khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
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!



Friday dawned early and we were quick to break camp, load the bikes and hit the road, initially back to Hillberry, via Douglas. Finding nowhere to park with bikes laden with gear, we swiftly relocated to Governors Bridge, and picked ourselves a decent viewing point from where we could see the bikes.

Motomuffin spectates at Governor's Bridge

[ profile] motomuffin also had a... somewhat disturbing... encounter with one of the marshals at Governor's. The least said about that the better.

Sadly, after a couple of passes by travelling marshals, the heavens opened briefly and the whole programme was delayed, so we headed back into Douglas for Brunch at our favoured cafe...

Motomuffin goes for it...

Stomachs placated, we nipped back out to Governors in time to see the very loud, very noisy T.T. Milestones parade, led - again - by John McGuinness - who on his return told race control in no uncertain terms that he wasn't racing in the extant conditions.

This time, chastened by nearly becoming statistics on Wednesday, his fellow riders basically backed him and also refused to ride. Faced with a Senior TT minus all the star riders, race control backed down and went for a very delayed start. The 6 lap Senior TT didn't kick off until almost 5:30pm, so if we'd still been trapped on the camp site, we would have been having a very bad day indeed, stressing about making our ferry on time.

This was Guy Martin on lap 4...

Braddan Bridge

...and this was McPint on Lap 5, by which time he basically had it won...

Braddan Bridge

Next stop, Douglas prom for an evening snack in Colours, which is basically the Isle of Man's only nightclub, but not at 5pm on a Friday night. From there we watched The Vulcan display over the bay...

And then we were aboard the ferry, after more loading and boarding chaos (but no breakdowns this time) and off back to Liverpool, serenaded by an enormous end-of-TT firework display in Douglas Bay as we sailed out of Douglas and waved Mona's Isle goodbye...

And then we both fell asleep, awaking only as we steamed into Liverpool at 2am. The hotel was about 50 yards from the port (I was booking with priority club points and the cheapest Holiday Inn Express near Chester was the same price in points as the posh Crowne Plaza next to the ferry terminal, so it was a no brainer...), and they allowed us to park our bikes right outside the window of reception...

Moto Parking - Crowne Plaza, Liverpool

At last! A decent shower, and a comfy bed. We both slept the sleep of the dead and were woken up by the hotel in time for a hearty hotel breakfast, then we re-loaded the bikes and hit the road...

At least we had the (brilliant) A483 south through mid Wales to ride, as we headed further away from the 2011 TT with each mile. We spent the whole day just missing the rain, either arriving just after it had passed or beating it to the punch, with only the occasional raindrop to keep us honest. South of Newtown, the A483 turns twisty and... awesome. We had much fun riding down to Carmarthen, although we arrived quite late in the day. We just had time for [ profile] motomuffin to throw a bunch of stuff in the washer drier and pick up a giant roller bag to take all the extra crap she had acquired on her trip home with her, and then it was Pizza, single malt Whisky and bed. All that remained was to drop her off at Port Talbot railway station the next morning, en-route to Heathrow, and TT2011 was officially over for us...
khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
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!



Actually, I neglected to mention that the hot favourite for Monday's first 600 Supersport race, Michael Dunlop, had serious bike issues both before and again after the red flag, and failed to finish, but New Zealander Bruce Anstey, who many people suggested was no longer a contender, beat all comers to win the Supersport race. I'm a big fan of Bruce, because he gave the Bloor incarnation of the Triumph company their first TT win (and the first by any Triumph for a couple of generations) in 2003. He's also an old-school real roads racer. He turns up to a handful of high profile road race meetings a year, climbs onto a race bike, usually is up the front and in the mix for the win, and then doesn't sit on a motorcycle again until maybe 6 months later when he lines up for practice for some other real road race. No pre-season testing, no training regime, no PR bullshit.

In between the two races, and I apologise for mentioning cars when talking about the TT, Subaru - who had made a big investment in corporate sponsorship at the TT this year - had local boy and rally ace Mark Higgins do a second of three fast (in fact, record setting) laps of the course in a Subaru Imprezza WRX, covered in cameras. If you watch this video, it is pretty impressive stuff. But not as impressive as the 150 mph+ out of control moment that he caught and saved on the way down Bray Hill! Incidentally, in the reprise of that moment, at 4:09 in the following video, if you look to the left you can clearly see [ profile] motomuffin sitting on the grass behind the railings on the left...

Michael Dunlop's compensation for his shocker of a Supersport 600 TT 1 was later in the day when he won the Superstock TT on the fire-breathing monster that is the Kawasaki ZX10R. Here's the story of that race...

Anyway, when we left our hapless hero and heroine, they had just crawled into their tents. Noting that the wind had got up signicantly, I took the precaution of deploying all the guy ropes and sealing up the flap on the 'storage area' portion of my tent. In due course it got even blowier, and then in the wee small hours the heavens opened and there was a full on 'perfect storm' style deluge, with water coming down in large quantities like it was being fired from a pressure washer. Later the rain subsided to a more normal biblical deluge, and gradually petered out in the morning. On the plus side, the 5am chorus of hard-ragged motorcycles was surprisingly muted on Tuesday morning. On the minus side, at about 8am, the... less than entirely happy... voice of [ profile] motomuffin assailed my ears from outside my tent. 'Good morning!' she said. 'Good Morning!' I replied, cheerfully. "Were you nice and warm last night?". "To begin with, yes..." she said. "But I'm going to need a new tent!".

Oh shit. Yep, my old reliable tent, the one I lent to [ profile] motomuffin to reduce the risk of a new cheap tent being crap, decided to pick the middle of the deluge to give up being waterproof entirely. Disaster! So [ profile] motomuffin and much of her stuff got soaked. There was a great deal of clearing up needed to happen in her tent, because the groundsheet conspired with the rain to form a shallow bath of icy cold water. F*****g horrible. So far, I'd lent her a bike that ate its electrics, a sleeping bag that froze her tits off and then a tent that tried to drown her. I can't blame her for the somewhat... stressed... tone.

Once we had cleared up the tent, and [ profile] motomuffin had stuck certain things out to dry in the renewed sunshine, we headed for Millets again. This time, [ profile] motomuffin bought herself a cheap tent. I almost certainly should have bought that for her by way of cringing apology but it really didn't occur to me at the time. We left the tent and a couple of other doo-dads at the shop to pick up later, went next door for a good breakfast, and then made our way down to the Villa-Marina to watch TT3D: Closer to the Edge. Now, I had already seen it twice at this point, and I've waxed lyrical about it in the past on Livejournal, but seeing it actually on the island, in a smallish cinema absolutely packed with TT visiting bikers (and they ran 3 showings a day every day for a fortnight, all packed) certainly added to the atmosphere. I think [ profile] motomuffin, who hadn't ever seen it (it's not made it to the USA yet) was fairly blown away by it.

For me, it's a top, top film and it definitely bears repeat viewing.

On the way back to grab the tent, we were walking down the prom and passed this...

Velocette MAC (I think)

I think it's an old MAC, but I'm no expert at all. If it is an MAC, my father used to ride one. Comments from Velocette spotters welcome...

Velocette clocks...

Tent collected from Millets, we had some lunch, before heading back to Cronk Dhoo and ripping down/throwing away the disgraced tent and erecting the new Millets special in its place. In amongst all that, I also phoned Jason Griffiths Motorcycles, optimistically expecting that the bike might be ready. He'd ordered the parts on Monday morning, and he was expecting them in 48 hours, so the earliest they would arrive would be Wednesday. I communicated the bad news to [ profile] motomuffin who was so far not twitching as badly as I feared she would be about not having a bike to ride, but... well, I was getting ever guiltier and she would start getting the DTs soon if she didn't get a bike to ride...

Much of the afternoon was sacrificed to trying to repair the damage of the previous night, but the new tent was looking pretty cool and in due course we were able to head into town for an evening appointment with the Red Arrows and then later the Purple Helmets, with a cameo from the White Helmets on the prom; remember that I missed them earlier in the week? Well, this was supposed to be my chance!

We arrived on a chilly windswept prom in plenty of time to park the bike and find a spot to watch the Reds do their show. Today the cloud base was low and one of their pilots was grounded by an attack of the squits, so we got 8 planes not 9 and a very flat display. Still brilliant of course, but not their best work, so the video below was made two days earlier by somebody with a radio scanner at the Red Arrows display over Ramsey at the other end of the island, which took place in brilliant sunshine and a clear blue sky....

The Reds did their thing at 7:30 pm, so naturally we were expecting the White Helmet/Purple Helmet combo to follow. But no. What followed first was a repeat of the previous nights TT highlights on the giant screen, and then a couple of freestyle motocrossers started jumping off a big ramp, accompanied by a 'High Energy' American commentary. Actually, I was blissfully ignorant, but [ profile] motomuffin tipped me the wink that it wasn't even a real American accent - the guy was putting it on! I reckon there was about ten minutes to be filled by these two guys jumping over a big ramp covered in Monster Energy logos, accompanied by Mr Whoop'n'Holler. We actually got two hours of it, most of it to a Stony faced crowd who had seen two hours of it last night and the night before as well and were hoping it would stop right now.

Myself and [ profile] motomuffin went and sheltered behind the glass wall of the Villa Marina complex while we waited hopefully for the fake yank to accidentally choke to death on his microphone. That would have been totally gnarly dude!! Big round of applause for that one everybody!! Wow, that was a double nick-nack into microphone down the oesophagus! Woooo-hooooooooo!! Let me hear everybody cheer or we won't be able to get another stunt in here. OK, no I'm lying... even though nobody moves a muscle, we'll be here for another hour and a half (or is that month and a half) because we have to fill in time.

It wasn't all homicidal thoughts about the commentator. [ profile] motomuffin amused herself by having me set this up.

'Ello 'ello 'ello!

Eventually, somewhat after the allotted time, the White Helmets did a vignette from their display along the prom, although of course the lack of space, and the surface curtailed their activities slightly. Our biggest issue, though, was that because we had gone and hidden out of the icy wind behind the glass wall of Villa Marina, we were stuffed for a decent view of what was happening.

After the White Helmets had done their bit to demonstrate their admittedly very impressive skills (stunting seems to have become quite passe these days, and the preserve of squids in baggy jeans, but the White helmets were doing it before anybody else, and they are still doing it now, and Troy-Corser stylee stand-up wheelies ARE still very, very cool if done in an immaculate dress uniform on a vintage 1970's Norton Commando - as are pyramids of riders on several Commandos ridden in formation).

Then it was what should have - for me - been the highlight of the evening... the Purple Helmets. We'd waited long enough, and I'd bigged them up enough to [ profile] motomuffin. Sadly, they were late, totally disorganised and clearly hadn't really rehearsed the cut down version of their show so it didn't really hang together at all. That and of course we still couldn't see it properly.

Arse. I've no idea what [ profile] motomuffin thought. Probably 'I stood here freezing to death for

I decided to make an early run from the prom for the campsite... and bed. I didn't detect any resistance from [ profile] motomuffin. After another brief electronics charging jag on my part, and watching the ITV4+1 version of the Superstock TT highlights, I went to bed. [ profile] motomuffin was already rocking her new tent, which had the major advantage of being waterproof. (Details, details...).

Wednesday dawned unsettled, with a triumvirate of races due - the second Supersport TT, the second sidecar race and the TT zero race. Our plan for today was to head round the course less than a mile and park up at Ballacraine. Ballacraine is the famous corner, named after the then pub, now private house that George Formby crashed into the bar of through the front door in the 1935 TT film 'No Limit' (top film by the way). But as we were setting up to leave the camp site, racing (and road closure) were delayed by an hour due to the dodgy weather. So we had another cup of tea.

By the time we took the short ride to Ballacraine it was close to 11. Ballacraine is a cross-roads that forms a 90 degree right hand corner for the race track at the end of a long, long flat out drag, and we parked up down a side road just before the roads closed and joined the throng on the grass alongside the braking zone.


First up, once the roads closed, was the Arai parade of champions. This featured a number of legendary riders, including multiple 500 GP world champion Mick Doohan and island resident and British MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow, who were all ably led round the course by Ian Hutchinson, who won all 5 solo races last year, a feat never before accomplished, but who was riding in the parade with an external steel cage holding his leg together, since apparently it hadn't healed quite enough for them to take the cage off yet (the only reason he wasn't racing this year, after a hideous short-circuit crash that nearly cost him his leg at the end of last year)!


Once the parade had made it back to the grandstand, and it was fairly quick as parades go, Hutchinson made it clear to race control that he didn't think the conditions were safe for racing on either wet tyres (they would explode) or dry. The race was delayed a little, and eventually started at 12:40, with none of the riders happy, but John McGuinness - who very nearly boycotted the whole thing told the riders after him (as the first man away) at the last second that he'd go but be taking it steady in the mixed conditions. Race control had spoken, the riders were browbeaten into going.

True to his word, John McGuinness took it very cautiously, and ended up riding in a group with the three starters behind him, all feeling their way around the first lap. The marshals were displaying lack of adhesion flags at every corner where there were any damp patches at all, but in some cases that was properly wet, and in others the odd tiny damp patch - and the riders had no way of knowing one from t'other.

Braking for Ballacraine...

Thus it was that after the leaders had passed through Union Mills on the first lap, there was a brief rain shower there. Around 25 minutes later, Cameron Donald and Guy Martin arrived at a now unexpectedly soaking wet Union Mills on their DoT race compound tyres, with John McGuiness and Keith Amor close behind, and then this happened...

The race was red flagged (much to the chagrin of the Dunlop Brothers who were basically riding absolutely fearlessly in the dangerous conditions and were running first and second at the time) and racing abandoned for the day. Everybody was very lucky that there weren't four very serious crashes indeed taking out 4 stars of the TT in one fell swoop. There were definitely some mutterings about rider power in the aftermath! Also some mutterings from the irish road-racing lads complaining that they were doing just fine with the dodgy conditions...

Anyway, after the red flag we were at a bit of a loose end, while poor old [ profile] motomuffin really WAS starting to twitch now without a bike, and I felt absolutely terrible. I phoned up Jason Griffiths Motorcycles to discover that the part was now IN! I had in fact been facing the prospect that she might not get to ride at all on the island beyond ferrying the bike to and from the ferry. I had been quite prepared to give her the keys to the BMW for an afternoon if if it was that or the promise of riding on the island cruelly denied, but I was really hoping it didn't come to that.

So, off we rode down to Castletown, via the back road from Ballacraine, full of the joys of spring. When we got there, the bike was being bolted back together, so they recommended that we nip out and grab ourselves a pub lunch while we waited for them to finish up. This we did (although with me navigating, the pub was quite tricky to find - listening to [ profile] motomuffin worked much better!) The food was truly excellent, and we were enjoying an excellent repast, when I got a call from the mechanic. To tell me that... the generator had also now gone south. This was a disaster! Fortunately, a new Daytona 675 had arrived, and it was duly robbed of its generator in short order - when he first told me I had visions of needing to get the bike recovered back to my place from Liverpool docks, and of [ profile] motomuffin not even getting to ride back through Wales! Still, it was a bloody expensive day :-(.

Never mind, who cares, we had bikes (plural) to ride again! We rode back to Ballacraine and joined the course to do a lap of the TT course, myself on the GT and [ profile] motomuffin on the Striple, and then we headed over the mountain. Highlight of that? Overtaking a police 4x4 that was absolutely flat out uphill at about 100mph, and giving him a cheery little wave with my left hand as I flew past him at 120mph odd...

After that, [ profile] motomuffin headed off on her own for the evening (the first chance she'd had) and I nipped off back to the camp site for a meal, some internerd surfing on my netbook and a look at the TT highlights on the TV. And then to bed.

The next morning, I slept right through the traditional TT dawn chorus of howling exhausts and bouncing valves, but we were soon up and at them, and then we swapped bikes for the start of the day and headed out in opposite directions round the course aiming for Hillberry, where we ensconced ourselves in the makeshift Grandstand to watch the first half of the day's racing (postponed from Wednesday). I went round the course on the Striple, [ profile] motomuffin went the other way on the GT, and I filmed my run over the top, very badly, using the iPhone with the hideous interference issues...

We met up at Hillberry where I parked the Striple right next to the entrance to the Grandstand, and [ profile] motomuffin parked the BMW about a mile away up the lane. Of course, I got the BMW keys back at this point. D'oh!

Hillberry is actually a great place to watch. You aren't locked in and you can see the bikes as they come off the mountain all the way to Hillberry corner on the run in to the finish line.

The first race was Supersport 2, which was supposed to be a Dunlop parade - but wasn't because both the Dunlop brothers suffered mechanical woes - and could have been a McGuinness shock win, but wasn't for reasons that I'll let him explain (no really, it's worth hearing). There was also a bit of mild controversy in this race but it all came right in the end, and Gary Johnson won it, taking his first ever TT victory, and thoroughly well deserved. Oh, and Cameron Donald was all set for third place until his bike blew up... at the last corner!

The second sidecar race ended with Klaffi's outfit suffering mechanical woes and a surprise first-time winner...

Finally, Michael Rutter beat Mark Miller in the battle of the MotoCycz TT-Zero bikes, with half a dozen other electric bikes making up the numbers, but with Michael Rutter coming in for a 99.9mph lap, tantalisingly close to the big cash prize for the first ever 100mph electric lap, but no cigar...

If I remember correctly, we ended the day with me, idiot that I am, looking for a very nice and very imposing Indian Restaurant overlooking the seat out near Onchan that I last visited in 1999. We found it eventually. It is opening soon... as a Chinese restaurant. We found a rather poor Indian restaurant at the horse tram end of the prom and ate there instead, but the prices were ridiculously high and the food not that good. Which may explain why it was empty. And then, I vaguely remember, we dropped in at Bushy's and grabbed some stickers and another dollop of merchandise. I have Bushy's stickers from '98, '99 and now 2011...

And then, back to the site and to bed, ready for an early start in the morning and breaking camp (we had to be off the site before roads-close or we might be stuck there all day, and even miss our ferry if the roads stayed closed until late)...

Tune in next week folks, for part 4 (well, next week or when I've written it!).
khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
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.

[ profile] 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. [ profile] 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. [ profile] 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, [ profile] 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 [ profile] motomuffin fully inflating her air-bed.

I was entirely confident that [ profile] 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 [ profile] 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 [ profile] 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.

So [ profile] motomuffin 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 [ profile] 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 :-). [ profile] 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...

The TT Scoreboard

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 [ profile] 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 [ profile] 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...

Part 1:

Part 2:

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, [ profile] 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.

Braddan Bridge

Braddan Bridge

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. [ profile] 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 [ profile] 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...


...where [ profile] motomuffin 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, [ profile] 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!).

July 2017

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