Ride the TT circuit on the Isle of Man – The ultimate thrill for 2020

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The TT. One of the most dangerous racing events in the world. Since 1907, the ultimate in motorcycle road racing.

Nothing else compares. 37 miles around the island, through small towns and over the mountain, at an average speed of 135mph.

Average.

One hundred and thirty five miles per hour average speed for 37 miles.

Down the high street, past the pub and the chippy and the petrol station, at 180mph.

Words like “fearless” and “superhuman”.

Fancy a go? You can ride the TT circuit yourself and it’s a brilliant weekend adventure.

Ride the TT circuit yourself

It’s a public road. Go and ride it. You’ll have to be sensible around most of the island, but the mountain section from just after the Ramsey hairpin all the way to beyond Brandish, is unrestricted.

More than 11 miles of open road over the fastest part of the course.

Gooseneck. Guthrie’s. The Verandah. Bungalow. Windy Corner. Keppel Gate. Kate’s Cottage. Creg-Ny-Baa. 

Some of the most well known bits of tarmac in the world are yours when you ride the TT circuit.

On the Isle of Man, when you see this “National speed limit” sign, it means that there is no speed limit.

Technically.

It’s not a free for all. It’s not the wild west. You must still ride safely, at a speed appropriate for the conditions, respecting other road users, with skill and competence, and an awareness that there is traffic in both directions, junctions, mud on the road.

It’s a public road, not a closed course for racing.

The police are everywhere. Be respectful, ride within your limits. Don’t be a dick.

When to ride the TT circuit

Race week of course is a spectacle and a top draw for bikers. It’s also very, very busy. You need to book a long way in advance. Like a year in advance. When you’re there, every square inch of road has a bike on it.

It’s something you should do, but it’s not the ideal time to ride the TT circuit. Too many people. Prices go up. Accidents happen.

Mad Sunday is the only time you’ll ever get to ride the mountain course with a one-way system in force, but that’s also the time when it’s most dangerous. That’s why it’s called Mad Sunday. Not a good idea to make that your first time riding the mountain.

So when is a good time to ride the TT circuit? There are two things to account for. Events, and weather.

Isle of Man events 2020

The TT runs from Saturday 30th May until Friday 12th June, possibly beyond that if there are weather delays.

There are plenty of other events that would be a bad time to visit if you want a relatively quiet time and freedom to learn and enjoy the road, and to avoid closed roads and packed hotels.

  • 9-11 April – Isle of Man Beer Festival
  • 11 April – Manx Mountain Marathon
  • 24 April – Ride Manx Knievals
  • 15-16 May – Manx Rally
  • 13-14 June – Isle of Man Pride
  • 26-28 June – Isle of Man Scooter Rally
  • 28-30 June – Classic TT
  • 6-9 July – Southern 100
  • 9 August – Isle of Man Marathon
  • 22 August – 6 September – Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling and Manx Grand Prix

There are lots more concerts and festivals and so on. Whatever dates you have in mind, google “Isle of man events” and check what’s happening on your dates.

The ones listed above are the events where there will be road closures and fully-booked hotels. Avoid those dates if you want to ride the circuit and the mountain. For smaller events, book ferries and accommodation in advance and you’ll be alright.

Isle of Man weather

If you’ve watched the TT, you’ll know that the weather on the isle of Man is unpredictable. It can be warm and sunny down at Douglas, and a foggy windy downpour up on the mountain.

It can be a beautiful dry day in December and it can be a horrendous washout in August.

There are only two things you can do:

  • Make flexible, refundable bookings
  • Plan to visit for 3 or more days.

Give yourself an extra day and you have a better chance of getting a decent ride in before you have to leave.

It’s not just rain that will stop your fun, it’s wind and fog.

The wettest months are October to March. The driest are April to September.
The average daytime temperature is above 11 degrees C from April to November.

There are fewer events in July, and the best weather. It is busy, but if you really want to maximise the chance of good weather, July is an option.

There are gaps between events in April, May, and August. The end of May in the run up to the TT is a very popular time, but the end of April and the start of May is a tempting little gap.

September is a good shoulder-season option. The schools have gone back, regular tourists are thinning out, and the weather through into October can be very good.

Which bits to ride

It is definitely worth riding around the whole circuit. You have to stick to the speed limits, but go early in the morning for a traffic-free run. Seeing first-hand the roads through Kirk Michael, Crosby, Ballagarey, Glen Helen, Sulby and so on, will give you a totally different appreciation for what the racers are doing.

The mountain is the draw. You can ride it both ways, but from the Douglas end you can instead turn back up the A2 coast road and cruise all the way back round to Ramsey.

Thiere’s a speed limit on the A2, but it’s a nice ride and it breaks you out of the speed high you’ve been on, calms down your riding, and gives your bike a breather.

There are great little cafes in Ramsey, and of course you’ll have to at least stop for a coffee at the legendary Creg-Ny-Baa and watch the bikes.

Don’t forget to visit Conrods coffee shop on Parliament Street in Ramsey, owned and run by Connor Cummins.

How to ride the TT course

There’s something you really need to understand before you go to ride the TT circuit: It is not a race track.

There’s no speed limit over the mountain, but you are not on a trackday. It is not a closed road. There are cars coming the other way. Those cars contain tourists with their kids and the local people who have to tolerate idiotic bikers all year round.

Ride with your own safety in mind but also ride considerately so that the locals don’t start calling for speed limits. Consider it a privilege to be able to ride at speed, and give other road users time and space and patience.

If a “slow moving” car gets in the way of your perfect lap, don’t flip them off and rev your engine. That would make you the dick. Very much so.

The average speed of traffic over the mountain is 54mph. They are ordinary people in ordinary cars who don’t want to be buzzed by some knee-down hero.

The police will not like it either.

As you can imagine, the TT brings lots of bikers with visions of making that perfect YouTube video, who behave like total morons, and so the police are ready for you. The Isle of Man has unrestricted roads but a strong police presence and a zero-tolerance approach to people being dicks.

Speed limits are rigorously enforced. Police cars and bikes are fitted with cameras. There are unmarked police cars and police bikes. They’re not just looking for people popping wheelies and dangerously cutting in front of cars, either.

They will stop you if your riding falls short of the standard that would be expected for the speed you are doing. Cut the corner because you’ve gone into it a little bit faster than you thought, and they’ll pull you over and have a word about your riding skills.

Get your knee down around a bend and then have to stand it up and hit the brakes because there’s something around the corner or because you’ve started drifting wide, and you’ll be in for a stern talking to.

Away from the mountain, break the speed limit anywhere by even 1mph and you could be in trouble. Have a small number plate, loud exhaust, illegal tyres, a poorly maintained bike, and they will stop you.
Be without insurance or a licence and your bike will be seized and you’ll be taken to court.

Get a driving ban on the Isle of Man and you won’t just be walking home, you’ll be walking when you get back home too, because there is a reciprocal agreement with the UK. Obviously, this means if you are banned in the UK you are still banned at the Isle of Man.

Might sound obvious, and yet people go over there thinking they can ride with no licence and no insurance.

It should go without saying, but don’t go near your bike if you’ve had a drink, not even half a shandy.

By the way, behave, ride sensibly, and the police will be very friendly. Many of them are bikers and they’re just as big a fan of the TT as you are. They’ll happily have a chat about bikes and tell you what’s the best pub to go to.

Travel tips for riding the TT

Your UK driving licence is valid. Foreign licences are usually fine and you don’t normally need an IDP, but check your local travel advice.

You must have insurance. Most UK bike insurance policies will give you at least 3rd party cover, but you should check your policy wording and you should consider taking out temporary comprehensive cover.

The Isle of Man pound and the British pound are interchangeable 1 to 1. Credit and debit cards are taken everywhere and charged in Sterling so there will be no foreign transaction fee. Bring a Manx bank note home as a souvenir, but only one because they are not accepted in the UK.

Travel insurance is always a good idea. Most cheap travel insurance will either not cover bikes or only cover bikes up to a certain capacity.

If you are a UK citizen then you are entitled to free emergency healthcare on the island, but consider what would happen if you did have a serious accident. Would you have cover to pay for repatriation to home?

If you needed to be flown home after suffering a serious accident it could cost you tens of thousands of pounds.

If you are not a UK citizen then you absolutely must have travel insurance and it absolutely must cover you for medical expenses and for riding motorcycles.

How to get to the Isle of Man TT course

Taking your own bike? There are ferries from Liverpool, Heysham (Lancaster), Belfast, Dublin.

Renting a bike? You can take the ferry as a foot passenger, or fly direct from Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Southend, London City, Gatwick, and Edinburgh.

Isle of Man Ferry

The ferry service to the Isle of Man is operated by the Steam Packet Company, which sails from Heysham, near Lancaster, or Liverpool.

From Liverpool the crossing is 2h45m. From Heysham it’s 3h45m. The Liverpool crossing runs between March and November.

Fares can be as low as £100 return and there are frequent special offers depending on dates of travel and length of stay.

Times and frequencies vary throughout the year. Off-peak, there is typical one sailing per day each way between Liverpool and Douglas.

There is food and drink for sale on board. You pay a little extra to book space in the premium lounge, where you will have free non-alcoholic drinks but still have to pay for food.

You can also book at manxferries.

Flights to the Isle of Man

Flybe

Flybe are no longer Avios partners, but could soon join Virgin Flying Club.

Flybe have numerous direct flights from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and London Southend, to Douglas (IOM):

  • From LPL it’s a 45 minute flight for as little as £40 return
  • From MAN, 50 minutes starting around £50
  • From BHX, 1h, £100
  • From SEN, 1h15m, £80+

easyJet

  • Direct from Liverpool, 45m, £40+
  • Direct from Gatwick, 1h20m, £40+

Loganair

  • Direct from Edinburgh, 1h, £130+

This is not on a BA flight number so you won’t earn Avios or tier points.

British Airways

  • Direct from London City, 1h20m, £70+, operated by Loganair

These flights are under a BA flight number and so you can earn Avios and tier points. In economy, you’ll earn between 125 and 1000 Avios, and between 5 and 20 tier points, depending on the fare type and your BA Executive Club tier.

You can book these flights with Avios. Off-peak, a business class return would be 25500 Avios + £1, or various combinations of points and money. For economy, it would be 15000 Avios + £1 return.

You’d have to look at the cash rates for your intended travel dates. The wide variation could make using Avios a good deal, but usually cash would be better on such a short flight.

Isle of Man motorbike hire

Yes, it is possible to fly to the Isle of Man and rent a bike. You can expect to be required to pay a hefty deposit. Most will include comprehensive insurance, and you can even rent helmets and clothing.

You will struggle to find superbikes for hire due to the obvious risk and consequent insurance difficulty.

Where to stay on the Isle of Man

It doesn’t matter where you stay on the island in terms of proximity to the mountain circuit. It’s small enough that you’re never all that far away.

What does matter, is that if you stay somewhere other than Douglas you will find nothing to do at night other than sit in the pub with the locals.

Most hotels are in Douglas, but there are plenty in Ramsey and all around the island.

There aren’t many options for chain hotels where you could earn or redeem loyalty points. The exception is the Best Western Palace Hotel and Casino in Douglas. Best Western have frequent offers – check our current hotel promos page.

With Best Western rewards you can earn Best Western points, or airline miles, with the best options being 500 miles per stay with any of:

  • Miles and More
  • Virgin Flying Club
  • BA Avios

The other rewards earning option is Hotels.com.

A third option is Airbnb.

If you’re a first time Airbnb user then you can get £25 off your first stay of £55 or more by booking through this link.

PS Be sure to ride past the grandstand. You might even get the opportunity for a cheesy photo like this.

Image credits: Hedge skimmer [CC BY-SA] , bebopalieuday [CC BY] , Harvey Milligan [Public domain]

FAQ

When is the TT 2020?

Saturday 30th May until Friday 12th June.

Is there a speed limit on the Isle of Man?

Yes, except for the mountain section. Although the mountain section is unlimited, there are strict laws regarding careless or dangerous riding and driving.

Can you ride the TT circuit?

Yes, it’s a public road all the way around. Only the mountain section has no speed limit.

What currency do they use on the Isle of Man?

Isle of Man has its own banknotes but the British pound Sterling is interchangeable 1 to 1 with the Manx pound. Credit cards will be charged in Sterling. Manx pounds are not normally accepted back in the UK.

Do you need a passport for the Isle of Man?

If you have a UK passport, no, although airlines will require photo ID. Without a UK passport, yes.

Is my insurance valid on the Isle of Man?

Most UK policies will include third party cover only, but you must check your policy wording and should consider buying comprehensive cover. A UK driving licence is valid, and you do need a full licence. You should also consider travel insurance.

Can you rent a motorbike on the Isle of Man?

Yes, you cam though not normally superbikes. See the main article.

Where can you fly to the Isle of Man from?

You can fly direct to Douglas with Flybe, Loganair, easyJet, and British Airways, from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, London City, and London Southend.

How long does it take to get to the Isle of Man by ferry?

The fastest crossing is 2 hours 45 minutes from Liverpool. From Heysham it is 3 hours 45 minutes. The Liverpool service operates from March to November.

What ferries go to the Isle of Man?

The Steam Packet Company runs the ferries to Douglas from Heysham (Lancaster), Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin.

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