Manx Grand Prix
OK - so it's taken me over 40 years, but I've finally decided to head for the Isle of Man. Not being a great fan of bike racing, would I find enough to do over on the Island ? Only one way to find out :--------->
Sun's out, the B.R.U.B is loaded up, so it's off to meet up with Ian, Andy, and Gaz for the 134 mile trip up the M6 to Heysham. The other three were taking four bikes between 'em in a van. This works out cheaper than taking bikes over individually, plus, the van serves as a "recovery wagon" should anything go amiss. On board the van we had Andy's rather modified Ducati..
Now at first glance, especially to a non Ducati owner, this looks like a fairly standard, early 900, but take a closer look. That engine shouldn't be in that frame - the drive chain is on the other side for a start. I dare say Andy can tell you more, but all I know is it looks right, and it goes right.
Now this beastie is Ian's creation. It started life as a Rickman frame and a Yamaha 650 engine - but that was over two years ago. This photograph doesn't do justice to the engineering and man hours that have gone into building this bike. I really must do a dedicated web page to it one day. Considering that this bike was only "finished" last night, this week will be a "trial run" for it. We reckon it should do all right at the Ramsey sprint on Thursday - let's keep our fingers crossed.
Another bike that was only finished a few days earlier was Gaz's Bonnie, seen here basking in the sunshine at Ramsey. Apart from the chrome strip on the petrol tank rattling a little, this bike behaved as all Triumphs should, and gave no problems at all.
The fourth bike in the van was Gaz's 1200 Bandit - which was more or less a "standby" bike, but it did get used a few times.
Following behind the van was the B.R.U.B. - or Big Red Ugly Bike, as it's come to be known, mainly because it's big, red and ugly.
All credit to the B.R.U.B. - it did the job, 650 miles with no problems at all. Not exactly the ideal bike for thrashing around the T.T. circuit, but it wasn't built to do that.
I would like to have taken the trike, but at a cost of £ 248 ( as opposed to £ 150 for the bike ) it seemed a tad expensive - especially if I had wanted to take the trailer too - that would have cost another £ 140 on top. I will take the trike over there one day, but I'll worry about that when I come to it.
What can you say about a ride along the M6 other than boring ? So - following a boring ride along the M6 we arrived at Heysham, got on board the sea cat, and headed for the Isle of Man.
I found the sea cat to be most impressive - just standing at the blunt end ( nautical term there folks ) and watching the water "jet" out of the back was most enjoyable, even if the thing was only going slow by bike standards. 40 mph across water is still fairly quick. It only took 1¾ hours to make the trip over to Douglas - compared with the best part of 4 hours by conventional ferry.
By the time we had rolled off the sea cat, a light rain had just started but this caused no problems seeing as we only had to travel a few miles to the Ascot hotel, our "home" for the next few days. Yes, yes, I know I said hotel - - look, I'm on holiday, OK ? I'll be back camping again next weekend I promise.
Having settled in, the rest of the evening was spent in the hotel bar.
Up for breakfast at around half past eight - and what a breakfast. As much as you could eat of toast, fried bread, bacon, sausage, eggs ( fried or scrambled ) hash browns, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, cereal - - or kippers, if you preferred 'em. Y'know, I'm getting to like this hotel lark. Having stuffed ourselves silly, we ventured outside. Hmm, the weather looked a little "iffy". Andy and myself decided to risk the possible rain and use our bikes, Ian and Gaz took the Wusses way out and went in the van. Seems me and Andy had the right idea because the clouds soon vanished and out came the sun.
Now Andy is an Isle of Man veteran ( compared to me ) having been coming over for at least the last twenty years - so, he took me on a guided tour, or at least showed me the way around.
First stop - Peel. Castle, kipper factory, seals, crab sandwiches, bikes and more bikes.
Second stop - Kirk Michael for petrol.
Third stop - Ramsey, where we spotted another 840 cc Yamaha special.
Fourth stop - Murray's museum, where we met up with Ian and Gaz.
spent a while at the museum, and I even persuaded Ian to try his
hand at trike riding - I'll get him on three wheels yet.
Another of our intrepid band, Gavin, put in an appearance.
( Well he didn't just appear, he'd been with us on the ferry but
I forgot to mention it, and I ain't going back to re-do the page
Seeing as the weather had turned for the better, the van contingent headed back to fetch their bikes, whilst Andy and myself headed for Laxey. Now what might be considered "taking it easy" on a Ducati is hard work for the B.R.U.B. - and I lost a few more bits of footboard following Andy's bike round some of the corners. Bloody speed crazed loon :)
" Lady Isabella" - the great Laxey wheel. I suppose every visitor to the Isle of Man just has to see this one. Opened in 1854, having taken four years to build ( sounds like Ian's bike ) with a diameter of 72½ feet. Now with my love of slow revving engines, this was a delight. 200 horsepower @ 2½ rpm. Now THAT'S what you call a " big single ". The "crankshaft" for want of a better word, is 17 feet long, with a diameter of 21 inches and weighs 10 tons. Just take a look at that con-rod ( arrowed in the picture ).
Yep - that strange looking thing is my good self, sitting in the big end eye of a spare con-rod. I must have spent a good few hours wandering around the trail up to the old mine workings, and just gazing at the moving parts of this wonderful engineering feat. So much power, yet it moved so slowly and silently, and, unlike it's modern counterparts, is so pleasing to the eye. The Victorians knew how to build engines.
A quick look at the sea, down at Old Laxey, then back to the bar - again. By this time we had found even more people to drink with, namely Chalky, Sue and Amy ( who just happened to have a birthday on Monday ). Another couple we know had come over just for a few days, so Ian and Mel joined us.
Once again, we did the "breakfast thing".
Having fed, we went out to play - the things some folks get up to when they think there is no one looking. Once we had removed ourselves from the kiddies play area we headed out to the classic bike meet at Castletown. Like it says on the tin - a meeting of classic bikes. Far too many to go into detail, but you name it, and there's a good chance you'd have found one. For the sake of my bandwidth ( and yours ) I won't put all the photographs on here.
From Castletown we moved on to the Calf of Man - along with just about everyone else on the island - at least the antics of the clueless car drivers gave us some entertainment.
Next stop - Peel, and once more we ferreted around in the rock pools, and watched the seals as they watched us.
If my memory serves me correctly, we invaded the local Chinese restaurant that evening, and very nice it was too.
Apparently there was some kind of bike race going on today - or so they tell me, so, armed with my Ordnance Survey map I headed for the North end of the Island whilst the others went off to see the racing. Bank Holiday Monday and I had the whole beach to myself - and it didn't rain. Now there's something you don't get very often. The rest of the day I spent just touring around and finding some of the narrowest lanes imaginable, but all good fun, non the less.
In what seems to be getting a habit, we all headed out to be "fed and watered".
Time for another dose of " Victorian Engineering " - this time in the shape of the Manx Electric Railway, or the tram, as we call it. Built back in 1893, some of the original tram cars are still in use - along with a few modern ones that were built in 1906.
A short walk along Douglas prom, and Andy and myself climbed aboard. The last time I rode on anything that sounded, and handled, like this tram was when I had my old BSA outfit - come to think of it, the tram just might have the edge on performance.
We took the tram as far as Laxey, then, still wishing to overdose on ancient engineering we took the slightly more modern Snaefell Mountain Railway. Built in 1895 -- and it only took seven months to complete ( unlike a certain Yamaha that I could mention ). This wonderful device took us up to the summit of Snaefell, and gave us grand views of the Laxey wheel in the process. Sadly, at 2036 feet above sea level, the cloud was just low enough to prevent us from seeing across the island and beyond, but that's the chance you take. A glorious sunny day down at Laxey - low cloud and mist at the summit of Snaefell. Ah well, you can't win 'em all. We clanked and clanged our way back to Douglas and picked the bikes up for a tour of some of the Southern towns on the island, before meeting up with the others for a run over to Glenmaye, and a Triumph owners club meeting. Of course, no trip to a pub would be complete without feeding, and feed we did. Although there was over an hour's wait, the food was excellent, if a little expensive, but that's the Isle of Man for you.
Once again, the others went off to find suitable vantage points to watch the racing. I headed off in search of George Formby, and to try and find the pipe factory at Laxey.
Using my powers of logic, I deduced that George would most probably be leaning on a lamp post somewhere, probably at the corner of the street. This was indeed the case, and a bronze statue of George Shuttleworth, the Slagdyke man who broke the 1936 T.T. record on his Shuttleworth Snap, before winning the same race on a Rainbow machine, could be found resplendent in Douglas. I was rather disappointed that the film "No Limit" wasn't showing at Douglas cinema. Thinking my luck was in, I went in search of the pipe factory ( I rather fancied a new Meerschaum ) which, according to the local map, was located next to the harbour in Old Laxey. I wandered around to no avail, so decided to use "local knowledge". As it turned out, the fellow I asked was one of the local policemen, who pointed out that the pipe factory closed a few years back. So much for that then. I took a leisurely ride back, parked up, then took a stroll up Douglas Head.
Once again, the most difficult choice of the evening was where to eat. This time it was a choice between the "sit in chippy" and the "American theme cafe". Due to the attitude of the staff at the American place, we decided to use the chip shop. Wise decision, if you ask me.
Oh I do like this "breakfast thing".
The main item on today's agenda was the Ramsey Sprint. Sort of drag racing, only smaller. One eighth of a mile, rather than one quarter of a mile. Ian's Rickman / Yamaha was to be given it's first serious test, so we found a nice stretch of straight road to give it a few test runs. Apart from shaking itself apart ( the horn bracket had already given up the ghost, and the horn is still in my panniers ) and the clutch slipping as it hit 5000 revs, the bike was running well - maybe a little rich at low revs, but that ain't too much of a problem. Andy was chosen to pilot the thing, and off he went, giving it plenty of thrash up the road. First gear - second gear - third gear BANG. Oops. Something didn't sound too good. As luck had it, the road we picked was a slight uphill, so we waited patiently whilst Andy rolled back down.
" Seems like ignition - just cut out "
So the first thing we did was to check for a spark when the ignition was switched on and off, this at least proves the plugs, coils, high and low tension circuits are in order. Yep - a nice healthy spark. Must be the points then - so off came the points cover. Hmm - shouldn't the cam be turning when you kick the engine over ? All sorts of nasty things went through my mind. Broken cam chain - broken camshaft ? Fortunately, it was a bit more simple than that, the advance and retard unit had self-destructed. Now Sod's law dictates that if you bring a whole van load of spares, the one thing you won't have is the part you need most. So ended the Yamaha's chances - but at least the thing goes, and goes well.
We made arrangements to rescue the Yam later, then continued on to Ramsey with Ian now on the Ducati, and Andy on the back of my bike.
Once again, I could more than fill the web space with photographs. There were all manner of machines, both old and new. The sprint drew some very interesting bikes, again, both old and new. It was while watching the sprint that I looked up and noticed the summit of Snaefell was dead clear. Not wanting to miss the chance, I headed for the summit once more, and this time was rewarded with excellent views. My poor video camera is still suffering from exhaustion. By the time I got back to Ramsey, the sprint was still running, so I soon found the others up by the start line.
Having rescued the now dead Yamaha, and taken it back to the hotel, we set off for the Bay Hotel, down at Port Erin and the "Classic Bike Guide" ( or some similar magazine ) bike night. Not exactly overflowing with classic bikes, but the food was excellent, according to our expert gourmet. The only thing I found about the food was that I don't like Tagliatelle - at least I know now. Give me old fashioned chip butties any day.
On our return to the hotel, we were told that tomorrow's racing had been cancelled due to the weather forecast predicting rain, but they would hold the race on Saturday when the sun would shine. Now I don't have much faith in weather forecasts, but all credit, they were correct. It did indeed rain the next day, and, just as they predicted, Saturday was glorious. Maybe the Isle of Man uses better weather forecasters than the rest of the U.K. ?
As the man said - it rained. In fact it rained most of the day. Not wanting to sit about doing nothing, we ventured out in the van. Oh dear. This van just happened to be of the kind that has no windows in the rear, come to think of it, it had no seats either. Gavin and myself were bounced from pillar to post, whilst listening to the "commentary" coming from the front seats. With hindsight, I'd have been better off getting wet <grin>. Our "non scenic" tour included the delights of Jurby Junk, a shop that lives up to its name. It's in Jurby, and it sells junk. Peel, and the kipper curers next ( that sounds like the name of a punk band ), where we had a tour of the kipper factory ( useless tip No. 2 There used to be a pub in Willenhall called the Kipper Factory ). From there we bounced our way to the Tynwald Mills centre, where a well deserved Pizza hit the spot. The final destination on our "torturous tour" was Douglas Head, where we were plagued by irate wasps, of all things. Gavin and myself decided enough was enough, and at the next stop we opted to walk back - seeing as the rain had almost stopped.
Tonight was our "farewell" meal in the hotel restaurant - most excellent, but once again, the price was scary. Still, I knew that before I came, so I can't really complain.
Time to go home - but not before we pigged out at the breakfast table.
It was halfway through my third lot of toast when I had the idea that streamlining would perhaps help the B.R.U.B. to go a little quicker. Our collective genius came up with the thought that ships are fairly quick, and ships have funnels. So, without further ado, I was equipped with a funnel. Due to some strange legal quirk involving British Standard Kite marks, the funnel was doomed to fail, but the idea was a good 'un.
We settled up with the hotel ( ouch ) and watched the first race of the day before boarding the sea cat for the crossing back to "real life". By four o'clock the 'cat had docked, and by half past six, the Isle of Man was just a memory.