How Does This Motorbike Road Racer Train His Body And Mind To Push The Limits Millimetres Away From The Famous Stone Walls Of The Isle Of Man TT?

Ivan Lintin has won twice at The Isle Of Man TT road race and he’s there this year on a machine that hits 195mph, and on which he’s clocked an average speed of 129mph per lap – but it’s a race where riders can pay the ultimate price for mistakes, so RSNG asked him on the eve of the 2018 TT, how does he prepare himself for two hours of intense living?

RSNG What’s been your scariest moment at the TT?
Ivan Lintin
‘There are scary moments in every race. You always push as hard as you can, and you have moments where you hit the kerb, or you get a big slide somewhere, but they happen in every race. That’s what we are pushing for, the boundaries of the bike and technology, and that’s what we are here to do. You can’t let a moment like that register for too long though, because you have the next corner coming up at 180mph. Two or three corners down the line you’ve completely forgotten about what’s happened to you before and you carry on racing.’

‘More people have flown in space then there are winners of the TT – I’ve done it twice’

RSNG What has been your career highlight so far and how did you achieve it?
IL
‘Winning the Isle of Man TT… twice. More people have flown in space then there are winners of the TT and I’m never going to be an astronaut, but I’ve won a TT. My name is on that trophy and thankfully I’ve managed to do it twice. A TT win is very, very special. Everyone in the world knows about the race. There are 40 million watching worldwide every year and in two years of my life I have been one of six people to win a TT that year. Nothing really beats it.’

RSNG What enabled you to make the difference and take your TT wins, in terms of your mindset?
IL
‘Ultimately it boils down to mind over matter. At the end of any race, your body is tired, you’ve been concentrating and on the edge for an hour and 20 mins, sometimes two hours, and I think that training to a set time is the best way to prepare yourself. So, if you’re in the gym then challenging yourself to do a certain number of reps in a period, and having to keep slogging on and digging in before the time runs out really helps your mindset.’

‘In the context of racing, when you’re tired around the Isle of Man, battling to win, you don’t have a second to relax or ease off, so you have to train to your limits all the time. You have to deal with it in your head and soldier on through it.’

RSNG What’s the biggest difference between road racing and ‘circuits’ and why do you prefer roads?
IL
‘The difference with road racing is the thrill, the danger and the excitement. Circuit racing in the UK has all become very clinical and clean. If you took all the road furniture away from the Isle of Man and made it ultra-smooth it would still be a very good race track, but it wouldn’t be the same. That’s why so many people come over here to watch it year after year.’

RSNG How fast do you race at the TT?
IL
‘My top speed at the TT is 129.1mph but that’s an average speed over a 37-mile course. The top speed of the bike is 195mph and we will touch that three or four times a lap – 129.1mph is the highest average speed not the maximum speed.’

RSNG Describe the fastest TT lap you’ve ever done – do you enter a different zone when it’s that fast?
IL
‘This is the weird thing about the Isle of Man. The really fast laps often feel really slow. So, you often have laps that you will come in and you feel it was slow because it all smooths out. I’m the second fastest man in history on the lightweight machine around the Isle of Man but that lap wasn’t anything special. It was the last lap of the race and it needed to be done. We won the race that day and we were three hundredths of a second outside the all-time lap record so maybe you get comfortable in your zone, but it doesn’t always feel that way when you’re on the bike.’

RSNG Given the high risk of TT racing, how do you mentally prepare for the danger?
IL
‘I never think of the worst-case scenario and personally you don’t go out thinking about crashing. It does happen, unfortunately and sometimes when you’re pushing that hard, then anything can happen. You must line up fully confident in your own ability that you can go out and do as best as you can.’

‘If something goes wrong mechanically then it’s something that is completely out of your hands. There’s no point worrying about that, or the bike, or the track. The only thing you need to worry about is yourself.’

RSNG What kind of gym training do you need to do for the rigours of TT?
IL
‘I do a full-body weights session three times a week to fundamentally build my strength. Lots of low rep exercises and big compound lifts such as squatting, deadlifting and bench pressing. I don’t need to build size, I just need to be as physically strong as I can be for my height and weight. I’m around 6ft and roughly 13 stone but I don’t want to be any bigger than that.’

‘I’ve done a lot of work over the winter months in the gym, working with my nutritionist and USN to help prepare me for the TT. Of course, endurance is associated with the TT so I will also add a long run or long push bike ride, just to keep my body moving.’

RSNG Can you functionally train your reflexes for blasting past stone walls at top speed?
IL
‘We generate a lot of strength from an odd position on a motorbike, so sometimes I will balance on a balance board on my knees and my trainer will throw a tennis ball at me to catch, which works on my hand/ eye coordination. Nothing can train you to race on a motorbike apart from racing a motorbike, but there are things that you can do in the gym that will keep you alert and sharp, so if you can incorporate them into your training it maximises every session.’

‘It’s about getting your head into the zone that you’re about to delve into madness’

RSNG Do you have a preparation routine before the start of a race?
IL
‘I don’t do anything specific or have any rituals. We have a laugh as a team at every event. Everyone starts out racing to enjoy it. When it’s get serious, though, we go racing. On the start line before a race I will sit there and go quiet. You get a five-minute warning and how it works at the TT is you get a tap on the shoulder. The leader goes away and then every 10 seconds after that the next person goes. So, if you’re starting 20th on the grid then you’re starting 3.5 minutes behind, but it doesn’t matter because at your time slot you go, whether your ready or not.’

‘Over the years of doing it you just get used to psyching yourself up – when you get a tap on the shoulder you know you’re going racing. I don’t have any rituals. It’s about getting your head into the zone that you’re about to delve into madness, really.’

RSNG How do you fit your racing and training in with your day job and being a retained firefighter – got any good time management tips?
IL
I have to juggle my time a lot. I don’t know what I would do without Google calendars. I can’t remember everything and places I have to be, so it’s just a case of getting in the training when you can.’

‘I do a full body workout three to four times a week and I try and do as much as I can within an hour. Work is obviously my primary objective, so I can get the time off that I need to come and race. Training is second and that all builds up to coming away racing, which is the ultimate goal. A lot of work is done working extra hours during the offseason so that when the race season starts I can spend as much time training as possible.’

RSNG Is being a PT firefighter rewarding?
IL
‘My primary job is a maintenance fitter in a factory, but the fire service is something that I’ve done for 12 years now. I live in a small village about 10 miles away from any other fire station, so we have the community fire station, but we are retained firefighters and we train once a week.’

‘It’s also good fun and we have good camaraderie between us because we are all doing it for the same reason, to help the village out. If the worst was the happen, then we have a fire engine on call to respond to any emergencies, as opposed to having to wait 10 minutes for one to come from further afield.’

RSNG Which race have you found the most challenging in your career?
IL
‘The Macau Grand Prix. It’s in Hong Kong and it’s both mentally and physically challenging because of the heat. It’s 30°C, 100% humidity, which us British aren’t used to and the track is Armco lined. You can’t make any mistakes. It took me three years racing there for it to turn into a race track, as opposed to just riding round it. The first two years I was just too scared. This year it was more comfortable, and we finished in 10th place. I’m really looking forward to it again in November and seeing if the team can better that result.’

RSNG Does racing at top speed require you to be consciously brave, or is it a case of assessing risk?
IL
‘I suppose its assessing what your bike is capable of and what you personally are capable of. Certainly The 1000cc superbikes do scare me. I have an active fear because they are big, powerful tools. I can do 129mph TT laps on them, but the leaders can do 133mph on them. It doesn’t seem a lot but it’s those little margins that count. It’s all about little steps and going faster in every practice, then taking that into qualifying and the race. That’s all you can do. If you don’t win then you go onto the next race.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch this on-board footage of Ivan Lintin going flat out…

Photos by RC Express Racing, Gary Howlett, Charles Robertson, CJS Photography, Malcom Beddings

Ivan Lintin is an ambassador for leading sports nutrition brand USN and their brand new Blue Lab Whey protein

Follow the writer @mattfitnessray