TT3D: Closer to the Edge

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, it should be clear that I love film and video games. But I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely honest. You see, there’s something else. I have this thing for motorcycles as well. I know, it’s bad, but I simply can’t help myself. It certainly doesn’t help that motorcycles seem to have gone entirely out of style. Half of our generation has migrated to scooters, while the rest will regard you with scorn when you harbor a love so dear for anything with a carbon footprint larger than a hairdryer’s. At a small social gathering, you’ll gasp with indignation when I tell you that ‘Yes, I have ridden my bike at nearly 300 kilometers an hour’. To make matters worse, I will probably get a little too riled up when I defend what I consider my free spirit, like a doomed Kowalski, in the infamous Vanishing Point. And even though I’ll feel bad about it later, I won’t hesitate to put on a bit of a show and scream past my appalled mother-in-law. Grinning like a maniac, while the smoke pours from the exhaust of my 16 year old Yamaha YZF750R. Yes, I am a terrible person. And yet, there is a place for those of us who still cling to that twentieth century dream of slick tires, petrol and the open road. It’s called ‘the Isle of Man’.

The Isle of Man is a small island located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. And every year, it’s host to the International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, a completely insane motorcycle race on closed off, but public roads. Which means that, unlike in MotoGP races, there is no run-off area. It’s a very narrow circuit with nothing but hedges, walls, buildings, lamp posts and all sorts of thing that are usually not found near any respectable sort of track. It’s very dangerous, especially when you consider the increase in average speed over the last century. The first race, in 1907, was won by Charlie Collier, with an average speed of 38 miles per hour. The current average speed record stands at 131 miles per hour, set by John McGuinness (on a Honda CBR1000RR). Not surprisingly, the race has claimed over two hundred lives since its inception. The participants are definitely very brave, or ‘the lights are on, but no one is home’ as Guy Martin explains at the start of TT3D: Closer to the Edge, the 2011 documentary which chronicles this phenomenon.

Much like the brilliant film on Ayrton Senna last year, this documentary takes a seemingly insignificant subject, like motor sports, and turns it into something more. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to focus your efforts on a charismatic rebel like Guy Martin, but the film’s director, Richard de Aragues, certainly seems to know his way around the already riveting subject matter. The film expertly catches the atmosphere that’s so tangible at events for motorcycle enthusiasts and lovers of speed around the world. If you close your eyes for a bit, you can almost smell stale beer and sausages. It’s also beautifully shot. In addition to serene island scenery, there’s no shortage of slow motion footage that illustrates just how much the bikes and their riders have to endure. The images are stunning to look at and your jaw will often drop at the incredibly ill advised feats of courage that are on display here. Who knows, by the end you might even understand why these men and women are so determined to risk their lives and why it’s so special that the Isle of Man TT still exists today. Even if you’re not into machines that go fast, this is worth seeing.