Isle of Man’s TT Traditions are Legendary

Andy Cowie has been up on the winner's podium at the TT races on the Isle of Man.
Andy Cowie has been up on the winner’s podium at the TT races on the Isle of Man.

The Isle of Man is famous for its Manx cat…and for Manxmen and Manxwoman who live all over the world. I got a chance to sit down with some of these folks last night at The Secret Pizza, a tiny joint shoehorned into a parking lot in Castletown.

This windy and open part at the top of the mountain is a great place to watch the racers wizz by.
This windy and open part at the top of the mountain is a great place to watch the racers whizz by.

Des Collister, a gent who has lived here all his life and was a fisherman on a trawler for many years, spoke about his excitement at meeting a fellow Manxman in the US.

Like everyone here, he asked me if I had ever heard of the movie “Closer to the Edge,” which is about the TT races.

I had not, but again he joined another person I met and took out the phone to show me a recent crash where a biker slid almost all the way over a cliff and somehow survived. The clip was rare because it’s not often that the helicopter following the 150 mph bikes actually films an accident when it happens. It’s all just a blur for spectators.

I met Andy Cowie, a motorcycle racer who has driven the TT course many times and came in third last year. That’s quite an accomplishment,

The course uses the island's roads, 37 miles long and some of the bikers can do a lap in 18 or 20 minutes.
The course uses the island’s roads, 37 miles long and some of the bikers can do a lap in 18 or 20 minutes.

and after we drove the course and he showed me the hairpin turns and the straight-on 200 mph straightaways, I could appreciate the feat.

It’s just the local roads, blocked off, and roaring with hundreds of superfast bikes, and then it winds its way up into the mountains and the speeds increase.

The Isle began hosting these races in 1907 because they didn’t have any speed limits–and the desolate mountain areas of the course are roads that few people need to drive on for other reasons.

This isn’t a race, it’s a time trial, but the whole island’s population is a part of it and the number of people doubles. People camp in fields and arrange stays with locals and others leave the island and rent out their houses.

I have the TT races to thank for bringing me the Isle of Man because after I met an exuberant Englishman in New Zealand and he told me about the excitement, I had to see it. There is, of course, a lot more here to enjoy, like three scenic railroads, a horse tram that runs along the seafront, and miles and miles of craggy coastline and cozy pubs.

Best of all, it’s full of Manxmen and Manxwomen, who are the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve met yet.

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