Riding the great Isle of Man

By Mark Kinnard

Following the success of our two National TRF trail riding trips to the Isle of Man, with 68 riders joining us for the two trips. I thought I would share my experience in Trail.

I am not an early bird, but with the expectations of a trip to the Isle of Man I was up early. The first trip I travel up with Daniel from the Herts group. He turned up on his AJP with his riding gear on and all his stuff packed into his ruck sack.

We set off at 7:30am heading for Heysham, it was trouble free journey arriving at The Duke Of Rothesay pub at 12:00 noon. Some riders with their bikes packed away in their vans where there already & other soon pulled in, then the Adventure bikes started to arrive. A couple of the adventure bikes had had fun & games with the Police on the way, the stories had started and we weren’t even on the ferry!

A couple of pints & a dinner in the pub and it was time to head up to the ferry, we all boarded without problems (a few had forgot their reservation numbers) and made our way to Legends Bar on the boat to re-group.

We left Heysham in the sunshine but soon the boat was rocking & tipping, quite a few of our group looked a little yellow and sickly. We was all very pleased to see Douglas and made our way back to our vehicles only to find that one of the adventure bikes was wedged against a steel rsj on the boat with another road bike wedged against it. As Besten rode off the boat after taking the insurance details from the operators, catching up with me in my pick up he was not best pleased! I suggested that it might look a little worse than that after a weekend trail riding, the way he rides.

We all found our way to the hotel around a diversion through the town and signed into our rooms, meeting in the hotel bar before dinner. We had a function room to ourselves for dinner and as usual the food & services was great & plentiful.

Back to the bar after dinner, some disappeared to the Queens Head down the promenade and some disappeared to bed. There are two night clubs, a casino & a leisure centre at the hotel and numerous pubs within a short walk.

There were some sorry looking people in the morning at breakfast, a few of them had been out with one of my run leaders Mark Bradford (who has hollow legs and should carry a health warning – ‘Don’t go drinking with me’).

At 9:00am we got into our groups – Adventure Riders & 4 groups of Trail Riders (loosely based on ability) and set off on our first days trail riding in different directions. The first lane that I took the adventure bikes on, not far out of Douglas, caused us problems. It’s a flat rutty lane with loose rocks in the ruts, just as we was about to turn right in the lane the ‘Expert’ group caught us up, we let them pass us on the lane (they were supposed to leave before us). Some of our group didn’t like the look of the lane and my sweeper Mike Brown took them around on the road to the end of the lane.

After what seemed like forever, the remaining riders in my group made it to the end of the lane. I did say on the ferry that the first lane would warm every one up ready for the day ahead. One of the expert group was left on the lane, he looked terrible, not sure if it was the drinking from the night before or something else. I tried to get him to go around on the road with my sweeper, but he insisted on being left there. I do not like to leave anybody behind!

We re-grouped & I assured my group that the next few lanes where easy on bike & body. We were heading for Ramsey for a fuel & lunch stop. The lanes flew by, I took most of the adventure bikes to the disused mine past the Laxey Wheel and down the steep lane over the railway in Laxey (Rob managed to wedge his sump guard under the metal railway line and was stranded on his GS 1200, good job the trains were not running, some of the other trundled along the railway line back to the village rather than going down the last steep bit of the lane). When we approached another technical lane that takes from Glenroy to Windy Corner on the TT circuit; Mike took a couple of bikes around the road and arranged to meet us in Parliament Square, Ramsey for lunch. That lane didn’t seem as hard to ride as the first lane of the day.

When we arrived in Ramsey, our group a bit depleted, we were greeted by lots of bikes & people from the other groups finishing their lunch and getting back on their way. After lunch one of our lady riders swapped her Guzzi Stelvio 1200, which she had been road riding on, with her husband who had been riding with us in the morning on the XT660 Tenere. Two of the GS 1200 called it a day and went sightseeing.

We set off from Ramsey heading for Sulby on the road and picked up a great lane heading southeast joining Millennium Way. Suzy struggled on the way up the lane, we all helped to encourage her and after a lot of starts, stops and a few offs we all made it to the top.

On the way back down to the Ramsey road Suzy had no problems and when we eventually met up with her husband she seemed very pleased with herself and quite rightly so as this was one of her first few times riding off road.

We were now down to five riders, four on BIG GS’s and me on a ‘Small 690 KTM’. I decided as we were a small compact group of riders we should try a few more technical lanes, this is where the trouble started. Big bikes, mud & deep ruts don’t mix! We finished the first day and was pleased to get back to the hotel to wash up and get ready for more great food & beer.

Day two started with just six riders, after the first muddy lane the 650 BMW on road tyres called it a day. The rest of the group carried on and had a great day with only one turn around; we just couldn’t push the GS’s any further. With the benefit of hindsight I would have made the route a bit easier for the big adventure bikes.

We heard many stories in the bar from the other groups. One rider was out with Mark Bradford half the night drinking, got on his bike in the morning, fell off in the first puddle and went home! I have since reminded people of the perils of drinking, explained that the same drink driving laws apply and that it’s not the best idea to drink too much before taking part in an off road strenuous motorcycle activity. But we never seem to learn!!

I was a little worried about taking so many people away trail riding and would it spoil my fun, not a bit of it. All the riders that have been on the two trips to the Isle of Man have been great; I have enjoyed their company as much as that of my friends that I usually ride with. Thanks for coming & I hope to see you all on the trail soon.