• Tag Archives first trip to Isle of Man
  • Isle of Man TT practice week 2015- Part 3


    Breakfast, and a difference of opinions of what we should do for the day. Being my first time in the I.O.M I wanted to go and ride the course again, but the others didn’t share my enthusiasm. Jon wanted to go to Port Errin whilst the others wanted to go to Laxey to see the giant wheel there. Looking at the map we decided that we would all ride to Ramsey together, the group would wander round there while I continued round the circuit, with the idea I rejoin them in Ramsey later and we then head out to Laxey and on round to Port Errin, thereby satisfying everyone’s requirements.

    So we set off and as planned parted at Ramsey, but for some reason I wasn’t feeling the ride. Probably riding a bit faster than I should have been, I wasn’t riding smoothly and alarm bells started to sound that I should back off and calm down. Overtaking a coach into the town of Union Mills I looked at the bend ahead and saw a police biker looking at me, and when he promptly put on his helmet and gloves I thought oops, I could have a problem here? I’ve probably been going a bit too fast on my entry into the town and really not wanting to get a ticket, I carried on round the bend and immediately turned down a street on my right hand side, and parked up behind a conveniently parked long wheelbase transit van, from behind which I was able to watch the police biker head off up the road.

    Taking the opportunity to refasten my camera, ten minutes later I set off to find a few miles up the road a couple of policemen, including the police motorcyclist, blocking the road as the mountain was closed again. So, back to Ramsey and the cafe for a coffee and piece of cake whilst I waited for the others to reappear.

    As I have a GPS I got the job of leading us out to Laxey, where we managed to get split up yet again (you’ll notice this recurring trend) , eventually linking back up 15 minutes later. It seems that the guys had gone to the larger of the two wheels just outside the town, whereas we’d stopped at the smaller one in town!

    Here’s the largest one which you can actually climb to the top of.

    And here the smaller one

    Mountain railway train ambling by


    Here we are at the giant wheel, but as the others had been up it before and were too tight to pay the £5 to go up again, I just took some pictures

    The road to Laxey had been a good one, and the one towards Port Errin was equally good, taking in some lovely country roads and even taking us onto part of the Cookstown 100 course. We didn’t actually get as far as Port Errin, instead stopping at the pub below which had good food and an ultra cool toilet which apparently has made it into Facebook in a multitude of countries around the world.

    After lunch I decided to have a look at Jims GSXR1000 as I’d had the same bike a few years earlier. Jim has been taking a bit of stick due to the fact he claims he never opens it above 7000rpm. I know the engine in this model is a monster and I’d always felt the handling left a little to be desired on my bike, but when I sat on Jims the reason for his lack of speed and confidence, was immediately obvious. The forks dived massively on braking and returned way too quickly. Insisting he allow me to have a go at trying to improve it for him, I made some adjustments to the preload and compression settings, and 20 minutes later it seemed to have done the trick, as not only was he riding more quickly, he had a big smile on his face. Job done!

    Leaving the beautiful setting of the pub, next order of the day was to check out Glen Helen as our potential viewing spot for tonights spectating.

    Glen Helen proved to be a great spot, but as we waited the couple of hours for the bikes to start their practice sessions, we saw several worrying events as spectators arrived at this spot

    First was a guy with a young boy riding pillion, who suddenly decided he wanted to turn right into the parking but seemingly without seeing the car coming the other way. Luckily he just about stopped in time, only to ride on and almost drop it as he made a second attempt to turn in. The real shocker was someone in a large black SUV who turned across the road so slowly he nearly caused a major accident, as a double decker bus going the other way had to swerve to get around it. You could hear the incredulous shouts and gasps from the spectators as they observed what could have been a very nasty accident. Needless to say he got a major bollocking from the marshals!

    The picture below shows you some of the “issues” faced on the island. Imagine living in the house on the right and wanting to get out of your drive!

    Our spot on the banking gave a good view in both directions and there were two burger vans in the car park so at least we could get a drink and a bite to eat

    We probably spent the best part of 4 hours at this spot, and when the call of nature came, those who descended our banked seating spot hoping to use the portaloo below, found it to be for the marshals use only (here a marshalls trike parked outside the loo). Luckily there was a toilet block a couple of hundred yards walk round the corner!

    After watching the sidecars finally get their practice session (they’d not been on track up until then due to the weather), the evening ended and we headed back to the hotel and the bar. Total riding round the island today- 83 miles


    Today is unfortunately our final day, and it started by finding we’d been usurped from our regular corner window spot by a couple of Americans. Don’t you just hate it when two people sit at a seat for 6 in a restaurant? Didn’t they know it was reserved for us?

    Everyone wants to buy something for themselves, wives or kids, so we set off down the road past the Imperial Dragon Chinese restaurant we’d visited two nights earlier on our way to the large TT souvenir shop, where we bought an assortment of jackets, T shirts, and stickers.

    On past this stable, where a pair of shire horses were being tended to before the start of their day, dragging tourist carriages up and down the seafront.

    I’ve done a lot of camping in my time, but I have to say that for this trip I was glad we’d been in a hotel. This and many other sites will be heaving in a few days time when the TT starts for real

    Nice sea views from campsite

    The walk seemed to drag on for ages but this sign shows we’re now closer to the paddock area we’re heading for now

    Below- Robert Dunlops S1000RR

    The two mega bucks Mugen electric bikes

    Famous rider

    This is Hutchys bike. Check out the right hand gear shift he need to use now

    James Hilliers ZX-10R

    Derek McGee’s Wilson Craig Honda

    Mar-Train fairings just lying around!

    This Anstey replica was in a raffle, tickets £1. Imagine how pleased you’d be if you won that!!!

    Eventually we had to head back to the hotel, and Roo and I had a quick diversion into a few more of the shops in Ramsey. Check out this Rossi balloon in a betting shop window, bike mania everywhere

    Back at the hotel and packed, we loaded the bikes and decided to fill up with petrol on the island rather than having to stop once we got back to Liverpool. Heading off behind Kev, the group managed to get split up, again!, as Jim and Roo got stuck at the lights. The road doubled back on itself as Kev led us up towards the petrol station at Bray Hill, and we saw Jim and Roo on the other side of the road and assumed (wrongly) that they knew where we were going. After filling up we realised that no-one had seen Roo, oops! No option other than to head for the ferry though and soon after he rolled up having watched us enter the port. Of course, the weather has turned nice now that we’re leaving, and we’re sat in the sun for the hour and a half the ferry company demand you arrive before loading.

    Luckily we’re on the catamaran again, and this time a lovely smooth sailing and the chance to watch the Dunlop family film “Road” on the onboard TV’s

    Back in Liverpool and I took the lead, as the GPS takes us out of the city on a slightly odd route, but soon the reassuring signs for the M6 appear. Jim, Jon and I have managed to drop the others filtering out of the outskirts of Liverpool, but they’re on the same road for sure, so not having to worry about them finding their way I sat behind my screen and upped the pace a little, eventually dropping Jon and Jim from view.

    Eventually I arrived home at 18.55 having ridden 458 miles and 11hours 45 over the course of these few days. The roads had been great, time spent in good company, some tales to tell and bore mates with for weeks to come, another bucket list item ticked off, and a strong feeling I’ll go back again.




  • Isle of Man TT practice week 2015-Part 2


    With better weather expected we formulated our plan for the day over breakfast. First thing on the agenda was to find a bike shop for Roo, who wanted to try and buy a smaller sprocket  in the hope it would alleviate his excessive fuel consumption, and also to buy a bar end mirror to replace the one which had dropped off as we had ridden from the hotel to the ferry the previous day.

    The ever helpful Google located a couple of shops nearby, but neither Padgetts Suzuki nor the local Honda dealer had anything. Eventually we were pointed in the direction of another dealer close by, although the guy who directed us told us we’d end up riding the wrong way up the one way system, but not to worry, it’d be alright if we stayed to the left side of the road!

    The shop turned out to be a Yamaha dealer and unfortunately they had no sprockets either , although Roo got lucky as they did have a bar end mirror, and with the friendly bike shop owners lending him the tools to fit it, we were finally ready to start the days exploring.

    We decended Bray Hill where we were to spectate later that evening, and a very short distance later arrived at Union Mills and the first petrol stop of the day! I started the camera rolling as we started our ride on the hallowed TT course, although in Ramsey we managed to take the wrong route out of town, having to turn round and go back towards Ramsey before rejoining the correct road.

    Once onto the mountain road speeds increased and Dog, Jon, Roo and I turned up the wick and let loose on the derestricted road. It was still slightly damp in places over the top and not knowing the road like the others I had to be a bit careful, but soon it was just me chasing Dog and his R1 as Jon dropped back a bit as his RGV ran out of steam against the bigger engined bikes.

    We stopped off at point at the famous Creg Ny Baa pub, well when I say we stopped, I mean most of us did. There was no sign of Jim, and after 10 minutes we began to wonder if something had happened to him? It had. Apparently a police car nad reversed out into the road, stopped the traffic, and started everyone off the mountain. Eventually, realising we weren’t on the same road, he turned back, was able to get back onto the mountain road and rejoin us.

    After a while watching others passing we decided to try and find a spot to spectate that evening, so we set off round the course again, eventually arriving at Crosby and this pub

    Cool feature of the pub was the TV screen showing the road outside

    We hadn’t decided where to spectate that night so decided to ride the course again and see which spot took our fancy. Arriving in Ramsey for the second time that day everyone turned in for petrol and we agreed to go from there to a local cafe nearby, but that was when the the plan went tits up.

    Dog and Kev had disappeared, quickly followed by Jon, leaving the rest of us try to figure out where they had gone. We seemed to traverse the whole town several times looking for them, and then Roo and I managed to lose Jim too. With no idea where they had all gone, we were riding round the town like lost sheep. Eventually we ended up on a road at the top of town which was obviously not where they were, but as Roo went to turn, the bike fell on top of him, leaving him trapped with his leg underneath it, but having heroically saved his fairing and new bar end mirror from damage.

    Eventually we managed to rejoin the group at the cafe below, after a series of phone calls, and it turned out we had literally been round the corner from them 20 minutes previously!

    Ramsey is clearly the islands Bermuda triangle, not that big but easy to get lost in!

    So after reuniting our group and coffee and cake devoured, we set off on the correct road this time, but we only managed to get as far as The Bungalow before finding the road was closed due to high winds. Everyone was being diverted off the mountain down some fun but narrow roads, and so we headed back to the hotel, where we spotted Ian Hutchinson deep in conversation.  We were surprised to see him here with only an hour and a half to go til practice was due to start, but with the paddock a quick 5 minute drive away, clearly he wasn’t too worried.

    Our first viewing spot was at the bottom of Bray Hill and it was mind blowing to see, and feel , the speed of the riders as they barreled down the hill.

    Jon and Kev taking a seat to watch

    This guy, whom I guessed was a German given the number of German patches on his leathers, turned up to what seemed like a heros welcome from a bunch of people who clearly knew him. His leathers were completely covered in patches and pin badges and he even had what looked like an apron as an extension to mount all his regalia on!

    Heading up from Bray Hill to watch the next session we stopped at St Andrews church where this witty sign grabbed my attention. After watching the next category of bikes do their practice session we nipped into the church hall for a cup of tea and a cake

    Then into the grandstand on the start finish straight, but not for long. The clouds were coming in and the wind was rising. When the marshal in front of us started to pack his flags and the ambulance staff walked away, it was clear there would not be any more practice that evening, so we decided to wander the paddock area

    Perhaps one of the most recognisable motorhomes, belonging to John McGuinness

    This was about as close as most people got to Guy Martin, just seeing him surrounded by others in his team tent

    Cameron Donald

    Another unusual item not found on the mainland, the IOM electric railway

    By this stage we were hungry, and having agreed to go for a Chinese, we set off on what turned out to be a route march and seemingly miles, to find one. Eventually we found the Imperial Dragon and a well deserved and tasty meal, plus a few beers of course!

    Bikes queued everywhere outside the B&B’s

    The moon over the Irish sea, and then back to the hotel, sleep, and prepare for tomorrows adventures

    Todays riding-  116 miles

  • Isle of Man TT practice week 2015- Part 1


    So if you read the previous prequel post, you’ll have read we were on the verge of heading off to the Isle of Man TT practice week, but we ended up having a few last minute dramas to contend with before the off.

    Starting with my K1300GT. I thought I’d got loads of tread left on the front tyre as the sides were showing a healthy 3mm, but I was shocked to find my depth gauge only indicating a much less impressive 1.6mm or less in the centre, meaning a frantic run round to get a new tyre fitted.

    Next came Jons CBR600, which the week before decided to lose its coolant, and despite being rushed to the garage and spending time being stripped to find the fault, wouldn’t play ball, meaning Jon was forced to turn up on his second option, a Suzuki RGV250.

    Finally, Andrew (Roo) was hoping he would get the DVLA papers he needed back in time to get a daytime MOT on his track CBR600 so he wouldn’t have to go on his 748. Luckily he was more successful than Jon, and he turned up on the 600.

    So with the scene set, and having managed to watch MotoGP before the meeting time, I arrived to find the guys already there and waiting, so here they are, L to R:

    Jim (GSXR1000K1), Roo (CBR600), John (Dog) R1, Kev (Bandit 1250), Jon (RGV250)

    The route I’d planned to avoid the boredom of motorway riding turned out to be a good one, although it highlighted a problem we were to have all week, the fuel consumption of Roos CBR600. With high track gearing it seemed to be drinking fuel like a drunk at a free bar, and meant we needed to plan petrol stops. Following Dog into the petrol station ( through the no entry exit!) we were treated to chocolate bars from Dogs huge rucksac whilst the group alternatively went for a loo break or topped up with petrol.

    128 miles later and 2 hours 58 in total (target time was 3 hours, damn I’m good!) we rocked up at the Devonshire Hotel in Liverpool, where for the bargain price of £20 each we not only had a room but a full English breakfast the next day!

    After locking up the bikes and spending a while in the bar we headed for the only eating establishment the hotel receptionist recommended, Frankie and Bennys. Hardly haute cuisine and a 10 minute walk away, but we were ready to eat and set off for our burgers and wraps.

    We managed to get back without getting too wet, but it was close as the skies turned dark and rain started to fall.  Next, a nights sleep and off to the ferry tomorrow!



    Breakfast devoured we set off to the ferry, which turned out to be only 5 miles away, and joined the queue. First sight of the day, this gaudily painted tour boat.

    The Manannan is the high speed catamaran which runs to the IOM at up to 35 knots per hour, so we would be getting the benefit of comfort and a quick crossing rather than being on the slower and more traditional ferry.

    Here the guys are clearly looking forward to the trip!

    The queue doesn’t look too big at this stage but it certainly got much bigger soon after

    The crossing was pretty good given that the weather forecast hadn’t been great, and although it was slightly choppy when the stabilisers were dropped to enter port, it wasn’t too bad, but clearly there wasn’t going to be much racing to watch, as a passenger announcement had advised anyone camping that 50mph gusts might force them to reconsider their options, and that a friendly village hall was taking people in that night.

    So we got off the boat to some rain, but with the hotel less than two miles away we were soon there and parking up. Later that evening we watched as the incoming evening ferry battled the choppy seas with its bow seemingly disappearing under the waves.

    This picture was taken from the hotel restaurant looking out towards the harbour that evening.

    Inside and in the relative calm of the hotel restaurant, here we are enjoying a very reasonably priced meal and relaxing with a few drinks

    Later on when the rain abated we decided to venture out and head up towards the paddock area. Parked outside, this humorous take on WeBuyAnyCar.com

    An IOM number plate and sticker to be added to my bike as an addition to the current 15 countries I’ve ridden it in


    Not your common road sign

    In the paddock area we saw this sign for a complex of fast assembly sleeping accommodation below

    You can see how wet the roads are on the famous start finish straight leading down to Bray Hill

    Leader board updated by Scouts during race week

    Walking back down and into town, we found a souvenir shop where we bought a few things but would definitely need to return to later in the week.

    More sights below.

    Sir Norman Wisdom statue

    Great clouds in these pics

    At least you can’t say you weren’t warned before you get fined!

    The 3 legs are everywhere

    Back in the hotel car park this Katana. I’m not sure if it was an original or new one but it certainly wasn’t standard

    So back to the bar where it seems the islanders are so concerned about being short changed when their pints are pulled, they have a law to make sure it doesn’t happen

    So our first day was something of a disappointment as there had been no practice to watch, but with better weather forecast, we were able to retire for the night with the expectation of seeing some action the next day.

    Todays ride- a massive 6.5 miles, 5 from hotel to ferry and 1 1/2 from ferry to hotel.