Motoette -in forward motion

Mark Gardiner ~Riding Man~

Mark Gardiner Isle of Man TT 2002


There are a vast array of personal stories behind why so many privateer racers compete in the death-defying challenge of the Isle of Man TT, but one in particular intrigues me, Mark Gardiner. Maybe it was because I had the opportunity to meet him in person at a book reading at my local BMW dealership.  But, more importantly, maybe it was to find out why a man who had a life and career, would risk everything on a historically dangerous road race thousands of miles from his home.      

Who would have known that the soft-spoken, slight, mid height man, who had given up riding in his twenties due to his lack of confidence as a proficient rider, was to come back 20 years later to witness his 2002 CBR 600 sitting in the parc ferme in the Isle of Man TT!  In the intimate gathering at Moto Marin, he went on to confess how truly bad he was as motorcycling, but because of his love of motorcycles as a boy, he went back to riding to find himself being motivated by the sheer “thrill” of it after an intense crash on the track.  Beginning his new found racing career in Calgary , he was finding his attitude turning more towards not giving up with each progressive race, and gaining an insatiable appetite to get to the next level.     

In 2002 Mark Gardiner was a 47 year old Canadian embarking on his childhood dream to ride the Isle of Man after a few short years racing professionally with an expert level CMA and AMA Pro license. As a successful business man, he put his life on hold, and in 2001 sold everything he owned and moved to the Isle of Man with only what he could carry and a bicycle. As a Manx resident, Mark spent the next year eating, breathing and cycling the 37.7 mile course to learn as much as he could with the intent to memorize the course foot by foot, perhaps conferring an advantage that would make up for his own inner insecurities.      

Mark and I at MotoMarin BMW


In his book Riding Man, a memoir invoking on his journey thematically starting from his childhood curiosities into the world of motorcycles and ultimately the Isle of Man through a volume of encyclopedias his parents bought him.     

Forty years later he takes the reader on an adventure back and forth, vacillating in time from his days as an advertising director to his relationships with his family, co-workers and friends, and ultimately to his dream of conquering the Isle of Man TT competition.     

With days to go and no guarantees of an ACU race entry, no bike and no back up plan,  he manages to buy a Honda CBR 600 locally and qualifies for two classes, Production 600 TT and Junior TT. His small pit crew of two, a good friend, Paul Smith and Kris Gardiner, his nephew, struggle with unpredictable bad weather, regulating tires for atmospheric conditions and ongoing unstable damper issues all the while having to memorize the road race circuit like the back of his hand. Like he paved the course himself.     

Through all his trials and tribulations, with risks, rewards and inevitably some regrets, Mark obtains his goal, to take part in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race, an experience few will ever know. 

Mark is also the author of “Classic Motorcycle” , focusing on the social, political, and the cultural history of Motorcycles.  He is also a successful journalist, having his work featured in Advertising Age, Canadian Business, Classic Bike and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Racing, which he was nominated for a Canadian Magazine Award.  Along with being a contributing editor for magazines such as, Road Racer X, Classic Bike and Motorcyclist,  Mark currently resides in Southern California,  where he still dabbles in the advertising world and enjoys his new passion in surfing.     

I highly recommend this book to all motorcycle enthusiasts and to those who just want to experience the bravery of one mans dream.     

To quote him: “The deepest regrets are always risks not taken.”     

Footnote: Mark Gardiner was one of the first participants in the Isle of Man TT to have an acclaimed documentary made, ” One Man’s Island” directed, filmed and edited by Peter Riddinhough     


January 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I’m reading this RIGHT NOW. Mark is a great writer… definitely captures the two-wheel spirit as good as the best of them.

    Comment by Harry Mallin | January 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. Cindi, this is such a great story! Your words about Mark Gardiner make me want to read his book. Thank you for sharing this!

    Comment by Liz Petersen | February 3, 2010 | Reply

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