Even the most cursory glance at a car and a motorcycle and the most untrained of eyes will be about to tell that the motorcycle is a simpler machine simply by virtue of size. It’s quite logical therefore that it was the motorcycle that was first invented. Although cars had the frame of a horse-drawn carriage to build upon (quite literally in the early years of the automotive industry), it was the motorcycle that first drew out the amateur machinists who developed the motorcycle.
Building on the frames of the only shortly-before-developed bicycle, the first motorcycles had engines that were weaker than horses, which is one of the reasons why it took some seven or eighty years from the first working model’s construction to the time of motorcycles gaining in popularity and eventually replacing the horse as preferred transport, along with early cars that is. But such is human nature that as soon as these machines were invented they were being raced, bet on, and admired by early petrol heads. Some of these races are still being racist today and here are the top three:
1. Isle of Man TT. This is the oldest motorcycle race still being run today. Although some others might claim to be older this event, held every year in May or June since 1907, the Isle of Man TT is the undisputed champion of longevity and continuity. As early as 1904 the first races were held on the Isle of Man. The Motor Car Act of 1903 restricted the maximum speed of cars in the UK to 20 mph, but thanks to complex legal history this excluded the Isle of Man, which then began hosting the competitions. Since then it’s been run every year and by now is a staple of the motorcycle calendar and a must-see for fans.
2. North West 200. Not quite as old as the Isle of Man TT, this road race held every May in Ireland has a nearly 90-year-old history having first been held in 1929. The circuit runs between Portstewart, Portrush and Coleraine, known to racers as The Triangle and routinely the race clocks some of the fastest speeds in all of motorbike racing. (At present the record is held by Martin Jessopp who reached a speed of 335 km/h in 2012.) Needless to say the first race didn’t have speeds anywhere close to that, though for its time it was still one of the fastest events ever. The 200-miles covered, whence the event gets its name are some of the fiercest and most competitive in the motor sport.
3. Ulster Grand Prix. Seven years older than the North West 200, but still fifteen years younger than the Isle of Man TT, this race in Northern Ireland and continues to delight fans. So influential has it been that one of the racers (who quite conveniently happened to be a member of parliament) was able to pass the Road Races Act which made it legal to close down public roads for racing event.