Not everyone will know this, but bike racing fans are way better than any other type of sports fans. Or certainly better than any I’ve ever come across anyway. “In what way?” I hear you ask. Well quite a few ways… let me explain.
It never ceases to amaze me just how in depth the knowledge of some bike racing fans are. I’m talking anorak levels of knowledge. Not only do the vast majority of spectators at any given bike race event know exactly what’s going on at all times, they know everyone on tracks kid’s names, and what bike they’re riding. And a great many of them also know what bike they raced last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. You’ll quite often hear people discussing races that happened 40 or 50 years ago with Barry Sheene or Giacomo Agostini; remembering unbelievably specific details about circuits or sponsors.
I’m not saying other sports fans aren’t knowledgeable when it comes to their favoured sport. And I know there are anoraks in every walk of life. But there seems to be a disproportionate amount in motorcycle racing circles, and I think it’s great.
When you go to a football match, everyone’s in their team’s colours. They’ve got matching scarfs, hats, pencil cases, you name it. And if wearing you’re team clobber is a sign of support (which I’m sure it is), football fans would be up there with the most supportive fans in the world. But whilst football fans are often immensely supportive to their chosen team, many seem to hold a venomous hatred towards the opposition. And I don’t think that’s very sporting, and it’s ungentlemanly.
Bike racing fans are different. Though the stands and grass banks at any race circuit may similarly be swathed in a patchwork of colour, as they show support to their favourite teams and riders, very few hold any negative feeling towards any of the others. In fact I can’t remember ever hearing any hatred. That’s why I think bike racing fans are some of the most supportive in the world.
As well as being supportive, they tend to be rather non-violent. I’ve been to watch quite a few different sports live, and there’s quite often a scrap in the stands at some point. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s darts, the Olympics, or football (sorry to keep picking on football), people seem to love beating each other up.
It’s very rare to see that at a motorcycle racing event. In the hundreds of bike races I’ve been to, I can’t remember once seeing the fans fighting. I’ve seen plenty of fights in the gravel traps between the racers, and the odd punch up in the paddock when some team mechanics have fallen out, but it’s never the fans.
Dawn ‘till dusk
When you go and watch some bike racing, you tend to be there all day. Or all weekend. It’s not a two hour commitment, like some sports. I’ve seen blokes rise before the sun just to get their camp chair in their favourite vantage point, and not leave until the very last rider in the very last support race has crossed the finish line. He’s got his brolly in case it rains, his flask of tea, and box of sandwiches; and he couldn’t be happier.
In fact for plenty, it’s their annual summer holiday. And if that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is. I know people that make their way to the Isle of Man from the other side of the world every year to watch the TT races. It costs them two days sat on an aeroplane and thousands of dollars, but they keep doing it, because they love it.
I think one of my favourite things about bike racing fans is the fact that they always seem to be there to enjoy themselves. It doesn’t matter if their favourite rider didn’t win; in fact he (or she) could have come last, or crashed, the fans will still have a good time. And if they’re hanging around, which plenty of them do, they’ll party through the night, with cold beers, BBQ’d burgers, and stories about that time they went to watch the Motorcycle Grand Prix at Donnington in the 90s.
So that’s why I think bike racing fans are the best sports fans in the world. Because they know their stuff, they want to support anyone who’s having a go, they don’t want to fight each other, they’ll spend all day out in the cold if they have to, and they know how to enjoy themselves. Maybe there are fans of another sport somewhere in the world that are better than bike racing fans… but if there is, I don’t know it.