Southeast Motorcycle Touring

Thoughts on the TT and the British Isles

You want a Hamburger? Take my word for it NO you don't! But if you see a Bacon Bap on the menu, well then yes please. The bacon is a lot more than you think it is and you can have it with egg or cheese or sausage or chips(fries) or curry, or all of the above on your sandwich. The chips on the side are eaten with vinegar not ketchup and green peas are also a common side. Especially with fish and chips which are got from the "Chippy". I used to try to amend my order as much as possible to make the food more like I'm used to. Kind of a silly idea really, now I just take it as it comes; much better.

A B&B sign in someone's front garden is a common sight. The rooms are clean with a 50/50 chance that the toilet is down the hall. You're staying in a home but there are several organizations that certify them and it's almost always a friendly atmosphere and you are expected to ask to see the room before you decide. And perhaps more significantly it's run by someone who's proud of it not just an employee. A lot of the Pubs also have a few B&B rooms upstairs. The prices are 20 to 30 quid per person and the breaky is enough to get you through the day. You start with cereal, fruit, toast, juice, and yogurt. And while you're eating that your host is cooking bacon, which is more like a piece of ham, sausage, egg, mushrooms, baked beans, a medium tomato cut in half and fried in a pan, there could be some kind of potato or black pudding, coffee or tea and more toast. After that you really just need a snack or two for the rest of the day. Camping is also common with above average facilities and amenities. I have only ever camped while at the TT, what else would you do at a motorcycle rally. But a stay in a B&B while on the road is a pleasure because you get to know the landlord as well as the other guests. And more than once it has led us to something we would have missed.

The Motorway is pretty much an Interstate with actual lane discipline. Drivers stay to the left, pass on the right and then get back into the left lane no matter how fast they are going, even when there are 3 or more lanes each way. Next down are A roads which can still be dual carriageway but more often than not are two lane with no shoulder and a speed limit of 50mph. B roads will be tiny sometimes more like a one lane with wide spots where oncoming traffic can pull to the side to pass each other. When I say no shoulder I mean a 10 foot hedge that's at the white line. No grass verge, no sidewalk, no curb. Just a hedge, 10 feet high right at the edge of the tarmac. The other side will be a grassy bank that's one or two feet high that starts at the edge of the road with a fence on the top about two or three feet from the tarmac. Sometimes there's a stone wall instead of a hedge. In a village there could be a building right at the edge of the road. When there is a decent shoulder the limit goes up to 60.

We once saw a car literally in the hedge a whole car 2 feet off the ground stuck in the hedge. I don't know when they where planning to get it out but it looked like it had been there all night. The road is usually about the width of ours and motorcycles and sometimes even cars split the lanes to overtake. Motorcycles always go to the front of the queue at traffic lights unless they just can't fit between the cars, I guess that's why tail trunks seem to be much more popular than panniers. There are loads of roundabouts and few traffic lights. But sometimes at the large, busy roundabouts there are traffic lights in the roundabout and at the entrances to it. At that point I think the roundabout is no longer a simple solution.

The road numbering system seems to be pretty much random not like the US where the low numbers start in the NE. and evens are East/West roads and odds are North/South, And Interstate numbering starts in the SW. About the only thing I can see is the more digits the smaller the road, so the A36 could be a 4 lane but the A5013 will definitely not be. If you see a sign that says a town is 20mi away don't think you'll be there in 20 minutes, cause you won't. There will be a myriad of small villages, 30mph zones, roundabouts and speed cameras between here and there. It took me 30 minutes to go 13 miles on the A36 once. You think Great Britten is a small place and if you stay on the motorway you can transverse it quickly enough. But if you get on the lesser roads you can see as much change in the countryside as you do in the States in a third of the distance but in the same amount of time. And then all of a sudden 13 miles seems like a long way away. Most of these characteristics make it a fun and challenging place to ride a motorcycle.

Watching the TT at the Gooseneck

The TT is like nothing else. You can try to compare it with Daytona but there's nothing to compare. To start with you can count the HD's on one hand and none of them are RUB's. Second, everybody is here to watch the races as well as have a rally good time. Senior race day is a national holiday, everybody is off work/school, having a BBQ and watching a race going past the front door. The Manx government mints coins with race bikes on them. There's a fair atmosphere on Douglas Prom with carnival rides and hawkers and fireworks. There is a huge team of volunteer marshals (corner workers) including a large contingent of Boy Scouts, literally thousands of people giving their time to make it all happen. You can go to the pub and watch the race through the window or sit in a church garden having tea and biscuits as you watch the action. Headline Acts like the Chilly Peppers and The Who play the TT. Mods playing for the sons of Rockers with that last one:) There are people who don't like it to be sure but it feels like an institution. It makes the word "Lifestyle" seem very small. And of course the race itself is like nothing else. Since I was 10 years old I have know about the TT. Old B&W pictures in books about the early days of motorcycles like Indian, Harley Davidson, Norton, and Triumph and riders Like Geoff Duke and Mike Hailwood brought home the significance of it to me. I had always thought of it as out of reach, a force that shaped the very bikes I ride but one that I would know about only through the written word or video at best. Well the history is still only in the books but I have stood (and rode) in the same spot as some of those pictures and watched more history being made. An old timer in a pub in Laxy who has been a marshal for probable longer then I've been alive once told me that the riders are heroes. You can take that or leave it as you like. But the TT is a cornerstone of more than just motorcycling. If you like bikes, rallies, or racing, (anyone who's still reading this?) you should find a way to go.