Warning! This is a vanity publishing blog entry. Don't blame me if it bores you rigid. This is as much for me to read back to myself in my addled dotage as it is for wider interest. If you stumble across it and enjoy it, though... please let me know!
I was woken before 5 am by the early shift of bikers with race pipes 'doing a quick lap before the traffic builds up', but I managed to get back to sleep for a couple of hours.
I woke again in time to call the Manx Telecom helpdesk. They carefully talked me through doing exactly what their documentation had already said I should do with no useful result. When that didn't work, they suggested that I pop into one of the Manx Telecom shops in Douglas and let them have a fiddle. I gave up and got up.motomuffin
was still in bed but awake, and said she had slept badly due to being cold. I was surprised - as discussed earlier I was too stupid to read the small print in the spec of the sleeping bag and expected her to be comfortable. I put it down to her sleeping on the ground. She decided to warm up with a nice hot shower. Nobody told the shower, though - apparently it was icy cold. At least breakfast, from the on-site van, was hot. motomuffin
had already been introduced to the sacrement of the bacon and egg butty by my mate Karl at Snack Attack in Carmarthen, but here she explored variations on the theme of bacon. And tea. Suitably fortified, we strolled down the driveway to the main road past the entrance to the camp site, accompanied by Radio TT on my little radio. That road that had so recently been a bustle of traffic, mainly spectators on motorcycles heading for their favourite vantage points, was now a silent race track, waiting for the first Superbike race, with barriers drawn across the entrance to the camp site. At the bottom of the drive we found a family of four, sitting on deck chairs behind the low wall at the entrance, in the spot that I personally suspected a flying 190mph motorcycle would impact if somebody got Greeba terminally wrong. motomuffin
thought we would get a wonderful view if we sat next to them, and that was true, but there was something she hadn't quite fully appreciated yet... until you have experienced the sheer visceral violence of a modern racing Superbike, flat out at close to 200mph, passing you within a few feet, it's impossible to describe it, and really, only the TT can give you that. Along with that thrill is the realisation that if anything does go wrong, both the rider and spectators may have milliseconds to do anything about it. If a Superbike runs wide and hits the very solid wall on the outside of the little kink out of Appledene and approaching Greeba Bridge at over 170mph, the entrance to Chronk Dhoo farm doesn't look like a good place to be sitting as the wreckage bounces back into the road. Guy Martin's crash last year in the Senior TT
at a similarly fast corner just a little down the road from Greeba was about half to three quarters of a mile long, with pieces of burning and broken motorcycle, wall, bales and christ knows what littering the road for the whole length of the crash site - and at the very end of the flaming yard sale, Guy himself who had miraculously not only survived but survived in good enough shape to walk out of hospital a week or so later and be back racing 8 weeks later. He's the exception that proves the rule on crashing at 170mph at the TT, though...
In due course, the race started, and it seemed like moments later, we could hear the banshee howl of an approaching 1000cc 220bhp Superbike engine being held at full throttle for an extended period of time, then John McGuinness
came past us about 8 feet away doing well over 170mph. Chased almost ten seconds later by another almost equally unbelievably fast missile. When McGuinness flew past, motomuffin
turned to me with her mouth forming a perfect 'O' - and after most of the first lap runners had passed us we moved back up the hedgeline to a spot on the apex of the fast corner that was much less likely to get
killed in the event of a catastrophic incident....
I took a bit of video during the Superbike TT from both vantage points...
The next video isn't mine, but it is a riders eye view of the section of course past our camp site; not even a racers view - that would just be a long blur - but the view from on the tank of a Travelling Marshal who is leading first-time Mountain Course racers round the track on a 'slow' familiarisation lap.
The section after Appledene and towards Greeba Bridge which goes past the two vantage points the previous video was filmed from start at 1:40, by the way.
After the Superbike race (won by McPint
), a spot of lunch and the first sidecar race, won by Klaus 'Klaffi' Klaffenbock
, we managed to borrow a battery charger from the campsite owner, pulled the battery from the Striple and stuck it on charge. We also popped the tank up and checked all the fuses and connectors underneath it, looking for any more benign causes for a failure to charge. I also turned on data roaming on my phone briefly and found the number of Jason Griffiths Motorcycles
, Manx Triumph dealer to the gentry. I called them up and arranged to take the bike in on Monday (because his mechanic wasn't going to be in on Mad Sunday, as he had been working 12 hour days for a week now) for a quick prod with a multimeter. Jason himself expressed the hope that maybe his mechanic could whip a regulator/rectifier off another bike he had coming in on Monday and stick it on mine, if that was all that was required. It seemed hopeful, so I told him we'd definitely pop in on Monday.
Then as soon as the roads re-opened, we hopped aboard the GT and headed in to Douglas, where we went and explored the front a little, booked tickets for TT3D: Closer to the Edge
later in the week at the first showing with space (after a marathon hike up and down the prom and an amusing 'wrong cinema' incident), bought a load of souvenir TT tat
between us, and then had another marathon hike playing 'hunt the recommended Italian restaurant'. Which we found and which really was worth finding (but I can't remember the name of it now). We dined sumptuously, found the (closed) Manx Telecom shop
for future reference and then headed for the culinary nexus of the known world, McDonalds, for pudding and free WiFi access. And then back to the camp-site and to bed, this time with motomuffin
fully inflating her air-bed.
I was entirely confident that motomuffin
would be adequately warm on Saturday night. Not only was she now sleeping on an inflated air-bed rather than the ground, but I was sleeping bollock naked in my sleeping bag, with the zip halfway down, and yet was entirely warm and comfortable, while motomuffin
was apparently dressed like an Egyptian mummy, in every item of clothing she owned, inside her sleeping bag. I was therefore immensely surprised in the morning to discover that once again she had had a sleep-interrupted night because she was cold.
This was Mad Sunday, traditionally in days long past, the only day of the TT festival where the mountain section was made one way and everybody and his dog went for a lap. Now the mountain is one-way for the entire duration of the TT festival, but traditions die hard, and one tradition is that on Mad Sunday, people ride like such utter cocks over the mountain that they are very likely to end up buried in the unforgiving scenery half way across the top, or knock somebody else into it. Riding the mountain on Mad Sunday is something of a mugs' game. Watching others do likewise, can be quite entertaining.
However, we had other fish to fry. I had a shower, which was actually too hot rather than too cold, but not hot enough to blister skin (so that was alright then), we breakfasted at the van, we reassembled the Striple with a now fully charged battery and then I suggested that we nip down to Castletown and firstly locate Jason Griffiths Motorcycles
, and secondly pop in, show our faces and get ourselves 'in the queue' to be sorted out before anybody else came in with problems.
We headed in convoy along the TT course, through Greeba Bridge to Ballacraine, and then peeled off towards Castletown, fun country roads with the usual variety of speed limits from 30mph in villages to none at all outside them. In due course we actually joined the course used by the Pre-TT Classic and 2-stroke TT road races (because the road-racing around the TT begins before TT fortnight and ends after the end of race week, it just shifts around the island). In due course we arrived at the Triumph dealership that I remembered as S&S Motors - remembered because when I broke my Sprint ST, last time I was over in 1999, this was the place that fixed it for me, before Jason Griffiths, former TT star himself, bought it out. Now it seems to be a multi-franchise dealership, with BMW, Ducati, Aprilia and of course Triumph. And I was making a habit of bringing broken Trumpets here during TT visits!
The intention was just to pop in and show our faces, then we could both go for a decent ride round the island, avoiding the TT course (except possibly to watch the carnage) before putting the Striple back on charge overnight and bringing it back to the menders tomorrow for a quick fix. As it happened, the mountain spent most of the day closed as the police and highways agency hosed the remains of crash after crash off the road, and then spent several hours clearing an oil slick that had caused another massive crash, so there was no spectating to be done there. And also as it happens, the mechanic who hadn't had a day off for a week of dawn to dusk spanner waving was bored at home and came in anyway, which is how when I popped in to say 'Hi, this is me and this is the bike, we do exist and what time should we bring it in tomorrow?', Jason said 'Take it round to the workshop and we'll check it out'. So I did!
It only took ten seconds with a multimeter to confirm what I was sure of anyway - it wasn't charging! Another 20 seconds having pulled the connector to the generator indicated that at that point, the generator
functioning, so it was 'just' a regulator rectifier. Apparently, the 2009/early 2010 Striples and Rs had a defectively designed regulator rectifier
from new. It was designed so that the cooling fins and indeed the reg rec itself were mounted against the back of the engine, and it was a shunt-type device that died horribly with monotonous regularity. So monotonous, in fact, that Triumph designed a completely different MosFet based part, with a heatsink that faced the other way and with different connectors, which became both the standard fitment and the standard replacement for the old part. But they never admitted there was a problem and they never recalled and replaced the ones that are prone to fail. So, the new design of reg rec was what was required.
Now, my experience with reg/recs is with Hondas, which are (were?) notorious for eating reg/recs like smarties, but on which the reg/rec normally lives in the tailpiece and can be changed in 2 minutes if you take it really easy. On the Striple... no such luck. You need to pull the rear shock to get to the thing
and its giant heatsink! This, plus the fact that the new bike Jason was expecting not being guaranteed to arrive before Wednesday at the earliest, pretty much sealed our fate. We could leave the bike with them, they'd investigate getting a reg-rec quickly, but worst case they would have to order it from the UK. In that case it would take two days to arrive.
In my minds eye, I saw us getting the bike back during the day on Wednesday worst case, or Monday afternoon if there was a miracle. I could live with that, and motomuffin
seemed quite relaxed about it as well. In truth, I don't think we had any alternative, beyond possibly putting the bike on charge every night and hoping that the battery held up for the week. But at the time I was thinking that the generator was still OK, and didn't want to risk frying that, so it would have been a fairly brave decision.
was once again my passenger as I headed for Douglas, via the back roads. And she may have been regretting it after we encountered the interesting combination of an incredibly bumpy but de-restricted section of Manx road. Of course, I was just fine - the suspension on the K1200GT is incredibly good, and just by raising myself slightly on the balls of my feet I was quite happy riding the bumps at high speed, but what I hadn't accounted for was that a passenger would get catapulted right out of the seat when I hit such a bump. And slowing down a bit didn't seem to help that much, since I wasn't skimming the bumps any more, and I very nearly inadvertently vertically ejected my passenger entirely, which... didn't go down well! She was certainly getting a rapid pummelling of the rump - which is something that very many people would definitely pay good money for in a specialist club, but apparently motomuffin
isn't one of them...
The road smoothed out just in time for us to pause at the Fairy Bridge
to offer them a traditional greeting, and also to read the many tributes and requests made, and see the many offerings left by others. Superstitions are weird!
Then we headed into Douglas where I was surprised to find that the Manx Telecom shop was actually open on a Sunday, and not only that, staffed by somebody who was able to tell me immediately that the APN listed in the documentation for the SIM they had sold me, and also being given out by their helpdesk, was wrong. I popped in the APN that the bloke in the shop gave me in place of the one that Manx Telecom were telling me to use (apparently that is the APN for contract customers only), and the dongle promptly sprang in to life and let me connect to the internet via WiFi with my phone! I was impressed! Nearly as impressed as I would have been if the documentation had been right in the first place :-). motomuffin
, meanwhile, was buying jewellery I believe. Not really my department :-).
Flushed by the success of our shopping trip into Douglas, we headed for the TT Grandstand, parked up in pit lane with a thousand other bikes or so and went for a wander behind the grandstand, wandering around the many stalls and vendors, but also touring the paddock and looking at race bikes and sidecar outfits in various states of dissassembly and mid fettle. Sidecar outfits are definitely transport for the brave. Or is it the clinically insane? Klaus Klaffenbock
, for example, at least has the bars of his sidecar outfit in his hands as he wazzes round the course, though if his passenger Dan Sayle falls off or screws up, the outfit will flip over and land on his head before he can say "Wha..?'. But Mr Sayle gets to hang on to (and mostly off of) a 150mph tea tray, with no control of events whatsoever! This is doubly impressive because Dan Sayle has actually won races in his own right around the Mountain Course as a solo racer! To say "Rather him than me!" is to put it extremely mildly!!
We also headed up into the grandstand itself - the structure would be packed with paying punters on a race day but we had it to ourselves for free while we chilled out and took in the view...
We still had one mission to complete, though - we were rapidly running out of day, and I was keen to try and find a warmer sleeping bag for motomuffin
since her nocturnal discomfort weighed heavily on my conscience. For her part, somebody we met near the grandstand told her about a woollen mill out near where we had ridden the previous day that had a shop that could sell her a manx wool blanket, which she was sure would be warm enough for her. I wasn't convinced, but since I hadn't seen a camping shop, we went blanket hunting.
We were against the clock as we belted out along the course and then left at Ballacraine and into the country towards Peel, heading for the shop at the mill near Tynewald Hill
We got there just before the time we imagined they might close. But we were too late. About ten years too late - the mill and the shop had shut down a decade earlier. D'oh!
Another chilly night loomed for poor motomuffin
, much to my chagrin. Deflated, we made our way back to the camp site and fed ourselves. I was just about to call it a draw and go to bed when I had a sudden realisation - in the desperate race for the manx wool blanket and the subsequent dissappointment of failing to find it, one of the signature events of the TT had slipped right out of my mind! We were at Chronk Dhoo farm, when I had been looking forward to sitting in Onchan Stadium a few miles away watching The Purple Helmets
do their thing, in a joint show with the White Helmets!! GAHHH!
This was the sort of thing we missed... the White Helmets (the long time motorcycle display team of the Royal Signals Regiment, on immaculately maintained vintage Norton Commandos) jump through a flaming hoop... ...and the Purple Helmets on their Honda C90s try to top them by jumping through a ring of water...
The Purple Helmets are a Manx institution - this is them on Mad Sunday, touring all the pubs on the island as only they can...
This was the Purple Helmets show in Port Erin on later in the week, as filmed by one of their audience...
Anyway, we missed the Mad Sunday show, and I was... fairly peeved... about it. Until I realised that we could probably see them on Douglas prom on Tuesday night, anyway. At which point I stopped sulking...
And so, after an orgy of electronics charging and TT Highlights watching on TV in the communal area, off to bed...
Monday morning dawned once again with the sound of the 'early shift' bouncing off their limiters on the road past the camp site, and again I got back to sleep, but soon it was time to get up. Once again, motomuffin
had had a sleep-deprived and shivering night. Once again I felt guilty as hell. But now, I resolved to do something about it, after a quick shower and breakfast. Our viewing point for the day, at least initially, was to be Braddan Bridge
, a giant natural ampitheatre furnished with benches by an enterprising land owner. But first, a tent. I used Google Maps to locate the Douglas branch of Millets
and hit the road, heading the wrong way up the course. When we passed Braddan, the spectator area was already filling up nicely. We headed into town and had a brief circulate round the town centre looking for the Millets store that the internet assured me was there, and in the end pulled over to check the map again. By careful analysis, and orientating the map to the ground, we located... an empty shop with 'TO LET' in the window that had once been the Douglas branch of Millets.
Temporarily stymied, we headed back to Braddan, expecting to get shuffled off the course at any moment as the roads closed under us, but when we arrived, all the proper parking was full and we had to ride up the road half a mile to find somewhere to leave the bike that wasn't in the way. We were able to grab a bench and took turns to queue at the butty van for snacks and the portaloos as required. In due course, the first 600 race started, and we were able to follow it on giant loudspeakers that were rebroadcasting radio TT as well as on our own radios.
This really is an excellent vantage point if you want to see the riders, as they are forced to slow somewhat for the sweeping left/right. The weather was glorious and the racing shaping up to be exciting. Then, tragedy struck - at Gorse Lea, just up the road from our camp site, experienced irish rider Derek Brien hit the wall on his second lap and died. Of course we didn't know that, but we did know that the race had been red flagged for 'a serious incident at Gorse Lea', and that is a flat-out fast part of the course so, much as with Guy Martin's crash last year, you have to assume the worst for somebody. In this case, there were no miracles to be had.
Of course after a red flag at the TT, it takes a long time to get all the riders gathered together in clumps and herded back or forward round the course by a travelling marshal to the start, and then there is the clean up of the incident, before anybody can even consider a restart. Thus, fortified by information from the helpful guy sitting next to us at Braddan, we headed into Douglas once more to see if we could find where the Millets store had moved to. This involved a fair bit of nadgering around the back roads to get into town with the course closed, but we made it and were then successful in finding Millets, after a brief trek to their new place of business. motomuffin
purchased a decent but inexpensive three season sleeping bag and we went and had a pleasant meal in the WiFi equipped cafe next door.
By the time we had shopped and eaten, we had missed the restart of the Supersport race, and indeed the race was into its last lap as we made our way up to St Ninians crossroads and parked up. From there, and from the petrol station on the other side of Bray Hill, we were able to watch bikes fly down Bray Hill, and the sidecars head off for a practice lap. Then we headed up Bray Hill inside the park towards the grandstand in time to catch the TT Zero bikes heading up the return road from their practice lap. Behind the grandstand we had another brief look at various of the merchandise stalls and motomuffin
sent some postcards from the little post office stall there, and then we walked back down to our previous location and found a little patch of unoccupied and shaded grass in front of the school building there...
could catch up on some missed sleep and from which we spectated as the Subaru headed off on the fast 'demonstration' lap that nearly ended in tears 100 yards further down Bray Hill than our vantage point, and then watched most of the Superstock 360 race into the evening, before escaping to our favourite Italian restaurant for dinner ahead of the rush...
And thence, back to the camp site once the roads had opened, a spot of device charging and then some TT watching on the TV... followed by bed. At least now, I felt confident, motomuffin
would have a warm and comfortable night's sleep. What could possibly go wrong?
Tune in next week folks, for part 3 (well, next week or when I've written it!).