Story and photos by Ronald Ahrens
Riding a motorcycle on the Isle of Man wasn’t anything I’d ever contemplated before the call came in early May to go there on a magazine assignment. In conjunction with the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races, Subaru was attempting to set a “personal best” with the 2015 WRX STI. As long as I was going to this rock in the Irish Sea to report on the Subaru TT Challenge 2 on this first week of June, why not join the crowd and do some motorcycle riding?
I arranged with Honda to test a VFR1200F DCT. This motorcycle has a powerful V-4 engine with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, like a sports car. It is big and comfy, with a slightly forward riding position and enough windshield to keep me from being buffeted. After Honda’s P.R. guy showed me the three riding modes—normal, sport, and manual—I shoved off from the Sefton Hotel, in Douglas, where Subaru was lodging the six of us American reporters.
On the road out to Castletown, I greeted the fairies at Ballalona Bridge, lest they feel spited and curse me. The route then took me to Port Erin, where I turned up the small island’s rugged, beautiful west coast to Peel. From there, I cut inland to Ballacraine Corner, a famous turn on the TT’s 37.7-mile Mountain Course.
Because racing had ended for the day, this section of the course, normally known as Route A3, was open to the public. I followed it to the town of Ramsey. Here, the course turns back toward home, climbing over a moor on the slope of 2037-foot Snaefell, the tallest mountain.
With no traffic from the other direction—officials had set it for one-way only—all hell broke loose. Some of the many thousands of riders who come here for the TT fortnight, having traveled to the Isle by ferry from England or Ireland, were also on the road, and they weren’t holding back, so neither did I.
We came into Creg-ny-Baa, the hard right-hand bend where earlier in the day I had stood taking photos. It was only about three downhill miles from there to the pits, where I stopped and tried to imagine what a racer sees and feels.
Finishing up in the city traffic of Douglas was a letdown. But I loved the motorcycle.
And overall, what an exhilarating experience!