The Widowmaker Goes Hungry

Well, the Isle of Man TT festival is over, and for a change, apparently nobody died.

Like many motorcyclists, I have a love/hate relationship with the TT. The course itself is beyond gorgeous, and I can definitely appreciate why some people call it the “ultimate challenge in motorsports.” Imagine taking your favorite motorcycle down a curvy little county road somewhere in northern California or along the eastern seaboard…through towns and alongside picket-fenced fields…at speeds ranging from 20mph in the tight corners to, oh, 180-plus. Doing three laps around a 37-mile loop, averaging over 120mph.

Wow.

But at the same time, when you race under those circumstances, people die. I generally don’t watch the TT because of that. I hate even the possibility of seeing motorcyclists injured or killed – especially when it might also involve spectators, because the TT is also notorious for having spectators right up next to the track behind little tiny barricades. As former World Superbike champ Neil Hodgson, an Isle of Man resident, puts it (about 4/5 of the way down the page – this is a part of an interview series that starts here), you have to be a little crazy to really race the TT. You have to be willing to risk death to be fast. Neil says he just doesn’t have that last little bit of craziness in him. Me either.

It’s always a disaster waiting to happen, and I’m always waiting with mixed feelings for someone to finally ban the TT. But it still has this mysterious pull for everyone. And I admit to occasionally watching an onboard full-telemetry lap of the TT (here is part one, here is part two), sweating while I watch because SURELY this guy’s going to die…and at the same time, somewhere deep down inside, I think “boy, at half that speed, that would be one beautiful bike ride…”

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2 Responses

  1. I’d never quite put my finger on it before, but this is exactly why I stopped watching the TT.

    When I was a teenager, I wanted to break the sane barrier (it’s like the sound barrier, only stupider) on a superbike.

    Now, I can’t watch the TT without feeling sick to my stomach. I can actually feel death waiting on every curve, and I just don’t have the will to watch kids taunt him anymore.

    Definitely. The shadow of death hangs over the TT. No matter what else you may think about it, that cannot be denied.

  2. I can’t watch horse races for fear that some body or animal will be injured (dog agility shows also stress me out, as I have this irrational fear that the dogs who don’t win are going to be beaten by their owners)…I know I couldn’t watch any even nicknamed The Widowmaker.

    My wife and I were fairly well traumatized (her more than me, but she’s got more of a soft spot for animals) by watching that horse get euthanized at trackside during the Kentucky Derby this year. That was horrifying.

    I should clarify, though, that the race is not commonly nicknamed “the Widowmaker,” that’s one I apply to it personally. But it easily could be.

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