One of the greatest things about riding a bike is that you get to do it with some lovely people… in lovely weather… in lovely places… Last weekend was the annual SLAM Isle of Man Trip which I’ve organised for the last few years.  I can safely say that we achieved 2 out of our 3 objectives!

As we were clinging to a rock in the middle of the Irish Sea in late September, I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones we met.  There were to be 30 of us – on 26 bikes.  A big group… note to self – take cat herding course notes along next time…

Sadly, Louise wasn’t well enough to join us – but she was missed!  Next time, for sure!  So we had 29 folk on 26 bikes… what could possibly go wrong?

We departed Heysham on the Ben My Chree – a sort of floating Indian restaurant with built in motion sickness!  Some 4 hours later we arrived in Douglas after a lively crossing!

Staying at the Empress Hotel, we soon found the bar and prepared ourselves for a weekend of spirited riding.  As ride leader, I’d reminded folk that although the IoM has no maximum speed limit when in the national speed limit areas, we owed it to ourselves to be sensible – too many bikers have fallen foul to the opportunity to flex their right wrist without caution and suffered the consequences.  Not for us SLAMmers!

Saturday morning dawned… not bright, not dry, but it was light.  We were meeting up with the YOMYAMs – the guys and girls from the IoM IAM Group who we know well and who always take us places that we otherwise wouldn’t find on the Island.  Led by head YOMYAM Chris Roughley we set off towards the South – it was to be dry there… he said.

All I can say is that we saw some spectacular sights… and were dry for a while!

After the obligatory crab bap in Peel, we headed back through a raging ford towards Ramsey and over the Mountain Course back to Douglas… at the height of the road (1400 feet) there was 10 meters visibility… we got better visibility at around 400 feet – in other words it was seriously poor weather!  Plan B beckoned… beer!

Meanwhile two of our group had gone “green laning” – which I believe means riding on roads only fit for horses and sheep…

And there is still no maximum speed limit!

Whilst John and Bob were doing their thing, some of us found a nice place to sit for the afternoon… and we weren’t thirsty either!  It cost us £1 to get in, but beer prices were straight from the ‘90s… result!

So, a good meal (there were 37 of us in total, including YOMYAMs, and we were all very well behaved) and a good night’s sleep at the Empress set us up for a great day riding the roads on Sunday…

Sadly, it was lashing it down and although a few hardy folk battled with the fog on the Mountain Course, the rest of us chilled and watched the Moto GP race on the telly!

We took the Fast Cat back to Liverpool and were all safely home by early evening, without mishap.

So what lessons did I learn? 

  1. I love the Isle of Man – it is a friendly and interesting place, whatever the weather.
  2. Its brilliant getting away with a group of like-minded folk… even when the distance covered isn’t great!
  3. You can have fun riding wet roads without overdoing it… whatever your ability.
  4. Fords are scary, especially with high water volume!
  5. There is always another day to do that fast pass over the Mountain Circuit…
  6. I need to go back again next year!

See you next year!

Dave

Chairman

NOT TOO LATE, BUT A TOUCH LAST MINUTE!

It all started in the Italian Dolomites, 2003 . My wife, Margaret, and I were on a car touring holiday and shared a hotel with many motorcyclists, from various countries and they were mainly middle aged to elderly men and women. On one particular day, we were walking on the hills and watching a succession of bikers snaking their way up the various hairpin bends to the summit of the pass. “Now that is something I would really love to do”, I idly said. “Only a couple of problems” my wife said, “no licence and no bike!” adding the final coup de gras! Being bullheaded, I replied, “well that can be put right”.

Fast forward to June 2015, now aged 66 and my idle boast was still unfulfilled, so it was perhaps a case of now or never, when I telephoned Steve at Raceways Motorcycle Training in Fleetwood, and embarked upon my quest to obtain a full licence. As I approached the final section of the instruction and DVLA testing, I decided to buy myself a bike in preparation for the big day, and so I took delivery of an immaculate low mileage 2005 BMW R1200RT (known as Big Bertie). On 9th September I passed my Part 2 and having taxed and insured the bike I was ready to go. I can remember to this day my silent thoughts as I rode Bertie down the drive for the first time; “Ye Gods, this is big!”

One of my very first trips was to Ribblehead, where a complete stranger came from nowhere and introduced himself as Dave Little (SLAM). “Have you done the Advanced course?” He asked. Well, I had to laugh as the ink was hardly dry on my new licence! I told him that it was my intention to do so in due course.

During the winter of 2015 and 2016, I rode out on dry, frost free days and slowly gained experience in preparation for my planned “Big Trip”. In early June, I set off for a solo trip around Europe including Holland, Germany, Austria and Italy, even managing to have a few days holiday with my wife who had flown out to Italy to join me, having previously declared that she would never ride on the back of a motorbike. Somewhat like a pilgrimage, my route included riding those wonderful roads in the Dolomites.

vfr1200

 On my return, I decided that I had enjoyed riding so much that I decided to splash out and I purchased a most appropriate personalised number plate, which just happened to have a much newer 1200RT attached to it, so along came “Bertie 2”. I embarked upon the SLAM Advanced Course, and was most fortunate to have Phil McEntee as my observer/mentor, and was delighted and honoured to pass the Advanced test at the beginning of November 2016. Without wanting to sound utterly sycophantic, I have to say that I found the course and the whole SLAM experience to be excellent in all respects.

By this time, Margaret (aged 21x3 and plus some), had decided that if I was enjoying my motorcycling so much, then perhaps she should give it a go, and I must say that she has taken to it like a duck to water and is a superb pillion rider, so together we began to plan another “Big Trip”. As I write this article, we have just returned from a solo five and a half week tour of the French and Spanish Pyrenees (See photo on Col de Tourmalet), followed by a tour of the Dordogne, the Atlantic coast and finally a tour of Brittany.

We are already thinking about 2018 and a trip to Portugal and Spain is looking the favourite. I can say that I have done many things in life, but my experiences on the bike rates amongst the very best, and I would encourage anyone who is wondering whether or not to learn to ride in their mature years or to undertake an IAM course, to stop wondering and just get on with it!

Not much point in sitting in a nursing home and wishing you had done it!

John Spencer

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