So, it’s that time of year again – when I’m raving about just how incredibly awesome the Isle of Man TT Races are.

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I appreciate that many of you lot either won’t have been, nor are ever likely to go, given that the TT is on the opposite side of the planet from you, but there are many Aussies that either have it on their ‘bucket list’, or who have been to the Island to watch the racing.

Yes, I’m also very aware that I wrote about it 12 months ago in the printed version of this column. So I’ll keep the TT tales brief, and use it to bring in a point that I’ve been thinking of writing about for a while now…

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Last year I mentioned that it seemed that the number of streetfighters at the TT seems to get lower each year – this year I only clocked one turbo bike, and only a pair of aftermarket frames – although 2016 did seem to have a marginal increase in the number of modified bikes thanks to the increase in popularity of cafe racers, bobbers and street trackers.

All of which were getting rather a lot of interested attention. My immediate thought is that these bikes were getting surrounded by crowds of motorcyclists of the type who don’t normally see modified bikes, and while that certainly is part of the story not all of those avid onlookers were experiencing modified bikes for the first time.

Of course, in a sea of conformity, anything different will stand out, and that’s another clue as to why even mildly-modified stuff gets lots of attention at the TT – there may be dozens of Ducati Panigales, hundreds of new cross-plane R1s, and crate-loads of Ewan and Charlie clones, but as they’re standard they all merge into one massive two-wheeled soup at the World’s Motorcycling Mecca.

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As strange as it may seem, not everyone likes the attention that is brought by owning a modified bike. Having a crowd around your bike when you want to head off home can be frustrating, and people asking the same questions over and over can get a bit tiring, especially if they’re along the lines of “That seat can’t be comfortable?” or “Why did you do that?”…

You know, the usual daft questions that’re asked by soulless people who ride bog standard bikes and assume that what comes out of the factory is perfect and doesn’t need changing. At all.

The most hilarious of comments are usually saved for more radical styling, such as German streetfighters with an abbreviated tail unit perched at an angle that matches the rake of the forks… “How could you ride that thing?” says Mr Average, seemingly blissfully unaware that the bike was ridden to the TT from Germany in one hit…

Fightin Words Dave Manning July Bike Review20090719_0610Funnily enough, it is those self-same people who don’t understand the reasons that also assume that we ride a modified bike to get attention. To show off. Not because we want something different. Not because the factories don’t make a bike that we want.

Not because we want a bike that fits us properly or suits our riding style. Not because we want improved performance. Not because we like making our own parts, and not because we like spending time with our spanners.

Of course, it’s part of human psychology to show off a little bit – it’s partly why wheelies, burn-outs, stoppies and getting your knee down are so much fun – but to assume that we fit turbos, big bore kits, lightweight wheels, uprated suspension and nitrous oxide kits just to show off is a shot that’s widely off the mark.
Fightin Words Dave Manning July Bike Review20120210_0607Naturally, having your peers make complimentary comments about your bike is a pleasing experience, and if the bike is of a high enough quality to make it into print as a feature (and here I’m metaphorically saying ‘print’ as it could also be an online magazine page of course) then you’ve pretty much got it made, although the naysayers will say that that is ‘showing off’ as well.

After all, there’s nothing wrong in being proud of your bike – you’re the one who’s decided the way it looks; you’ve done the work on it; you’ve saved up for the goodies that you wanted – just don’t go getting big headed about it.

After all, there’s always someone out there who’s better at building a bike, or who has more money to spend on trick suspension and engine upgrades… But the flip side of that is a return to the situation on the Isle of Man every June.

Even a mildly modified bike can turn heads. And even a mildly modified bike can make the ‘normal’ bike rider start thinking about making changes to their own, standard bike. And that, my friends, is what it is all about – ride modified and change the world!
Ride more. Build more.

– Dave Manning

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