Siddhartha Lal, “Fast Freddie” Spencer, and Aspi Bhathena spend a day following the hallowed route ridden by IOM TT competitors and return with an extraordinary tale of a singularly splendid ride.
There is no perfectly shaped part of the motorcycle and never will be, but when you come as close as these instruments take you, remarkable things happen, and you go flying across the countryside under a power that would be called magic if it were not so completely rational in every way.
— Robert M Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
This thought sits perfectly on us as the team at Bike India decide to rustle up something special and magical for our 14th-anniversary special issue.
Picture this: A meet-up on a tiny island between England and Ireland. A legendary place which for over 100 years has been a sacred land for motorcyclists — a land of heroes — driven by the independent spirit of the island.
The Isle of Man (IOM) is known as the Mecca of motorcycling and has its own captivating story to tell. It boasts of a rich history of trailblazers astride their mechanical beasts that grant them a place far above lesser mortals. To honour the greats like Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Joey Dunlop, John McGuinness, and others, we bring three motorcycling legends together on these iconic roads.
Let’s introduce you to the geniuses:
The Champ: “Fast Freddie” Spencer is one of the greatest motorcycle racers and the only one to win the 250-cc and 500-cc world championships in the same year. Now he’s back at the MotoGP helm as the chairman of the FIM MotoGP stewards’ panel.
The Creator: Siddhartha Lal has turned the fortunes around for Eicher Motors. He introduced several modern motorcycles that transformed Royal Enfield, making it one of the most sought-after biking brands globally. And, above all this, he is an avid motorcyclist.
The Critic: Bike India Editor Aspi Bhathena is a difficult man to impress. He has been around for a while and has tested a spectrum of motorcycles right from raw two-strokes to modern machines packed with electronics. Since he has raced at the Isle of Man TT twice, this is like a “homecoming” for him.
They are riding the retro-cool Royal Enfield Continental GT 650; a bike which we have ridden in Santa Cruz (USA), then closer to home in Goa, and now we take it a notch higher — on the most demanding and historic racetrack in the world…
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As the three meet at the IOM, Aspi points out that it’s going to be a special day since they would be riding a historic motorcycle at a historic place. Freddie adds, ‘I was looking forward to riding Royal Enfield bikes as we were talking about the company’s history. Riding and developing a motorcycle is all about passion. It’s this passion and history that brings us together. So, when you bring that to the Isle of Man, then it’s a great day!’
This incredible Mountain Course is carved out of the island’s public roads. Our three heroes kit up and get ready at the start-finish line — excited and raring to get a taste of the iconic 60-kilometre track. They are the first to ride the new Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 café racers on this legendary racetrack as a tribute to motorcycling brotherhood.
Starting off at a cautious pace, the riders get familiar with the retro machines, the track, and the remarkable excitement in the air which can only be experienced on these island roads. As they quicken the pace, the three riders relish the thrill, at every corner. And there’s no shortage of it, with nearly 200 turns on the course. Every section is deeply steeped in history and the riders encounter each one of them — Bray Hill, Quarterbridge, Ballaspur, Cronk-y-Voddy, Gooseneck and the Guthrie’s Memorial S-turn corner, named after the six-time Isle of Man TT winner, Andrew James Guthrie. They take a much-needed coffee break to soak it all in, share experiences, and get their heartbeats back under control.
Sipping a cuppa, Freddie reveals, ‘For me, coming to the Isle of Man is always special. The average racing speed here is almost 135 mph (217.3 km/h), that too with two hairpin turns!’ Siddhartha is quick to add, ‘Now that I see up close what goes on here… the condition, the road, the environment… it’s just crazy. It’s absolutely gorgeous to ride here. So far as I am concerned, this is the perfect place. To think that during TT races the average speed is over 200 km/h… and I couldn’t find a spot where I would have liked to do those speeds (laughs). It’s the most hallowed space in the motorcycling world. Being here and riding a motorcycle is very exciting.’