I hate sayings like, "The trip of a lifetime" "if you are going to go to one race, make it this one" etc etc. It speaks to the lack of adventure which plagues many people. Another line of thought you often run into is "You want to go the TT, you have to plan years in advance" I am here to tell you that is fucking bullshit. It is not that hard.
Like many, I grew up watching the TT on TV, or rather on VHS tapes. I grew up in Canada, a country which, as you might imagine, does not televise the TT. We would get the odd clips on Speed, actually called Speed-Vision at the time, on a great show called Motorsports Mundial, if anyone knows what the fuck mundial means, let me know. My main source was from my Uncle Chris in the UK. He would tape the races for me, then bring the tapes over in his suitcase for me. One year he taped over the Senior, so I got a tape of the Grand National, I was beside myself.
Like many, for years I said, "I am going to go to the TT one day," but I had been constantly put off by a lack of time, funds, and foresight, because of course you need to plan years ahead. I sat at my desk day dreaming, reading about the upcoming NW 200, I decided to check hotwire.com for hotels, I thought, obviously there is nothing, but fuck it. To my amazement there was accommodation, I would have to jump around between a few different hotels, but it could be done. I booked it. Fuck, now I need a ferry, that must fill up a year ahead...Now, this part does, to an extent, ring true. If you wish to take a vehicle on the ferry a last minute booking will be tough, as a foot passenger, it is no problem. I have shown up at the terminal, the day before race week, and walked on. If you want to ride over, or even worse, drive over, you might be in some trouble if you want to book late.
Alternatively, you can fly over, which is what I did this last year, and hire a bike or a car on the island.
I hired a bike, from Manx Motorcycle Hire, who rents out vintage BMW's, this last year. I got a 1974 R60/75 and it was an absolute blast, I booked it less than a month out. They rent them out of the Evomoto shop in Ramsey. I can not say enough good things about these guys, they were great, easy to deal with, and had a great sense of humour. Riding a vintage bike has its quirks, but as I was with my girlfriend, it was a far better choice than the alternative, a 2014 KTM RC8R. It took us everywhere we wanted to go. A vehicle is not a must, but it makes the trip so much better. A lot of the action is in Douglas, or at the Grandstand/Paddock area, but the best parts are afar. The cost of the bike for twelve days was roughly five hundred dollars, plus a sizeable cash deposit.
For 2016 I booked my accommodation through Air B and B. This is the real game changer, new listings are constantly being added, and the rates are incredible. I paid 383 dollars, 25 GBP a night for twelve nights in a private room with shared bath. Hardly inaccessible pricing. Our spot was in Strang, steps from Union Mills. One of the best spots on the whole course in my opinion, but I will get into viewing next week.
The TT is one of the finest sporting events I have ever been to, and I have been to pretty well all of them, save for a World Cup, or Formula One race, that I will rectify this year. The difference is simple, but profound, the culture. Racing superbikes is a big money game, but there is very little to be made from the TT. Sure guys like John McGuinness and Guy Martin have turned it into a great career, but that is far from the norm. The total prize money for the event? A hair under 60000 pounds. The salaries are certainly more akin to you or I than they are to professional athletes. Because of this, the vibe in the paddock, and in the stands is completely different. You do not have to be special (rich) to feel special (gain access). The paddock is totally open. It feels like a local club race. Rarely do you see a team with solid walls on their tent. If you have a question for one of the techs, they are all too happy to answer it, or at the very least, they are fantastic actors. If you have ever been to a MotoGP paddock you will know that the second the fairings come off, the doors close, the curtain goes up, the secrets are hidden. I can think of only a couple of exceptions, Milwaukee Yamaha, who's exciting TT week of 2015 I wrote about last week, see the Michael Dunlop R6 post, and this last year with the Padgett's RCV. I could, and have spent hours simply strolling through the paddock. The top half is where all the big teams are set up. Similar to BSB or MotoAmerica, big haulers, huge tents, pristine working conditions. The bottom, easy up tents, rusty vans, simple set ups, just like you or I would have. The sense of community and comradery is fantastic, without a doubt, it is the highlight of the TT.
This sense is carried over to the fans. Save for the main grandstand, and a handful of others scattered over the course, viewing is free. Pick a field or a hedge, grab some sandwiches and some cold drinks, get comfy, you are going to be there a while. Some spots ask for a donation, almost always for the Air Ambulance, or Lifeboats, and many places offer their famous "TT Tea" Homemade cakes, sandwiches, and of course tea, on offer. Next week I will highlight some of my favourite spots to watch, as well as some of the riders opinions on where they would catch a glimpse.
In short, if you are reading this page you are a motorcycle racing fan, if you have not already gone, find a way to make it happen.