Anecdotes of Freedom: The Isle of Man TT Races

Isle of Man TT Racer. Photo Credit AgljonesBy Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

“Without Speed there can be no thrill.”

Freedom comes in many forms. Its essence it engenders the liberty to seek and achieve what we crave and value. A society that fosters and encourages freedom retains for itself the rewards of innovation and happiness. Freedom is not limited merely to abstracts enumerated on paper such as statutes and constitutional promises of control of government. It is the willingness of a government and a society to permit itself the natural rights we retain, that we may pursue our own goals.

I present for you a perspective on freedom, the freedom to seek thrills and challenges in the form of high speed motorcycle racing.

Many certainly identify with the “need for speed”. Surely geneticists might eventually discover once and for all if this is a product of nature or nurture. For some the trait manifests itself in career and recreational choices such law enforcement and racing.

For the individual driver in motorcycle, car or boat races participation is the reward, not just the trophy or prize. It represents the continuing drive to achieve skill and opportunity to challenge one’s self toward the perfection of driving skill while navigating the risks and costs. In professional and to a lesser extent recreationally this freedom to race provides not only the driver but hosts the vicarious pursuit of enjoyment through material support or fanfare for many others similarly interested. Even spectators can experience the thrill through watching on-board cameras or television broadcasts, and identify or motivate themselves to pursue a similar goal.

Freedom inspires!

In our example today we have the Isle of Man TT race, as described in part from its Wikipedia article:

“The International Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) races are an annual motorcycle sport event run on the Isle of Man in May/June of most years since its inaugural race in 1907, and is often called one of the most dangerous racing events in the world.[2]

The Isle of Man TT is run in a time-trial format on public roads closed to the public by an Act of Tynwald (the parliament of the Isle of Man). The event consists of one week of practice sessions followed by one week of racing. It has been a tradition, perhaps started by racing competitors in the early 1920s, for spectators to tour the Snaefell Mountain Course on motorcycles during the Isle of Man TT on “Mad Sunday”,[3] an informal and unofficial sanctioned event held on the Sunday[4] between ‘Practice Week’ and ‘Race Week’.”

The races are certainly not for the faint of heart by any means. Most years result in injury or fatality of some its riders. Casualties and such are tragic for anyone. And while not to dismiss such losses, pragmatically it is unfortunately a requisite cost of freedom. We need to accept that perhaps it is in part from these races that others may live…through what we can learn from mistakes.

The motorcycles and cars of today are vastly safer than those a century ago. This fact is so self-evident it requires no explanation. The racing profession and recreational sports led to great bounds in vehicle safety for those even of ordinary and general use. Racing cars and bikes represent the extreme of performance and technology. Vehicles behave differently at high performances and flaws in design often do not manifest or present themselves at ordinary speed. Furthermore, the vicarious nature of recreational participation in motorsports, in mimicry of professional events provides a marketplace for new design and technology that benefits nearly everyone.

With regard to the TT races, the Isle of Man fosters and sanctions these events through legislation providing the playfield and forum. As a result the island receives word-wide fame and income for its citizens. We can sometimes fully appreciate freedom through an understanding of its absence. The promotion of liberty and freedom by government in my view actually promotes wider expression of these rights. It is also equally the case that to fully appreciate the blessing of liberty, one must occasionally suffer the constraints of its deconstruction by politicians and government.

We need to ponder how in many other locales the rise of the Nanny State usually stifles freedom. An arbitrary ruler or legislator might simply decide the risk of one person being injured or the motorcycles being too loud mandates a ban on any form of race within a jurisdiction. Surely “one child might be saved” if we defer to the catch-all excuse of politicians to capriciously ban anything, but costs or losses of opportunity will we in the end suffer?

We can relegate ourselves to accepting a fifty-mile-per-hour maximum highway speed limit, wimpy 50cc motorcycles, and live among no imperative incentive to improve safety or performance. We might be safer in our walled-in world but we surely are not living to our full potential as drivers or risk takers. Life is inherently risky if one is permitted liberty. But if we are not allowed to take risks we do not learn how to manage such risk and the potential for injury can actually be greater in the end.

Being a professional or amateur racer is beyond the availability of many, there are still ways to participate in such freedoms.

If one is so inclined, and has the means and opportunity, the experience of the Autobahn in Germany is highly recommended. Many outlying stretches of the highway offer unrestricted speed. The Germans provide drivers with exceptionally well engineered and maintained pavement and the course gives a fantastic driving experience when conditions and weather permit. But be so advised that of paramount importance is that a person should not attempt to drive beyond their training and ability. Having freedom also includes the cost of the responsibility to yourselves and others to be fully cognizant the experience and the nuances. Everyone on the road owes everyone else the respect for each others’ wellbeing. You will have the opportunity to improve your driving skill and understanding. You will be a better driver as a result of an often enjoyable time.

So I invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy part of the freedom racing has to offer:

In our culture–and probably most other cultures in our world for that matter–who garners our acclaim and admiration the most? It is often the brave and the skilled. We need more of such individuals in every society. Freedom is our best benefactor and guarantee.

By Darren Smith

Photo Credit: Agljones

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

15 thoughts on “Anecdotes of Freedom: The Isle of Man TT Races”

  1. Racing in the Isle of Man TT race is safer than riding a bike on an L.A. freeway between the car pool lane and the left lane. Definition of an eternal optimist, the person going between traffic on a bike on the freeway

  2. Darren………..Your posts are always so interesting and well-researched. I have never heard of this race……and on the Isle of Man!
    The first and last time I was a speed demon was when I was in college in Oklahoma in the ’60’s. I found myself driving 80 miles an hour on the Turnpike. I thought I was going to pass out! Didn’t know a car could go that fast…


    I happen to live on a very famous thoroughfare in the heart of Hollywood. Unfortunately my street is a favorite route of motorcycle enthusiasts; especially on weekends.

    Several times per weekend, I will hear passing motorcycles thunder so loud they trigger auto alarms up and down the block. No biker’s ‘freedom’ justifies such a nuisance! I think the nanny sate should legislate noise limits on motorcycles.

  4. The best I have done is about 122 mph in a 1959 Pontiac station wagon, with three two-barrel carburetors. It got about 5 miles to the gallon, I have had Benson’s experience of hitting air. Today, I do not have that deathwish. 😉

  5. Silver State Classic is run on Highway 318, an excellent 90 mile stretch of road that starts about 120 miles north of Vegas.
    I’ve driven it dozens of times; been lucky a few times; was on that road just before the race and saw lots of the participating cars on the highway, surveying the course before they closed the road for the race.

  6. BMW 900 really could do 105 but not much more after getting the heads adjusted to compensate for the change in gas in the early 80’s. Hate to think what ethanol did that engine and others.

    The next was coming off the Green Springs back down to Ashland, Oregon in a 150 mile pedal event and wearing out the brake pads on the hairpins. One of preparation events for RAAM or Race Across America where I worked up to the 300 and 500 mile qualifiers but not the big one. They only took the top ten

    A different kind of speed and the last was winds gusting to 45 on the run from Mag Bay to the tip of Baja Sjr with following waves on one quarter and and swells from some long forgotten storm on the other the other. Part of the preparation for a

    One long zig zag down hill run to SW and another to SE just in time for the morning whale show. off Cabo San Lucas. One storm jib for most of it. Speed? Who knows. Joy of living? Not to be missed slalom on my twin keel Westerly. Never thought the skills on the snow would come in handy on the water.

    I still live on a boat full time but the deeds of yesteryear are slowing down as the current age tells me “you are not 18 anymore” so it’s time to enjoy hiking while forcing back thoughts of the inevitable

  7. Darren just flew to the top of my admiration list. Bravo, Darren!

    I’ve owned about 75 motorcycles. An acquaintance of mine named Wade Boyd has ridden the Isle of Man TT race about a dozen times. He has also won multiple side car championships. In more recent years he stripped the body work off his Yamaha R1 and converted it into an oval dirt track racer, and has won the amateur class at the Sacramento Mile. See his YT videos for the latter.

    It’s a hoot seeing a once-road race replica bike with big chunky tread winning dirt track oval races. His inline four weighs about twice the average competitive single for that series. Wade’s bike makes about 150hp v. the single’s 65hp (tops).

    During the first few laps the fastest singles get a good lead, maybe a 1/4 track length or more. It takes Wade a while to settle in and warm up his tires and suspension, after which he starts picking off riders, passing each one faster than the one prior. After he takes the lead, his front wheel is in the air through most of the straights. I’m sure he never gets past 3rd gear (with street gearing his 6n speed bike tops out around 60mph @ redline in first gear).

    In one of the videos the members of other race teams moan to Wade’s friends that Wade’s bike is “cheating” (of course it’s not). One of Wade’s friends replies, “Switch bikes and see what happens.” If they swapped bikes Wade would win by a bigger margin. Man handling a 150hp 400+ lb street race replica around a dirt oval would be impossible for someone used to a 225 lb/60hp single.

  8. I once rode in an Alfa Romero in a pedal-to-the-metal ride for a short distance on the autobahn just outside of Darmstadt on a Sunday morning with no traffic. That was the fastest I have ever gone that close to the ground. The gentle curve up ahead appeared to be at a right angle until the driver took his foot off the throttle and I was propelled forward towards the dash.

    Used half the tank in a few seconds of pushing the air out of the way.

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