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!




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.


 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

A Week in the West Country

Saturday morning was bright and dry, as three bikes gathered at Charnock Richard services. Steve Ball was first to arrive with his Tiger 800, then Lynn and I on our FJR1300, closely followed by Mark and Leela Burns on their Explorer XCa. Another two bikes and bikers were there, and turned out to be Devon Advanced Motorcyclist riders on their way home from the Lake District.

After bidding the two DAMmers farewell, we set off down the M6, onto the M56, then off at J10 A49. We went south-west, through Llangollen and Bala before stopping for a brew. Off we went again, and coming into one of the small Welsh towns, who should we see sitting outside a cafe in the sun, but the two Devon bikers!

After lunch, some lovely, almost empty A and B roads saw us eventually arrive at the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrryd Wells, where we have stayed before on one of Mark's trips. (It's the one with a huge sculpture of a Red Kite bird on a stand opposite the hotel.)


A lovely meal in the hotel, a few 'scoops' and a natter about the day's ride, then off to bed.

Day 2 started with a good breakfast and fine weather, and we moved off about 10am. East towards England, but not before we spied a small teapot sign at the side of the down a narrow road to a large property which looked like a cotton mill owner’s house (if it had been in the north-west).  Off the bikes and in through the lovely hallway and rooms and out onto a terrace looking out over hills and valleys. Fabulous! Tea and scones at a very reasonable rate!


 Back on the bikes, towards Hereford, Cheltenham, Cirencester, then south-west skirting Bristol, through Cheddar Gorge where we stopped (with loads of others) for an ice cream, then past Glastonbury and on to our hotel at Bridgwater - the same place that Mark and others stayed at on the Ride For Mike. (Ask Mark about doing 110mph+ with the Police in close formation.)

Good food with plenty of choice, and we were joined by Michelle and Tom (both serving police officers). Good beers (Hobgoblin and Marstons) and good rooms, with a massive bed (ours was, anyway). Early to bed, though Mark and Steve stayed for another scoop...

 Monday dawned bright and dry (again!) and after a good Full English, we waited for our guides to arrive. Michelle, a traffic officer, on her BMW F700, Simon (ex-police) on his orange Grinnall Rocket 3 trike, and Phil on his Pan European 1100. After the intro's (Michelle helped organise the Avon & Somerset section of the Ride For Mike two years ago) we set off. We had coffee in Wells, near the Cathedral, lunch of fish & chips in Lyme Regis, and ice creams in Exmouth at the harbour!


Back for the evening meal, with our tour guides peeling off towards their own homes. A lovely 120 or 130 mile day, and with Michelle at the front, all at a leisurely pace...

 Tuesday, we had Michelle again to guide us firstly over into Wales, over the M48 Severn Bridge to coffee/tea at Tintern Abbey, where it started to drizzle. Onwards to the outskirts of Gloucester to collect Andy on his 1200 Bandit. Andy, Michelle and Phil are members of the Blue Knights - a bike club for serving and retired officers of the law - police, prison, customs, etc.. Michelle had asked on their website for help in the area, and Andy had answered, so we all met him for the first time!

Onwards to Bourton-on-the-Water for lunch - very picturesque - then on to Arlington Row in Bibury - very old and even more picturesque! Finally, Andy led us to Cotswold Airport, near Cirencester. There were 6 or 7 'planes, including a Jumbo 747, all for scrapping! The airport is very small, but has an aero club and clubhouse, where we had afternnon tea. The clubhouse has an immaculately restored  New Hudson bike (1930's?)


After he led us out from the airport, Andy waived us goodbye, and Michelle led us back 'home'. On the way, I got a puncture in the rear tyre. We all stopped, but the tyre was beyond repair. The others left Lynn and I at a filling station (in the dry) awaiting recovery back to the hotel.

 Wednesday was a quiet day for us. I rang and ordered two tyres, and Mark followed me to a local tyre depot, and gave me a lift back. (I've never been a pillion before) Leela, Lynn and I went into Bridgwater whilst the tyres were delivered and fitted. Mark and Steve went to Minehead, Porlock, Lynton and Lynmouth, then back over Exmoor.

 Thursday saw Michelle and Phil take us south again to Dawlish (coffee), Torquay, Paignton and Brixham (lunch on the seafront), Princetown (afternoon tea) and over Dartmoor to Willington near Weston-Super-Mare for an evening American car show with live music included, at a pub. Then back for food, drink and bed - another 200 mile day!


 Friday, we set off for home after breakfast. Up the M5 then over into Wales again. On to the A449 and A49, we 'lost' Steve in Ludlow around lunchtime. We were home by 6pm, after a few queues on the short distance we did on the M6 - normal tea-time traffic, I guess...

What a trip! Epic! We did nearly 1,100 miles in the week. Sunshine nearly all the way. Plenty to see and do in a smashing part of the country, with some great roads.

If you want a gentle amble through the countryside, then Mark's trips are not for you. I you want to 'make progress' (where appropriate) then sign up for the next one.

Keith Bridge

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22 Aug 2019
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Mid-week Ride "In pursuit of speed"
24 Aug 2019
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31 Aug 2019
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01 Oct 2019
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