Dawn till DuskNovember 14, 2016
Two marrows and a rabbitNovember 28, 2016
Experiencing one of the most exciting motorcycling road races on the planet whilst trail riding some of the best Green Roads in the UK. Sounds too good to be true.
Carla McKenzie and Central Bristol TRF set out to have their cake and eat it at the Isle of Man this year.
Flashback to 1967 – The Diamond Jubilee Isle of Man TT, the second round of that year's motorcycle 500cc Grand Prix world championships.
Mike Hailwood on his ill-handling but powerful Honda RC 181 and Giacomo Agostini on his more nimble MV Agusta triple duelled around the mountain circuit, taking their machines to the limit and raising the lap record above an average of 108mph for the first time. The battle was head to head, the crowd and a certain two year old were on the edge of their grass verge, witness to one of the greatest races the Island has ever seen. Hailwood was struggling with a loose twistgrip when, on the fifth lap, the chain on Ago's MV broke at Windy Corner while he was leading and the win was Hailwood's by default. I came home in the chair of mum's Triumph Bonneville outfit already a smitten would-be groupie of one very hot Italian racing star.
Baby McKenzie and the IoM
Roll on nearly fifty years and here I am having just completed my first trail ride in the island at Windy Corner. One of the competitors in this year's Classic TT is getting in some illicit practice and has been caught short, so here I am holding the bike upright while he nips off for a pee!
Back in May I found myself agreeing to go on a trail riding trip to the Isle of Man with the gentlemen of the Central Bristol TRF. I had been looking forward to the adventure immensely but when the pressure of work increased I feared that I might have to cancel. Dean Allen wasn't having any of that and after a quick phone call he organised to collect my bike and Mike then took it to the island in his van. I followed by air after dashing from Maastricht on my BMW R1200GSA to get the flight from Staverton airport. With half an hour to spare I managed to rendezvous with the lads in Douglas.
There are seven of us in the group: Alcuin, chair of the central Bristol TRF (KTM 250); Tom, (KLX 250); Dean 'Leader of the Pack' (Husky 300); Alex (Beta Cross Trainer ); Stephen (KTM 400); Mike (KTM 350) and me on a Husky 250 kindly lent by Fraser's of Gloucester!
With tents pitched we go into Peel, famous for its castle and harbour, for a few beers and a Chinese followed by a briefing from Dean. He has been several times before so knows the trails and terrain well. There are similar land access issues on the island as there are on the mainland, with the same tensions. Dean focuses on making sure that this is understood and that riding will be done within TRF guidelines. It's worth noting that this bike-friendly island does actually label it's byway signs with the symbol of a motorcycle which makes for much easier navigation.
On day one the first lane is OK but on the second it's an off for me at the water as the Husky departed downstream… back on the 'horse' and the going gets tough – steep rocky climbs expose my lack of skills as I struggle for traction and the rear tyre spins. Arm pump soon starts to set in which is always a bit of a bugger! Dean and the lads patiently get me through the day with words of encouragement and some skill-sharing.
The trails got progressively more challenging as the week progressed and certainly required a 'can do' mindset for some of the climbs. On Monday we had a maintenance day. My lack of traction had been the subject of some debate, especially since the others were all riding with trials rather than enduro tyres. Alcuin and Dean decided to change my rear 'boot', convinced that it would sort my riding difficulties! I thought I would never rise to the challenge of the rocks (we tend to have more mud than rocks in Wiltshire) but the next day the trials tyre provided new levels of adhesion and that, coupled with increased momentum, set me flying down lanes I would previously have wobbled along precariously!
While I was getting to grips with the island's more technical trails, the classic road racers were beginning their practice sessions for the task of mastering the 37.5 miles of TT tarmac, arguably the most challenging course in the world. One of the joys of trail riding in the island is the fact that it enables you to get to far more vantage points than you can on a road bike when the roads are closed for practice or racing. As I sat at Quarter Bridge for the first practice session of the 2016 classic TT I felt all the same excitement as I had done in those very early visits to the TT nearly half a century ago.
On my final day on the Island I led the lads for a lap of the circuit – the least I could do after a week in which, in the true spirit of the TRF, they had picked me and my bike up countless times, encouraged me to keep going, fixed my steed, bought the beer and extracted the proverbial urine. There was great camaraderie and some brilliant riding.
Our lap of the course took nearly two hours thanks to having to crawl through a real 'pea souper' of fog for several miles of the mountain section, from the Waterworks up to the Bungalow. (The new outright lap record set by Michael Dunlop on his BMW S1000RR back in June during the TT races is 16 minutes and 53 seconds at an average speed of 133.962 MPH).
When I next return to the Island it will be with a trail bike once again. Thanks to the Central Bristol gentlemen I learnt loads and challenged myself well beyond my comfort zone – and I thought I could ride! The more you learn, the better you understand how little you knew before…!
Do you fancy trail riding the Isle of Man? Take a look here for a few tips.