My apologies as my blog has been affected by a communications black hole. Work has swallowed me up for several months, it’s now mid May and I’ve only just surfaced. Nevertheless I’ve managed to watch all the key races in BSB, WSB and MotoGP and I’m really looking forward to the imminent highlight on the calendar…the heart-stopping road racing at the Isle of Man TT. This year it looks like its going to be a case of Guy Martin’s raw speed on the tried and tested BMW against Dunlop’s outright speed on a bike that might not last the course.
My trip to the TT
Wind back several years to the days when the XT500 was the awesome single cylinder trail ‘blokes’ bike to own. Massive compression and renowned for being an ‘ankle breaker’ to start. I had to have one and loved the fact that I could start it, first kick every time. I was 17, rucksack and sleeping bag on my back as a small group of us headed off to Liverpool docks, riding through the night. It was a long, cold journey. Everyone had to ride at the slow ‘max speed' of the XT and I was kitted out in a candy pink ski from the charity shop as student budgets didn’t run to leathers and Gortex didn’t exist. Heated anything was yet to be invented. We arrived at the docks at 05.00, joined an impossibly long queue and slumped in our seats, attempting to sleep as we waited for the ferries to open for business.
The rain kept coming, but at the age of 17 it was an adventure and wet undies were part of biking in those days. The docks opened and we were slowly filed into a massive hanger where each bike was emptied of fuel other than a teacup to get us to the nearest fuel stop (those who went to the TT in the 80’s will remember the hangers and the very tall container ships with ramps leading up to several vehicle decks). Once through the hanger, we queued yet again for the ramps…thousands of us waiting like sheep to be herded without knowledge of where we would be steered. Our group was waved on to the next boat, the next ramp and up to the highest vehicle deck. The rain was heavy by now and we were all looking forward to a dry oasis of time, a mug of tea and a snatched breakfast of whatever was on offer. We slowly inched forward, turned left up onto the metal ramp, opening a bit more throttle to cope with the steep incline. For those that didn’t do the crossing in those days the ramp to the highest deck seemed like a 2 story building. Up I went and then there was an issue…a problem above us and the line of bikes stopped…..
Being very petite, I never had foot to floor contact on the XT. A curb or a decent lean angle would normally suffice, but on the steep, slippery wet ramp I was unable to find a purchase. My foot tired to make contact and with the bike at an angle, I had no grip, couldn’t hold it and lost it. These things tend to happen in slow motion and as the bike went down the memory is still with me…a slow, unstoppable slide to the bottom of the ramp whilst taking out everyone behind me…! A mexican wave rippled out across the holding area.
Remember the pink ski suit…so did they! All week I got the thumbs down and a nod from every biker as they passed the girl who wiped out the lower half of the ramp, snapping a few clutch levers in the process.
It was a great week and no bikes were irreparably damaged in the process.
Photo of my XT after restoration in 2008.