Not five miles away from where I sit on a small bench overlooking the beautiful, fly fishing-friendly Injebreck Reservoir in the village of Baldwin on the Isle of Man, tens of thousands of visitors are here for the TT. They fill the pubs, crowd the stores, and rip around the Mountain Course at up to 150 mph on their motorbikes. Yet, all I can hear is the bleating of sheep.
With stunning countryside, 100 miles of coastline, and a fantastic array of fast roads, twisties, country lanes, and off-road paths, the Isle of Man punches above it’s weight in terms of touring by motorcycle. And while I greatly enjoy watching and marshaling the TT races, and never pass up the opportunity to ride the world-famous TT circuit for a few laps each year, it is the transcendent beauty of the inner spine of the island where I find the most enjoyable riding, and the moments of solitude that cement my annual visit to the Isle of Man as an essential part of my motorbiking life.
With 30,000 visitors and 12,000 motorcycles on the island for the TT fortnight, it can get hectic, crowded, and downright dangerous on the roads. But due to the topography, terrain and vast swaths of virtually uninhabited grazing and farmland, the Isle of Man lends itself perfectly to a wide range of motorcycle adventures.
“I always encourage tourists to get off the beaten paths, and discover the wild side of the Isle of Man,” says Theo Fleurbaay, who along with his wife Rose, is proprietor of the lovely and ideally located Arrandale Hotel in Douglas. “Whether on a motorbike or mountain bike, you can find peace and quiet, or hills and thrills, just minutes away from the hubbub. It’s unique and special.”
I couldn’t agree more. On a rented Triumph Tiger 800, the perfect bike for exploring the IoM, I disappear up single-track and sweeping roads that wind through the island’s interior, across fields, forests, barren hills, and gorgeous glens.
The Isle of Man Ordnance Survey map is my friend, as it provides detailed outlines of secondary roads and motorcycle-permitted paths. But it’s a small Island, and at some point you’ll find a friendly farmer to point you back to the coast. Castles, churches, farmsteads, ruins, 12th century graveyards, and stunning, absolutely spectacular coastal vistas greet me along the way, and I shut down, take off the helmet and breathe deep every 20 minutes or so.
A sandwich and soda in the tank bag provides fuel during a stop at a picnic site, where I encounter Dorothy and Burkhardt from Germany, in matching Belstaff outfits, he astride a BMW R1200R, and she on the first R Nine-T that I have seen in the wild. We exchange pleasantries, acknowledging the special nature of the place and the moment despite the mayhem down on the circuit. They are two of a total of 12 other vehicles I pass during three hours and 75 miles of back road and single-track riding, (one of them, incongruously, a matte red Ferrari Spider on a rutted cow path) despite the thousands of motorcycles, cars and vans on the IoM for the TT fortnight.
The Island is rightly proud of its motorsport heritage with the world famous TT and Manx Grand Prix Races attracting thousands of visitors to Manx shores each year. And I am happy as can be to partake in all that. But the most lasting memories I bring home each year are of exploring the Island on the beautiful quiet country lanes and empty back roads of the Island’s interior and coastline. Don’t tell your friends …