Monday, May 28, 2012

It's the Isle of Man two-wheel madness parade!

The Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle races are held every year during the last week of May and the first week of June.  It's one of the oldest - and also one of the most demanding and dangerous - motorcycle meets on the calendar.  Wikipedia notes:

The future of the TT is always in doubt with regards to ... safety, especially "Mad Sunday" when any member of the public can ride the mountain section of the course which is open one way from Ramsey to Douglas. The TT races are extremely dangerous because of the high speeds on very narrow, twisting streets, roads and lanes flanked by stone walls and even buildings. Between 1907 and 2009 (at the end of [the] 2009 TT races period) there have been 237 deaths during official practices or races on the Snaefell Mountain Course.

There's more at the link.  Bold print is my emphasis.

The TT demands astonishing levels of skill from participants.  Average speeds of over 120 mph are common on the almost-38-mile course, with top speeds approaching 200 mph recorded at some points.  Here are two video clips to show you just how demanding (and dangerous) the course is.  I highly recommend watching both in full-screen mode.

The first is a short aerial view of Guy Martin on his Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike.  Note how his speed is so great that he outpaces the camera helicopter on more than one occasion!  The aircraft can only keep up with him by 'cutting corners' between bends.

Next, here's an eighteen-minute driver's-viewpoint look at the entire circuit.  Note how fast the road signs, spectators and landmarks flash by!

I enjoyed many years riding larger bikes of the touring variety, culminating in a BMW R100RT . . . but you wouldn't get me aboard one of those high-performance two-wheeled demons if you gave me all the gold in Fort Knox!  I know my limitations!



mostly cajun said...

In my younger days, maybe...


Will said...

Essentially the longest length racetrack in the world. Bit more than 37 MILES, if memory serves. Trying to learn that well enough to push teh bike at the limit the entire time is near impossible, I suspect. You just can't get enough track time at speed to learn it as you would a regular closed course track, since it IS a public road.
With all the stuff lining the "track", you keep a bit in reserve, as far as handling goes.
The clue to this is seeing how the bike moves around. Generally, when you push a vehicle to the edge of it's handling envelope, it gets "loose" in some fashion. Slipping, sliding, wiggling, twitching, bouncing, etc...

As a big name roadracer put it, if it's not handling like crap, you're not pushing hard enough.

That line that defines the edge of it's envelope may look very narrow, or very wide, depending on operator skill and experience, equipment variables, surface conditions, etc... And that's from the operators perspective, which can be seen by spectators to some extent, depending on their own experience and knowledge.

I would have loved to run that race. Money kept me from it, until I timed out age-wise, and then had a stroke. (they have a max age for first-time racers there, no matter what your experience) Had to give up riding entirely.

Will said...

BTW, you might find the books by Keith Code to be informative, especially if you still ride. He looked at, and taught, the mental aspects of roadracing. Much of this directly translates into being safer on the road.

"Twist of the Wrist", "Soft Science of Roadracing"

Frankly, doing a track day, or taking a beginners race class, is one of the most important things to improve your safety on the road.
The #1 thing to learn is that unless you are dragging a solid part of the bike, you're still not cornering as hard as you might need to someday.
I've watched so many riders run off the road, thinking they were going too fast for the corner, and they were WRONG!