BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The adventure begins - Isle of Man TT.


Outside our apartment in London about to head off into the rain for my first big ride on the BM.

The real start of my adventure happened today; I suited up and headed off to the Isle of Man while Suzanne and Paige stayed in London. It was very wet 400 km ride to Liverpool, and soaking wet on the Island when I got there. I'm not a particularly good wet weather rider, but I think I'll improve noticeably over the next few months. I stopped about half way for a feed and put the thermal liner in my jacket. My Rev It jacket and pants are brilliant and I wasn’t even damp inside my gear. I still don’t have any gloves or boots, so my hands and feet got soaked. Luckily I was wearing my merino wool socks and gloves which kept me warm all the way to Liverpool for my ferry departure. I was terrified I’d miss the ferry so I left early and arrived at the terminal about two hours before departure. On the plus side it was so cool to be the very first motorcycle to ride onto the ferry.

Self explanatory really.

Bikes coming off the ferry on their way home from the Isle. The volume of wet people leaving the Isle should have been a hint all was not well.

Now motorcyclists are a very friendly bunch and within minutes of sitting down in the departure lounge I had met a group of guys who had ridden up from Wales to the TT, Jason, Shane, Leigh, Aidan, and another guy who can’t be named in the interests of national security.  (We'll call him CBN). When they found out I hadn't organised a camp site they graciously suggested I go with them to their camp ground as they were sure there would be plenty of room. Judging by the number of fully loaded bikes I saw splashing their way down the motorway away from the island, I was guessing they were right. The ferry docked at Heysham and this is where the TT buzz really kicked in. About two minutes after riding down the ramp off the ferry I was riding on the Isle of Man TT course, hay bales, bunting, banners and all. I was actually riding my bike on the Isle of Man race course. Yahoo! I was as happy as a dog with two tails.

The Isle of Man is a beautiful place and I'd love to go back, when the sun is shining. It's very quaint and it buildings and villages are exceptional.

The Douglas Promenade on the Isle of Man

 The scene exiting the ferry terminal at Douglas

 As luck would have it there was a little bit of room at the ground so I had my very own little patch of soggy grass / mud to call home. 

The track into the camping ground. A wee bit damp.

Chateau Mykolajenko built and ready to accept guests. The light colour is excellent at reflecting the heat.

Continuing my let’s see what happens adventure I dug out my brand new tent, sleeping bag, mattress, and pillow, which had never been out of their bags before and proceeded to erect my tent. Amazingly it was up in about 12 minutes and my mini palace was ready for habitation. We bought a three man tent but I’m not sure how we’ll go with Suzanne in there as well, there isn’t an abundance of room.  I was pretty tired so after one beer (it was warm, and as much as I try, I just can’t drink warm beer) I crawled into my sleeping bag at about 11.30. I drifted off to sleep thinking I had done really well and feeling pretty happy with myself. I’d put in a good days ride in pretty ordinary conditions, I had been adopted by a bunch of nice, sensible, caring, and quiet gentleman, and I was on the Isle of Man and was going to watch the legendary Senior TT.

Boy was I wrong…

Four Welshmen, an Irishman, and an Australian walk into a pub…and so my Isle of Man experience begins.


It was announced early that there would be no racing today because it was too wet. I can tell you there was no surprise there. It had rained all night long and did its best to rain all day as well.  After a 4am finish by Aidan and CBN it was decided that the sensible option was to catch a bus into Douglas, that way we could have a drink if we wanted too and not have to ride the bikes back to camp. Here we are at breakfast some time around 11 am. 

Breakfast. Not a serve of Welsh rarebit or Irish stew to be seen. Me, Leigh, Aidan, Shane, CBN, and Jason.

Breakfast took a little while coming, but that’s OK, we downed four (cold) pints while we were waiting. That set the tone for the rest of the day. We then did a bit of shopping (Rex you would have loved it) and ended up on The Promenade at Bushy's marquee for a few more pints.

Bushy's temporary marquee set up on the promenaded for the race fortnight.

Then we headed off to the pit area to look at some motorcycles, and to drink many more pints. I was pretty happy to find a stall selling Dainese gloves, and I found a waterproof set in my size. I now have a pair of gloves. Score! This is where things got a little untidy. The bar in the pit area had a fantastic cover band called Fireball  playing lots of great music and the place was going off. As the night wore on it just turned into one big party.

The iconic timing clock in the pit area.

Friendly garden gnome trying to mate with my leg. This was about six o'clock and we still had another seven hours to go. I think the girl behind me loved us.

The locals were very friendly, but apparently I'm not allowed to publish those photos.

We left at twelve after meeting everyone in the bar and staggered into town for a traditional English dinner. A curry. Now Perth people, do you know a restaurant in Perth that would let six noisy but happy drunks in after 12 o’clock for a feed? I don’t. We were welcomed with open arms and proceeded to devour what would have to be one of the best meals I've ever eaten, all washed down with Indian beer. At the end of the night it was announced that due to my performance during the day I was an honorary Welshman, a title which I will cherish and do my best to live up to. After that we piled into a taxi back to the camp ground where I got into a huge fight with my sleeping bag because it wouldn't let me in. I eventually won, and was out like a light immediately.

Suzanne, I’m sorry I was away for your birthday, but I did my best to celebrate it in a manner you would expect.

That’s the end of my photos for this trip as I’ve flattened the batteries for my cameras and phone and can’t recharge them. Apparently we had a visit from Spongebob Squarepants sometime during the previous night and I'm waiting for photo lo load up. Check back occasionally and you might see him.

Race day - After a few false starts the IOM Senior TT at last.


How awesome are Manx people? Because of the unseasonal wet weather the Isle experienced this year there was a hell of a lot of very cold and soggy campers all over the island. So what did the locals do? They started a Facebook page and offered their homes to visitors to use their showers and to camp on their lounge room floors if they wanted to. Soon after the Facebook page went up shops throughout the island put posters in the windows advising riders of the locals generous offer. What a fantastic thing to do. Thanks Manxmen.

I didn't see any Manx cats while I was there, which reminds me of a story I told Suzanne many years ago. Manx cats have very short tails, almost no tail at all. Do you know why? It's because they have evolved over the years. Early in the history of the TT the cats had normal, long tails and the racing motorcycles used clip the end of their tails as they ran across the roads. The cats evolved and their tails got shorter. Then the bikes got faster, so the cats tails got shorter again. And so on. Suzanne tells me she didn't believe me, but I know she did.

Good news. Although the weather was still pretty terrible, the forecast was for it to clear in the afternoon and we should see the Senior TT. Originally the mountain course roads were going to be closed at 10am, then 11am, then 2pm, then 3,30 pm. They eventually closed the roads at 5pm with the Senior TT to start at 6.15.  I had to be at the ferry terminal at 6.30, but at least I would see a few bikes in ridden in anger before I left. Then some of the riders did an inspection lap in cars. After some delay it was announced that he Senior TT would be cancelled, but the 650 twins TT would go ahead. Due to the wet surface on the mountain it was deemed too dangerous for the superbikes, but the twins were considered OK because of the much lower power output. At least I’d see Aussie Cam Donald out on the track. Out came my Aussie flag in preparation. Then it was announced that the 650 twins wouldn't start until 6.30. Bummer! To add insult to injury I got a touch of sunburn in the afternoon waiting for the race to start.

I just needed a little nap.
Photo courtesy of Aidan.

So my trip to the Isle of Man ended without me seeing a single motorcycle in a race at all. Not one! I was a little disappointed but after seeing this place in real life the rider’s lives really are on the line, even in perfect conditions. So “fair play to them” (That’s my new Welsh saying).  If the conditions aren’t perfect it’s just not worth the risk of going out and racing. On the plus side, and it was a bloody big plus, I did meet a fantastic bunch of guys and had a brilliant time. Thanks guys, I hope I can return the favour in Australia one day.

I must admit I was a little sad leaving the boys at the Quarter Bridge Hotel for my lonely ride back down to the port to board the ferry for the trip home. Of course, not seeing a race means I’ll just have to go back again. 

See you there next year guys?


  1. Hi Simon,

    Sorry you missed the racing mate.I can confirm that it was glorious on the Sunday after you left us :-(. we managed two laps of the mountain at three figure speeds but it wasn't the same with you missing.

    It was a great privalage to meet you and i hope the rest of your adventure is as good as the four days we had as a team!

    Hope you catch Leigh in Assen and see you next year at the TT, would love to see you in OZ mate.

    Thanks for the great company and million laughs, as an honourary welshman remember to cheer for us during the Wales tour of OZ!!!!

    Cymru am Byth!


  2. Thanks Shane. I had a ball with you guys at the TT, so another big thanks going your way. Because I missed the racing I'll just have to go back in 2013 for the TT. As far as cheering on Wales, well, sorry, but I'm happy to back Wales as long as they're not playing the Aussies. : )