It’s pretty rare that I come across sidecar racing stories. I run into Facebook updates from fellow racers of course, and I see results from the British and World Championships as they happen. However, when it comes to normal media, sidecars usually come up only as travel stories of people with Ural road-legal outfits, traveling the world.
So imagine my surprise when I came across “Joe and Alma – The First American Couple To Race The Isle Of Man TT,” last week on Silodrome. The website is well known for sharing oddities from gearhead culture, but sidecar TT is still obscure even on their pages. The story of Joe and Alma Rocheleau reads like a movie plot. Outlaw bikers from Detroit decide to get into racing, one club member buys a sidecar and races with his wife as passenger, the couple earns a shot at the legendary Isle of Man TT races… adventure ensues. That is a synopsis I could write a feature-length film on in a single binge.
There is no reason for me to rehash the story though since it is already told by Jon Branch in great detail over on Silodrome. Suffice to say that the article is full of excellent photos and reads as part love story, part “local-boy-does-good” story, and part gearhead adventure chronicle; there is something for everyone.
In an interesting plot twist for me, I looked up Joe Rocheleau after reading the story and found I already had spoken to him on social media, back in 2013 when I was trying to head to the Isle of Man TT myself. Sidecars are an unbelievably small world. It seems like I know everyone on the planet that races three wheels on pavement, but of course I run into new people all the time. The discipline is a sub-sub-subculture of motorsport, and you just can’t help but get to know people in the fraternity.
The story also rekindled my interest in actually competing at the Isle of Man. We gave up the effort due to financial constraints and then an injury suffered by then-passenger Giorgina Gottlieb, which pushed the effort past the timeline when she wanted to get out of sidecar racing. If I do ever make it to the Isle of Man to compete, it may have to be the Manx TT, where slightly less money is needed, but there are no sidecar classes… two-wheels-only.
Ah, to dream…