I spent ten days at the IOM TT. In a tent. I mention the tent because for me, spending one night in a tent is an endurance. So ten? Makes me damn proud.
I have been clinging on to this pendulum between two things. Life and death. Been to the TT? you will know what I mean by this statement.
I've never felt so alive. Exhilarated, humbled by human compassion, excited, free. Yet so delicately close to death and the realisation of how, in a gentle blink of the eye, the most precious of commodities can end. Life.
With one swing, Michael Dunlop is celebrating a record-breaking lap time. Hutchy is achieving things many couldn't contemplate after having a leg, essentially, fall off. The pendulum swings and in a moment, the families of Ian Bell are facing life without a charming and loving man. A father. A husband. A son.
The main media coverage of the TT focusses on the death. The danger. What some may call the darkness of The Road. The BBC only mentioned the fatalities, no coverage of what Dunlop did. Of Hutchy's achievements. Then I hit forums, full of people calling for the TT to be banned.
It's made me sad.
Of all the races I've attended, the IOM TT is the one I will never forget. In fact, if asked to pick only one more race to attend in my life, the TT would be it. Without hesitation. Whilst the physical machine on machine racing is less than that of the Moto GP due to the starting procedure, the suspense of not always knowing the result until these warriors cross the finish line is no less exhilarating.
I have never attended a race where I've almost touched a rider with my toe because he has leant so far in to the bank I am sitting on. I have never experienced my heart vibrate in the way it does as a Norton flies past at 180mph with its rich, deep, pelvic penetrating scream. Or where I've had to close my eyes because a man is hanging off the back of a motorbike at 170mph, in a vehicle that couldn't drive in a straight line were it not for its side pod companion.
I've never watched a race that injects life through your veins, then 20 mins after its all over, been perched on a Yamaha R1 riding the same route my heroes just risked life and limb on. Or hit a speed I call 'soil your pants speed' realising it was the average speed, across the whole course, for everyone of those racers.
On my second night at the TT, settled into the club house of Peel AFC, the mood was high. Surrounded by men, all of whom represented the different pockets of the biking community, we were laughing. A loud symphony of mildly drunk, desperately excited racing fans. Road came on the TV screen we had mainly been ignoring. A documentary film, narrated by Liam Neeson, about the Dunlop brothers. Joey and Robert of old stock, William and Michael of new. Two of these brothers are dead. Our dirty rabble all immediately fell silent. We remained that way for an hour and forty minutes.
For those who have an opinion on this race, it would pay to see this film. To take you up the first step, on a reasonably high ladder, to understanding why it is so important. Why people do it. How families deal with it. Joey Dunlop, especially, will help you to understand the pendulum.
I was moved that night. I understood it. As did every person in that room. We were united by our passion, compassion, empathy. The differences between us vanished. We were an unlikely group all bought together by life and by death. In that hour and forty minutes we experienced the same emotions at the same time.
This empathy remained through us all every morning and evening. The excitement as a new day began, the quiet contemplation as news of another accident rolled in at night. As spectators we became one. A family. This resonates through the paddocks too. Teams and riders together. For the same reasons. For the same emotions.
Five men died racing in this years events. A figure matched by deaths of people not racing but desperate to taste a little of what their idols experienced on The Road. It seems a lot. It leaves many wondering if this race should be banned? Is it too dangerous?
On average, in the UK, 4 people die every day from driving. Mount Everest has claimed 5 deaths this year and far more in its lifetime than the IOM TT. Fascinatingly there were more deaths involving the use of vending machines (13) last year, than there were in this years races.
The point about life is that humans are curious. We don't want to sit still. We don't want to stare at the same circular existence as everyone else. We are split into two camps. Those who want to do something that makes them feel alive. Those who want to see something that makes them feel alive. Whichever side of the camp you sit on, we, as humans, crave that sensation of life and of living Pushing our limits. Our discoveries. Be that through flying to the moon, sailing around the world or by sitting astride 250bhp of motorcycle and riding to the edge of human boundaries and beyond. Sadly, successes only come through failures. And in most adventures, for most warriors, the failures when chasing life are simple. Death.
More people walked away from this IOM TT with life pumping through the core of them, than came away with death clinging on to them. We held on to the pendulum and saw with our eyes the reality of failure. But my word, we were rewarded with the heart exploding punch of life.