Wight Riders M.C.C.

Gurt Gallybagger. 

 May 2nd - May 5th.


    This year sees the club split between two rallies on the Isle of Wight.  The "Gurt Gallybagger" - and the "Over the edge".  In the past we have had as many as thirty-nine folks booked for the 'Gallybagger, this year we had two, and of that two, one of them would be running down a day late due to spending a day in the local hospital having a foreign body removed from his eye.  The other rally wasn't exactly brimming with Moonshiners either, with one member and a few "friends of Moonshiners" in attendance.  Still, at least the weather seemed better this time, so with the sun happily shining I loaded the bike . . . yes, that's right . . . BIKE.  This year will be the first time I've ever done the Isle of Wight on two wheels.  I've done it with bike and trailer,  bike and sidecar, bike and sidecar and trailer, trike and trailer, but never on just two wheels.

    The bike of choice was my Enfield Bullet - a rather strange contraption, with even stranger looking luggage.  Those things that look like plastic oil drums are in fact plastic oil drums.  Should you wish to make something similar, then full instructions may be found by clicking HERE.   One of the reasons for using two wheels was the rising cost of taking a trailer over to the island.  I'm afraid that even with the concession from the rally ticket, it just ain't worth paying twice the price to take the "Dog Kennel" over.   The Bullet, despite being loaded to the gunnels, did the job admirably.  Now seeing as I was on a solo motorcycle, I could stop and take a few pictures of a certain tree.  This tree, in the middle of Savernake Forest, has always been referred to by us Moonshiners as "The Tree".  Well, I can now tell you that "The Tree" has a name.   "Big Belly Oak" is the grand title of this monarch of the woods.


    As I said, I just had to stop and take a look at this rather grand old man of the woods.  The next stop was Salisbury for a pair of Wellies - I had a feeling I may be needing some later on.  The New Forest came next, then the ferry from Lymington.  A scenic ride around the Island was called for before trying to find the rally site.  One of the attractions of the 'Gallybagger was its location - right on the edge of the coast at Atherfield - would changing the site have much effect on the rally ?  The first thing I noticed was the site was much harder to find - you couldn't really miss the original one, also, it was a lot smaller.  In fact you could fit the entire site in the middle of a speedway track, which is what they did.  On the plus side, at least it would be sheltered no matter which way the wind came from.  Not having the holiday camp chalets also meant the numbers would be down, but that meant too that fewer cars would be there.  One of the reasons I came back to the 'Gallybagger this year was the "on site security", for want of a better term.  No one gets in or out unless they pass rally control.  This keeps away the thieving element that spoiled the last two rallies we attended on the Isle of Wight.  Having booked in, I set up the tent and took a nose around the site.

    There were a fair few weird and wonderful machines parked up, although one poor fellow looked like he'd been there for quite a long time.  Looking at this rather anorexic pillion made me feel that it was well past my dinner time, so it was back to the tent and fire up my ancient Primus stove.  After the eating, comes the drinking.  I'd already been tipped off that the beer in the club was expensive so it came as no surprise to be charged almost three quid for a pint of hand pulled bitter.  What I did object to was that the pint in question was undrinkable.  It was cloudy and most decidedly "off".  All credit to the bar staff, they changed it for a pint of keg beer with no problems, but I'm afraid to say that was the one and only pint that I bought from the club - I found a decent pub a few miles away and used that.   Even if the beer wasn't to my taste, at least the entertainment was.   Stevie, as in "One man - One mandolin", was performing in his usual style.  Once Stevie had finished, the main band began to set up, this, as per normal, was my cue to leave.  I'd much rather listen to music at a volume that doesn't cause me discomfort - so that's what I did, I listened to the band from outside.  So far, a most pleasant day.  The bike performed just as it should, which made me feel a lot better about the money that I'd thrown into it over the last few months.  I'd had a glorious ride through some beautiful scenery, the weather had been more than kind, and now I was sat here, listening to the band, supper in my hand.  

    Saturday morning - and I'm up and about before nine o'clock.  That must be some kind of a record.   Time to take a ride around the island, this time to Ventnor, where there is a most excellent cafe.  I have to confess that I do like riding single cylinder bikes, and taking the Bullet for a ride around the back lanes, before ending up parked next to the beach and eating breakfast is one of life's more pleasurable experiences.  

Of course, no sooner had I pulled up than I spotted folks that I knew.  So now there were three of us for breakfast.  I dare say to anyone who lives on the island, having breakfast whilst sitting watching the sea is nothing new, but to us folks from the Black Country, in the heart of the Midlands, the sea and the scenery are somewhat of a novelty.  Doing the "sea side thing" took most of the morning.  A phone call, around dinner time, told me that fellow Moonshiner, Andy, was on board the ferry.  Ah - a good excuse to take the long way around and meet him at Yarmouth.  I followed the coast past the old 'Gallybagger site, then past the site of the "Over the edge" rally.  It looked, to me, like I made the right decision, the site was packed . . . with more cars than ever this year.   It would indeed seem that this event is now more of a theme party than a bike rally, but that's what folks want, and the numbers in attendance proved that.  I'm sorry, but it ain't my kind of weekend.    I carried on along the coast road to Freshwater, then arrived at Yarmouth just in time to meet the ferry.  Another scenic ride back to the site - another tent set up - then down to Ryde for something to eat, and a spot of hovercraft watching. . . . .  are they really full of eels ?  { For the benefit of our younger readers, please Google "My hovercraft is full of eels" } 

    Sunday, and this time breakfast was more of a "in house" affair.  No point in taking cooking gear if you ain't going to use it.  It's become a ritual that when on the Isle of Wight during May bank holiday, then you must visit the classic bike show at the Winter Gardens, in Ventnor, on Sunday.  This show is a small affair, but is most enjoyable non the less.  Ok, so you see the same bikes every year, but there's always one or two that you ain't seen before, and the stuff parked outside is just as interesting as the stuff on display.  Well worth two quid of anybody's money.

    There's some kind of unwritten rule that states "If you are British, then when anywhere near the coast, you must have an ice cream"  Not being noted for breaking the law, we complied.  The next venue was the Isle of Wight steam railway.  Now we did visit this last year, and just like proper tourists, we did the steam train thing and took video footage whilst poking our heads out of the window.  Sadly, the video camera fell victim to thieving bastard syndrome, which was another reason I chose to do the 'Gallybagger this year.  That "on site security" doesn't solve all problems, but it helps stop things like that from happening.   Once we were well steamed, the British seaside mentality took over again and much food was consumed.  More gentle touring around the island followed and we found ourselves at the donkey sanctuary in Wroxall.  Hmm - they'll never notice two more asses amongst the dozens they've got here.  I do love pulling donkey's ears - maybe I need therapy. 

    We got back to the site, took a nose around, put the kettle on, and generally relaxed.  Ukuleles were involved at some time during all this, but I'll spare you the details.  Towards the end of the evening, the rain set in.  Not nasty, heavy rain, but the gentle stuff that is more of an annoyance than anything else.  With no wind to shift it, this rain could be in for a while.  Who'd have thought it - the Isle of Wight with no wind, and with the rain tapping gently on tent, we called it a night.

    Monday morning, and the rain is still with us.  It certainly ain't cold, but things are a bit on the moist side.  I wasn't too bothered about packing the tent away wet, it would be used again later on in the day seeing as I was on holiday for the week.  Andy wasn't so fortunate, he was back at work the next day, so after we rolled off the ferry, he headed for Salisbury and home, whilst I headed for Dorchester and the scenic route over to Porlock.   The rain continued, although it wasn't heavy enough to cause concern, it was just enough to be a mild irritation.  Despite the rain, I was enjoying the ride immensely.   The Bullet was running beautiful, I took the A35 from Dorchester, across the "roof of Dorset" and down into Bridport.  Even up the hills, the bike never missed a beat.  It was whilst running up towards Crewkerne that I noticed my throttle cable becoming a bit stiff.  This gradually got worse, up to the point that I couldn't open or close the throttle.  Being one of the old school of bikers, I carry spare cables, so the first chance I got, I pulled up and whipped the tank off, ready to fit a new cable.

Oh dear.  There's nothing at all wrong with the cable . . . . the throttle slide was completely seized in the carburettor body.  There was nothing stuck between the slide and the body - the air filter would have stopped most things anyway - the slide was just jammed solid.  A quick bit of pulling and the slide was free.  I could see a high spot on one side, so I gently filed it down.  Good job there's a file on my multi-tool.  I've no idea why this happened - I could understand the carburettor body warping when I was working the engine hard coming over the A35 from Dorchester, but this occurred whilst riding steady.  I stretched the return spring, and even put some Redex in the petrol later on and the problem didn't happen again.  By the time I hit Taunton the rain had stopped, and by the time I reached Porlock it was a grand afternoon.  A few Moonshiners were already there, once again these were people who decided that "once bitten" was the story of the "Over the edge" rally.  

I spent a couple of days doing what I enjoy doing best - riding the bike, and the weather was most agreeable.  I left towards the end of the week - taking the route up past Tintern Abbey, as I generally do.   The next stop should be the NABD national rally, up in Cheshire.

   There we have it.  I returned to the 'Gallybagger.  The last one I did was in 2004 - sadly I had to give the island a miss in 2005 - for 2006 and 2007 I did the "Over the edge", and, I'm sad to say, it was that rally that made me change my mind.    Considering we, as a club, normally have a large turnout for the Isle of Wight, this year saw a record low.  When we first started doing the 'Gallybagger it was an adventure, these days it doesn't seem quite the event that it was.  I still love the ride down there, I find the island a nice place to be, and I generally take a week off and make a holiday out of it.  The rising ferry price has put quite a few folks off, especially those who tow trailers, that, coupled with the thieving that went on last year and the year before {at the other rally - I hasten to add}  put even more folks off.  From  39 people back in 1999, to 2 people in 2008 - will this be the end of the "Gurt Gallybagger" as far as the Moonshiners are concerned ?   I know Andy was saying that it's doubtful he'll do it next year . . . will I still do it on my own ?  Who knows ?  Watch this space, about this time next year and you'll find out.


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