The IOM TT; it’s the biggest and best road race in the world, so why doesn’t everyone sign up for it? Well after racing there since 2016, I think I’ve figured it out. Not everyone’s got what it takes. Here’s a few of the things you are going to need if you want to line up on Glencrutchery Road…
This is the first thing that needs addressing. I’ve heard too many people saying things along the lines of “them IOM TT racers are crazy” or “you’ve got to be mental to race on the Isle of Man”. And I completely disagree. In fact I’d go as far as to say I think the opposite is true. By that I mean you actually have to be fairly level-headed. Sensible enough to respect the course, respect the enormity of the event and be prepared to do your homework. TT racing isn’t for crazy cats; when the foolhardy race at there, they don’t come back.
The TT was something that I’d wanted to do for years. But I waited until I was old enough and sensible enough to go there with the right mindset. I spent hundreds of hours studying the course, watching onboard videos and flying round the place in a hire car’ Lap after lap after lap. You have to realise that the IOM TT isn’t somewhere where you can run before you can walk. It can (and usually does) take years to get anywhere near the front. Know your limits and build your speed gradually, and you’ll have the best time ever; try too hard, and you won’t.
The TT isn’t something that you need to have an Olympic athlete level of fitness to compete in (just look at me), but a decent level of fitness is obviously advantageous. What’s more important than general fitness, though, is bike fitness. The more time you can spend on a bike leading up to the main event, the better. You only have to do six days of road racing to qualify for a Mountain Course license (and you’ll have to pass a medical, too), but the more you can do the better. If you can do some real road racing, like the North West 200, before the TT that’s perfect. But even short circuit stuff will keep your mind sharp.
And it’s always worth trying to get a bit of motocross and enduro riding in too, if you can. But for Christ’s sake, don’t break your legs. As previously mentioned, if it’s your first TT you need to learn the course, and properly; if you don’t, you won’t enjoy it, and it’ll be nothing short of dangerous. Make sure you’re fit, make sure your focused, and make sure you’ve got all your eggs in order at home; you don’t want any distractions whilst you’re on the island.
There are a few ways you can do this part, but it makes the most sense to ride a bike that you are most used to riding at home, be it a Supertwin, a Supersport bike or a Superstocker. Whatever bike you choose, you need to do as much riding on it as possible. You want to be completely at one with it. Not only does it need to feel like ‘your’ bike when you’re riding it, it’s important that you and the people round you know the thing inside out so that when you’ve had a few nights of practice and you start getting up to speed, you’ve got a good idea of the direction you want to go with its setup. It’s also handy when you need to fix things that have snapped, or fallen off your bike; which leads me onto my next point.
The TT course is like nothing else on the planet and it rattles things loose that you’d never think possible. I’ve seen fairings fly off, footpegs bent double and snapped steering dampers at the TT, and not from crashing. You’ll want thread-lock on everything that you possibly can, and lockwire on anything that you can’t. And don’t try and save a few quid by using cheap shit from China, you’ll regret it. Also don’t forget a 24 litre fuel tank and a nice tall windscreen.
Personnel and Infrastructure
If you’re thinking of racing on the IOM TT, you’ll no doubt be halfway there with this already. You’ve probably already got a good sturdy awning or gazebo, all your tools, your tyre warmers, a decent sized van, a caravan or a camper to eat and sleep in, all that sort of stuff. It’s the people that you need that are the hardest to come by though.
Realistically, you want three extra people with you at the IOM TT because when the racing starts they’ll be your pit crew; one on the fuel, one on the visor, and one to pass you a drink. Or if you’re feeling really flush, one to do a wheel change. It helps if at least one of them (preferably all of them) are pretty switched on with the spanners, too. And if that’s someone you can trust to build you a safe and reliable bike, then that’s even better. It’s just one less thing for you to worry about. Finding someone prepared to take two weeks off work to help you live your dream is as difficult as it sounds, so don’t be surprised if you need to offer a financial incentive, to get the people that you want.
The sky’s the limit with this one; you can spend every penny you’ve got and more, if you really want to. But let’s talk about what you’ll need to spend. First of all, a decent spec TT bike, whichever class you enter, is going to set you back £10k at least. OK, maybe a bit less if you want to run a fairly standard, very uncompetitive Supertwin. Realistically, probably nearer to £20k, if you want something that’ll hold its own down the straights. My advice would be to take at least two bikes, for a few reasons. Firstly, you’ve got the opportunity to do more riding. And secondly, you won’t miss an evening’s-worth of practice if one of the bikes develops a fault; you can just jump on the other. So there’s £20k-£40k to start with.
If you get nice weather and not too many cancelled sessions, your tyre bill could be anywhere between £1k and £3k. And you’ll use a lot more fuel than you’d expect; between £500 and £700 if you have a good run. Then you need to get there, which means handing over a grand or so to the Steam Packet Company. That’s without crashing, or blowing your bike up, and it’s without feeding and watering the help, which soon adds up. I’m not going to add it all up though, because it’ll make me cry, I’ll let you do that. But whatever it costs, it’s one of the most incredible, unforgettable experiences in the world. And it’s without a shadow of a doubt, worth it.