funny, not so little, world full of incredibly passionate people who speak their own little language – which I am in the very basic stages of learning. Throughout the week the Norton attracted lots of interested biker people who would all stand around and talk all things bikes. Sometimes I did glaze over and found more often than not my mind did wonder off. However, I do know the very basic version of how a rotary engine works!!! Proud moment.
Then in the Manx they race a Honda 600 cc.
It’s a massive team effort, with work still being done on days off and pit stops needing to be perfected.
I wouldn’t say it’s a relaxing holiday, but it’s a lot of fun.
The results were in and he did brilliantly (I’m not biased, honest!). After completing 4 laps on the Norton he ended up 19th place. This was all after a rather eventful pit stop, a few disqualifications and a 30 second speed penalty. It was all very dramatic! If you want to know more and keep up to date with all their goings on they have a Facebook page here, so go and give them a like.
Racing on the Honda was mixed (in his eyes). He didn’t quite do as well as he’d hoped in the Junior race, coming in 12th (still amazing, if I do say so myself) but that wasn’t the end. In the final race he pulled out all the stops and came 4th. It was the most exciting, nerve racking 1 hour 17 minutes of my life. He flitted between 3rd and 5th and I could not have been prouder when he came in 4th.
We celebrated and then celebrated some more, it was just brrrilliaaaant.
This meant that the Saturday after all the racing had finished we did nathing. We slept until midday and didn’t get dressed until about 5pm. It was well deserved though.
It’s not all just motorbikes. We got to see a few sights of the island and had many an ice cream.
Regardless of all the results, good or bad, the most important thing is that there were no major crashes so everyone came back in one piece (minus a couple of broken bones).
^They even get a little trophy to take home with them.
For me it’s not the bikes that make it, it’s the people. (Cringe, but true!) I’m invited into Cal and Gary’s home, looked after by everyone and made to feel part of the family. They make the early starts just about bearable!
After lots of 6am starts, cans of Mr Sheen (bikes need to be sparkling) and enough butterflies & adrenaline to last a lifetime, it was all over. Awnings were stripped and the paddock emptied. Everything was packed into the van was like a complex version of Tetris. 2 weeks of everything bikes came to an end and everyone loaded onto boats and planes and went back to wherever in the world they came from.
This world is just something else. I’m still learning new things every day, but I did find myself egging him on to go just that little bit faster, not something I ever saw myself doing! Next stop…TT!