Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018

The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man

You get two rides in one with this 100-miler on the Isle of Man. Not only is it almost a circumnavigation of the island, it’s nearly a lap of the famous TT circuit. But don’t let almost and nearly put you off; this is a fantastic ride with superb sea views and great mountain climbs, and it pays tribute to two sports. The Isle of Man is still part of motorcycle racing culture. The TT races are an annual event dating back to 1907, and are held on the TT circuit, a 37-mile lap, sometimes called the Mountain Circuit, that forms the last part of this ride. However, the island has also played a big part in cycling history, and not just because it’s where Mark Cavendish comes from.

The Isle of Man - photo 1

The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man Week was a festival of cycling with events held all over the island, culminating in the Isle of Man Grand Prix, which was over three laps of the TT circuit, so it was a gruelling race. Some of cycling’s biggest names competed here, including three of the best pro racers ever: Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx. The bike races have gone now; 2003 was the last Cycling Week on the Isle of Man. I’ve saved ‘the lap’ for later. There’s something about riding around an island that’s compelling. This ride sticks to the coast for as long as possible, but I was running out of distance towards the end, and had to take a short cut to the start of the TT circuit, or I’d have gone well over 100 miles.

The Isle of Man - photo 2

The Isle of Man

There are plenty of interesting things to see, including the Laxey Wheel, the largest working waterwheel in the world. It was built in 1854 to pump water from Laxey’s mines, which produced lead, copper, silver and zinc. You have to go just off the route to find it, by going to the village centre then following the signs. Laxey is at the foot of Snaefell mountain, which you climb later and is part of the TT circuit, and a railway runs from the village to the summit. After Laxey you continue north through Ramsey and its magnificent bay, and around the top of the island, which is significantly flatter than the rest of it. There are spectacular views of the Galloway coast in Scotland along this bit. Then you ride down the west coast to Peel. It’s only the fourth-largest settlement on the island, but Peel is sometimes called a city, because the Isle of Man’s only cathedral was built there. Like Peel’s castle it’s made of striking red sandstone, which leads to Peel’s nickname of Rose City.

The Isle of Man - photo 3

The Isle of Man

Peel is also where this ride starts to get hilly, and the climb of Cronk Fedjag from Glenmaye is tough. Another two significant climbs come before you reach the TT course, which undulates all the way to the foot of Snaefell. It is hard cycling, and seeing and experiencing the terrain makes the fastest lap on a motorbike of 135 miles per hour even more incredible. The road summit of Snaefell comes just after Bungalow station at 422 metres, and from there it’s all downhill back to where you started in the Onchan suburb of Douglas. Snaefell’s summit stands almost 200 metres higher than the road. It’s possible to catch the electric tram from the station if you want to go up and have a look at what locals call the Six Kingdoms. They say that on a clear day you can see the Isle of Man, Wales, Scotland, England, Ireland and the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Isle of Man - photo 4

The Isle of Man

Start at Onchan Head and follow the A11 coast road east then north to join the A2, where you turn right. Follow the A2 through Laxey and Ramsey, where you switch to the sea– front road and then join the A10 to ride round to the Cronk. Turn right and left in the Cronk, then right to Orrisdale. Turn right onto the A3 and then join the A4 in Kirk Michael.  Follow the A4 south-west to Peel, where you turn right onto the A1 and left onto the A27. Go through Glenmaye, where the Cronk Fedjag climb begins. Near the summit turn right onto the A36 and descend to Ballagawne. Turn left onto the A27 to Ballabeg and right onto the A7 to Ballasalla.  Turn right at the first roundabout and follow the A5 to the A24 roundabout just outside Douglas. Turn left onto the A24, right onto the B32 to Union Mills, and there turn left onto the A1. You are now on the TT course. Turn right at Ballacraine onto the A3 and follow this road to the A14 junction on the Sulby straight. Turn right, climb over Snaefell and descend to Onchan Head.

The Isle of Man - photo 5

The Isle of Man

Start + Finish. The Isle of Man: Douglas.

Getting There. The Isle of Man: Douglas is the Isle of Man’s capital and main port. There are ferry services from Heysham, Liverpool, Belfast and Dublin. There are also lots of flights to Ronaldsway airport, which is ten miles south-west of Douglas.

Bike Shop. The Isle of Man: Eurocycles on Victoria Road.

Cafe. The Isle of Man: Feegan’s Continental Cafe.

Local Delicacy. The Isle of Man: Peel kippers.

The Isle of Man - photo 6

The Isle of Man

 

“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells

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