Conor Cummins_2022


It’s no secret that local hero Conor Cummins has adored the Isle of Man TT Races ever since he was a kid. In his latest interview he tells Mat Oxley all about the huge ups and deep downs of his stellar Isle of Man career.

There was just no way that Conor Cummins wasn’t going to become an Isle of Man TT racer. The 37-year-old Manxman was born during practice week for the 1986 TT, by which time his dad Billy had already contested three Manx Grand Prix’s and a TT. Conor grew up in Ramsey, near Milntown Bridge, where riders launch into the air at ultra-high speed as they enter the seaside town.

“We lived by Milntown Jump,” says Cummins, who still lives in Ramsey. “The first bike through in early morning practice was my alarm – I’d jump out of bed and leg it up to the course to watch. Waking up to see all my heroes go by was quite something – I’ve got absolutely awesome memories of that. I wish they still had early morning practice – unfortunately I missed it by a year.”

“I’d watch everything during TT fortnight. And me and my mates used to bomb around our estate on our bicycles thinking we were Joey Dunlop, or Phillip McCallen.”

“It all comes from my dad, it’s in the blood. His family were farmers from the south of Ireland. They came over when he was a kid and that’s where it started – he’s loved bikes and been fascinated by the TT ever since. He still races. He can’t get enough. He’s obsessed, like me!”


Despite the fact that Cummins’ TT career seems to have been written in the stars it wasn’t in his original racing plans.

“I always wanted to focus on short circuits,” says Cummins, a quietly spoken, modest-to-a-fault Manxman, whose voice has just that edge of determination. “I had big aspirations to go far in that field, progressing from club racing to the national scene, starting with the Yamaha R6 Cup.”

Destiny played its hand at Oulton Park in May 2004. “I crashed and broke an ankle. Then a couple of weeks later, me, my cousin and my dad went to watch the North West 200. We were jumping in and out of hedges and I was thinking, bloody hell, I wouldn’t mind a go at this.”

Cummins had no money to go racing on the mainland, which helped make up his mind to have his first crack at the TT two years later.


“In 2006 I thought, you know what, maybe now’s the time for a change of scenery and that’s when the whole roads thing started for me.”

His first race on the roads was at the North West in 2006, which was his way of preparing for his TT debut a couple of weeks later. “I went from doing R6 Cup races to doing almost 190mph on a Yamaha R1 on the roads, aged 19!”

The North West is a great introduction to racing on the roads, but nothing quite prepares you for your debut around the Mountain course, especially aboard an R1, geared for 180mph.

“I’d just turned 20 and there was some negativity towards me doing the TT at such a young age. People were saying I should start with the Manx Grand Prix, but I took the direct route and that first TT just blew me away, it totally blew my mind.

“The R1 was insane. It was set up for short circuits, so the damper was quite loose and I remember getting this massive tank-slapper going over Milntown Jump, which was a big eye-opener. But the TT was what I needed. I needed another challenge and I’d found it. I’ve not looked back since day one of doing the TT.”


Like most TT riders, Cummins can’t really translate into words the experience of riding around the Island’s country roads at speeds approaching two hundred miles an hour. There’s a good reason for this…

‘There’s not a word in the dictionary that does the TT course justice’

“It’s all so different. Away from the start it’s all stone walls and concrete, then you’re out into the country, where you get into the thick of it, into the trees where it can be really dark and overgrown. It’s like that all the way to Ramsey. Then you have the short-circuit effect over the mountain – you can see through all the corners, but you’ve got the wind, the mist, all the things you don’t get on short circuits.

“The mountain section is my favourite, but, and I know it’s a cliché, the whole course is my favourite bit. The mountain is extra special because it’s wide open and you can really push on.

“I live on the Isle of Man but I don’t do laps outside of the TT. I go over the mountain on my commute to work, that’s usually as close as I get to doing a lap, because I think you can over-analyse things. And when you get on the bike it’s much more complicated! I have a quick look pre-TT but that’s as far as it goes.

“Although I know the course very well I’ll never know it 100%. It’s a public road, so it changes. Bumps appear from year to year and other stuff changes, like this year they’ve felled a load of trees around Black Dub before Glen Helen, so that might add a different dynamic, by getting more light into that section.

“You’ve always got to be on your toes and then there’s all the little details. The other day I was explaining some markers to a newcomer – there’s this place coming out of Kirk Michael where you look for a chimney pot on a house that’s sat down the road in a dip, but when you come around the preceding corner the chimney pot looks like it’s sat on the road. That’s your reference point, your marker for the next section, so your whole approach is different to short circuits.

“The one thing that isn’t different is that everyone’s trying very, very hard and leaving back lines everywhere, so that’s one similarity with short circuits.”

Cummins uses short-circuit riding as part of his preparation for the TT but admits it can be difficult to work up enthusiasm for riding around racetracks with a few corners after the ever-changing scenery and challenges of the TT’s 37.73 miles.

“I had to really find the motivation, because I’ve done the roads, the absolute ultimate adrenaline rush, then you go back to short circuits, where you’re trying to find a couple of tenths here and there. It’s like riding around in circles, so I struggled at first, but I’ve worked really hard at it and they’re part of the big picture, so now I love doing short circuits.”


Although Conor has yet to win a TT, he is the fastest Manxman in history, averaging over 132mph in the 2019 Senior and over 130 in last year’s Superstock race, when he scored his third second-place finish, only a mere 12.7 seconds behind winner Peter Hickman.

Amazingly he rode his fastest-ever lap in that Superstock race – aboard a showroom-spec Honda Fireblade on road tyres – at 133.16mph, making him the fourth fastest rider in TT history, behind Hickman, Dean Harrison and Michael Dunlop, who all rode their best laps on Superbike-spec machines equipped with grippier slick tyres.

There’s no doubt that he has the speed to win a TT, when the stars do finally align.

Cummins’ best result in his 2006 debut was 17th in the Senior, averaging 118mph. A steady start before he stepped it up the following June, achieving four top ten finishes and an impressive fifth in the Superstock race.


Another two years later he rode to his first podiums: third place in the second Supersport race and a stunning second in the biggest TT of them all – the Senior – 19 seconds behind record-breaking winner Steve Plater, whose sector-four record from that race stood for nine years.

“Just riding the TT course as a Manxman is quite a thing, a really cool feeling, so when I got on the box I was totally ecstatic, chuffed to bits.”

Of course he wanted more.


“I’d had a sniff, a flavour of what it feels like to be on the podium. I remember looking at Steve on the top step, thinking, that’s where I want to be. And it was going very well the following year, until it went tits up…”

Cummins’ huge crash during the 2010 Senior would have finished many racers, but beneath his gentle demeanour there’s a rock-solid determination to never give up.

All top motorcycle racers know that they will never make it unless they’re built like that, because one thing is for sure if you race motorcycles: you will take knock after knock.

Cummins returned to the TT after his injury in 2011, but he was anything but fully fit. Remarkably he rode to sixth place in the second Supersport race, the little 600 proving a less demanding ride than a 1000.

“I was fatiguing quite quickly, getting two laps in and thinking, f**king hell, this is hard going.”

Of course he would come back even stronger in 2012, or he would’ve done if someone hadn’t wiped him out at the North West 200. The accident left him with a broken wrist, which forced him to sit out of that year’s TT.

His career seemed in danger, but some people appreciated his talent and tenacity. Honda UK signed him for the 2014 TT, during which he scored his first Superbike podium since the accident, taking second behind Michael Dunlop in the Senior.

“That was massive – the first sniff at getting back to where I felt I belonged, although I wasn’t taking anything for granted, by any stretch. Honda believed in me and I’d been dicing with Michael on the BMW, so I felt right, we’re back on track now.”

Nevertheless, Cummins – nicknamed Conrod – realised he had to start looking outside racing. Although he’d fought back from his accident with superhuman resolve he knows he isn’t superhuman, so he needed something else that would be there for him when racing was over.



During rehab Conor had started drinking proper coffee and believes it helped him. This took him into the coffee business, with Conrod’s Coffee Shop in Ramsey and Douglas-based Coffee Mann, which services the local coffee trade. Sadly, Cummins had to close the shop earlier this year, due to struggles with rising costs in the wake of the pandemic.

Business responsibilities haven’t hurt Cummins’s racing focus, because he’s never been stronger at the TT than in recent years. He attributes this to signing with Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcyles, the most successful privateer team in TT history.

“The real start to my current form was signing with Clive Padgett and the team in 2016. He gave me a real lifeline and I’ve not looked back since. It’s an absolutely brilliant team to be on.

“The next year I broke a wrist at Donington a few weeks before the TT, so I rode with a broken wrist, which was hard work.”

Understatement of the decade, right there.

“Clive and his team really stood by me and supported me and we started getting some strong results later that year. At the Ulster Grand Prix I was on lap-record pace, dicing with Hickman, Bruce Anstey, Ian Hutchinson and the rest. That led nicely into 2018, when we got back on the podium again at the TT and since then I’ve been up there in every big-bike race, apart from the 2022 Superbike.”

The longer Cummins and Padgett’s stay together, the better they get.


“It’s about having consistency and continuity – the same team, the same bikes. The team is a massive part of it. They give me the tools to do the job and they give me the right environment. A lot of the results I have are down to that.

“It’s not just Clive, it’s the whole team environment. It’s a family, everybody is involved, there’s a lot of love in the team and we all get on well. If any one of us is not feeling it on the day, we can go and put the kettle on, it’s not a problem.

“Like last year at the North West I got a migraine right in the middle of qualifying. I was sat in the garage with my head in my hands and Clive said, ‘It’s not an issue – if you’re not right, you’re not right’. In some other teams maybe that wouldn’t have been the case.”

Cummins never gets confident before a TT, because he knows the event is far too big for that kind of thing, but in the run-up to this year’s races he’s feeling as good as he’s ever felt.

“I’m really happy with my team and the bikes – the whole thing is so solid. You can’t beat being in a really positive environment and turning up to the racetrack knowing that your bike is going to be absolutely on point.”

“We’re in a really good place, but the rest remains to be seen – you take nothing for granted because at every TT you start again.”

One thing that is certain about Conor as he heads into this year’s TT – his aim is to become the first Manxman to win a TT in two decades.



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