Island Man

Motorcyclist contributor Mark Gardiner gave up everything he owned to move to the Isle of Man to ride the TT. Yes, he's crazy.

A year ago, Mark Gardiner quit his job, sold everything he owned and moved to the Isle of Man with two goals: to race in the TT, and to write a book that would answer the question, "Why race motorcycles?" What follows are excerpts from the article; part one of which will be published in the upcoming issue of Motorcyclist.

JANUARY 2002: MOUNTAIN 1, MARK 0

I don't have a motorcycle yet, because I arrived on the Isle of Man with only the luggage I could carry. But I have a bicycle.

After settling in for a few days, I figure it's time to begin learning the Course-all 37 miles and 240 bends of it. It's a Saturday, windy but well above freezing. I start off at 1:10 P.M., thinking-based on my pace in training rides in the States-I'll get back to Douglas before dark.

Glencrutchery Road (the main route through the Island's biggest city) runs between the block-long, painted-plywood scoreboard and an oxidized aluminum grandstand. Bray Hill is steep even on a bicycle. There's a traffic jam at Quarterbridge. I turn right and get into more open country.

The road is not wide. It's two lanes, with a shoulder for cycling that ranges from a foot or two down to a paint line. Just past Glen Vine I'm passed by a long line of cars. They, in turn, are overtaken by a couple of guys on bikes-a YZF-R1 and GSX-R, going at least 100 mph. Locals, I guess, taking advantage of good light and dry(ish) pavement to have a thrash around the course. The R1 gets to the head of the line of traffic and pulls into its own lane, comfortably separated from the first oncoming car. I wonder if the GSX-R rider (behind the R1) will hit the brakes and attempt to merge with the cars in my lane, but he stays on the gas, just reaching the head of the line before the oncomers close the gap. No one honks, panics, swerves or jams on the brakes...

Read the rest of Mr. Gardiner's wonderful tale (part I of it, anyway) in the February 2003 issue of Motorcyclist, on newsstands just before Christmas.

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