A bit of a hijack here, sorry Mackers! I just wanted to say after your latest blog post how incredibly proud you have made Ted and I. I would not change a single thing. Thanks for all the memories.
Love Jo x
A bit of a hijack here, sorry Mackers! I just wanted to say after your latest blog post how incredibly proud you have made Ted and I. I would not change a single thing. Thanks for all the memories.
Love Jo x
With the racing season coming to a close, the nights drawing in and cycling home from work starting to get a bit dangerous I decided to book some time at the Manchester velodrome – great for keeping my hard earned summer fitness going in a safe environment. Three evening, hour-long, sessions were arranged. At the start of the first night I decided that I might as well work towards ‘accreditation’ which is the first step on the way to obtaining a race licence. Now I have no aspirations to become the next Chris Hoy but I figured that I may as well do something rather than just ride around, I am a bit of a goals man after all, everything needs a point with me!
So to the first session; on arrival I get my bike, on hire from the velodrome, and sit around in the centre of the track. Side glancing the other attendees whilst we await the coach turning up revealed that I wasn’t looking too out of place (although my cycling gear does make me look a bit like vacuum packed giblets!) The coach eventually showed up, offered very little in the way of instruction, forgot the only one of us whose name he actually asked and set us on our first laps. “Ride on the blue line until I say change” was essentially the only coaching offered! Myself and two others started off riding about a wheel length apart, setting a pretty easy pace on the mid-track blue line. I noticed a bit of commotion in the first turn, to find out later that someone from another group had crashed within 20 yards of setting off, putting his front teeth through his bottom lip in the process, ouch!
Eventually our ‘coach’ looked up and remembered that we were still lapping. “Change over next lap” came the instruction. Being second in the group I watched as the leader pulled up the bank and I set about riding at the front for a lap. At the end of the lap it was my turn, I glanced over my shoulder and rode up to the top of the banking in turn one. Looking down I counted two riders through, for this is how many I thought were behind me, and started riding back down the banking to join at the rear of the group. Just at this point I caught a glimpse of a third rider, someone else must’ve joined our group whilst we had been going around. As I was already making my way down the banking I had to add some opposite lock to the bars to avoid a collision. This, coupled with some reasonably lazy speed, washed the front tyre out! Assuming the crash position, of which I’m fairly well versed, I came sliding down the banking. On my way I collected the last man of the group and we both came sliding to the feet of ‘teeth through his lip’ guy, and the medics who were tending to him.
I jumped to my feet and offered a hand to the unlucky guy who I’d wiped out. “Totally my fault, sorry” I said in the process, he looked like he’d just been in a plane crash. White as a sheet and panting like a German shepherd, “Just give me a minute” came the reply. Clearly not a man used to falling off two wheeled machines. The paramedics were trying to get me to sit down too as I’d obviously be ‘in shock’. I kept my gob shut that this was pretty much an occupational hazard of mine and had been for the last sixteen years. Falling off at under 20mph wasn’t really something to get too bothered about. Although as I looked at the state of my skinned forearm the thought occurred to me that I’ve launched race bikes at the scenery at 80mph+ and received fewer injuries. I’d also melted a hole in my best cycling shorts, bugger! If you’d like to try this at home then crashing on the wooden boards of the velodrome is best reconstructed by stripping naked and launching yourself down your laminate flooring as fast as possible. It looks quite smooth but skin tends to grip to it and start to burn. I’m now sporting a large pickable scab on my right forearm. These people really should wear leathers or something, maybe a Dragon’s Den idea. Protective/breathable cycle wear, hhhmmm.
So back to motorbikes and the final round of the series, the Anglesey Grand. In typical fashion the engine wasn’t in the bike five days before the meeting! Having removed it after the last event, for a refresh, it sat as an ornament in the workshop until two weeks before the Grand. At this point we figured it best to get it to RLR Motorsport where on stripping it was discovered that Suzuki were out of stock of the correct conrods! A massive job, obtaining the right bits in time, then ensued with it all coming together on the Thursday before loading the bike into the van and heading off to run it in at the trackday on Friday. Having also not ridden a race bike for three months this wasn’t the best preparation!
The meeting overall went well and the weather turned out better than expected for the venue/time of the year. I struggled with chatter from the front end, swapping springs, oil levels and many damping adjustments. Eventually a softer tyre compound made the biggest improvement. Adam Jenkinson, British championship front runner, was one of a few potential winners. Johnny Blackshaw, myself and David Jones had battled the Wirral 100 championships out all year and all fancied our chances too. I had some good rides, even briefly managing to pass and lead Adam in one of the Powerbike heats. My results on the Saturday saw me win the Powerbike Championship, which was good news. It’s been a good season with some great racing and I was pleased to come out as the winner.
Sunday’s races went well, Adam Jenkinson won both Anglesey Grand legs to take the overall win. I gambled a bit on a softer rear tyre than I’d used in the earlier races, struggling to match the pace I hoped that this would bring me closer. Which it did, for seven laps at which point the grip level dropped off and I started practicing my sideways riding whilst watching Adam and Johnny drift away. The second leg was a bit of a formality after that but with the harder rear tyre back in I hung onto the leaders for longer, setting my best time of the weekend to take a second place. The aggregate result of the two legs left me third overall but it had been a good weekend’s racing which, after everything, is what it’s all about. I lined up on the grid for the final senior open race, leading this championship too I just needed to finish to guarantee the championship win. Setting off for the warm up lap the bike spluttered at 8000 rpm and wouldn’t pull through it. The universal ‘turn it off and back on again’ fix for everything didn’t work and I was forced to pull out after the warm up lap. Later the fault was traced to a sticking throttle flap and was fairly easily sorted. I stood watching the final race, the end result of which meant that I sealed the senior open title too.
A good end to the season and probably my last one racing. I’ve been slowly winding down my racing career, only competing in three short circuit events alongside the TT this year. I decided at the TT this year that it would be my last one as a competitor. I love the place, the event and everything about it and I wouldn’t deter anyone from doing it. As we all know you never know what life is going to deal you next. You could choke on a peanut/get hit by a bus tomorrow but with a young family I just can’t taunt it any longer. I broke the 125mph barrier this year, a personal goal of mine, my sector times show that a mid-126 is on the cards but if I don’t stop now there will always be another goal to chase. I know all too well what I’m like! Nobody wants to be the guy that didn’t know when to stop. The consequences of me not coming back to my caravan at the end of the race are just unbearable. I love racing and it’s given me, and my family, so much but I just don’t live for it like I used to, so why risk everything doing it? Like any good gambler I think you need to know when to walk away, happy with what you’ve achieved. I’m also not exactly getting rich racing bikes, quite the opposite in fact, and I feel that the time has come to sort the rest of my life/finances out. I wouldn’t swap any of it, the experiences, stories and friends I’ve met along the way will stay with me forever. Although if I could wind back the clock I would certainly reconsider my entry speed into turn three at Anglesey on September 13th 2009! Which coincidentally is the last time my shoulders were symmetrical and I could feel all of the skin on my back! Would I like to live in a big house in a nice area? Yes! Would I swap that for the life that I’ve had racing bikes…never!
And talking of the TT, thanks to Barry Clay who sent me this great shot from this year:
I obviously plan to stay involved, on-track instruction is an area that I am really keen to expand on next season. Alongside helping out the rising star that is Dom Herbertson in any way that I can, which doesn’t include financially! Obviously if someone comes along with a 250GP bike and let’s me do a few races on it then I’d jump at the chance! I loved my years in the Aprilia RS250 challenge by my biggest regret is that I never raced a proper GP two stroke!
The Oset electric trials that myself and Jo have been running are going great, 32 kids rode in our last event, and it’s really satisfying to see them all enjoying themselves. The electric side of the event actually outnumbered the petrol adult event at the the last trial!
Next up on my venture to crash as many two wheeled machines as possible before 2014 is out is a speedway experience day at Scunthorpe in December.
Big Mountain’s reggae classic ‘Baby I love your way’ rings through my mind and for a moment it’s 1994. I’m back in the Princes Risborough Youth Club’s disco wearing bell bottom jeans, ‘avec’ turn ups, have curtains for a fringe and there’s a crap smoke machine making everyone choke. As my bleary eyes open I see 4.29am blink onto the source of the music my phone screen. I really must change that playlist as I obviously never listen to reggae from 1994 anymore! I crawl my way out of bed as the reality strikes that I do actually have to get up at this hour for a fun 6hr cycle ride. Yes folks this the big one, the Etape Cymru, an 85 mile closed roads cycling sportive around the hills of north Wales.
I’d ridden the Manchester 100 mile a couple of weeks before, raising £100 for charity in the process, thanks to all who donated and shame on you to those who didn’t! The Manchester ride was longer but much flatter taking in only 3500 feet of climbing; the Etape ascends for 9500 feet in a slightly shorter distance. I’d been nervous about this upcoming ride, as I’d never really done a great deal of climbing and basically weigh about 2 stone more than I should have to drag up a hill! Eventually upright, I head into the bathroom for some cream application to my ‘sensitive’ areas. Followed by donning the lycra outfit, a quick breakfast, load up and I’m heading off the drive for Bangor-on-Dee racecourse in Wrexham before 5am, giving myself plenty of time to get there as some of the roads would be closing around the start area before my scheduled start time of 7.03am.
Parked up, before the sunrise, I headed off to find coffee in the startline ‘village’. The public address system DJ was doing nothing for anyone with an ounce of doubt in their mind. Continuously talking about the massive climbs of the Horseshoe Pass, the Shelf and the World’s End. I sat down with my coffee as one of the first arrivals of the 2000 others who would be taking part the place was fairly empty. Welsh rugby player Gareth Jones was sitting across from me, as the celebrity on the ride, he wasn’t having such a peaceful time as I. “Glad I’m not famous” I thought, as a producer type person fussed around telling him what and when all that was about to happen. I sloped around for a bit, noted from a rider list on the wall that I would be starting in the second wave. Which probably meant that I had over estimated my cycling ability when filling out my expected completion time on the entry form! Heading back to the van to get into my kit it was just about dawn and still pretty cold.
Despite a delay to the start, after getting chatting, I still managed to miss my wave and ended up going off with the third group away. In previous cycling events that I’ve ridden I’ve kept myself to a strict pace so that I don’t blow up too soon into the ride. Keeping my heart rate below 150bpm always appears to work well for me. As always this is a massive display of self control on my part, as riders steamed it past me on all sides, I appeared to get quickly ejected out of the back of my group. The temptation to go all out and get to the front was really difficult to subdue, having spent most of my adult life trying to get to the front of a racing pack! The competitive voices within were silenced as the broken record within chanted “Cycling is just for fun, it’s not a race for me, keep to the plan and get to the end!” So I stuck to the plan keeping a steady pace, basically the road was either going up or down there was no flat anywhere!
After 20 miles the ‘King of the mountain’ section started at the bottom of the Horseshoe pass. This was a timed sector and the fastest rider of the day to the summit received a Festina watch. This challenge was so far off my priority list that it wasn’t even a consideration for me. Despite the fact that the guy who won the prize did it faster than some motorcycles I’ve owned could manage! I settled myself into a pace and to be honest, with all of the fuss I’d heard about the Horseshoe pass, I expected it to be harder. It is just a long steady climb, the corners ramp up a little but only for a few hundred yards. I rode alongside another guy, who was breathing slightly heavier than I was, as we approached the summit finish line I quipped “I’ve just got to stop and pick up my new watch”! He replied “Sod off I’m having it” and with two big strokes of the pedals got his wheel in front over the line. We both had a laugh, pleased to have gotten to the top without any major incident.
The descent was great; after we passed the Ponderosa café the completely closed road pointed down and went around some great bends. Head down I hit somewhere around 40mph which is a bit of a thrill and slightly scary on a bicycle if I’m honest. Jo met me at the bottom and we swapped drinks bottles. I was still feeling pretty good, safe in the knowledge that the worst of the climbs was over, or so I thought. “The Shelf” followed a bit further into the ride I didn’t realise until I was half way up and the incline wasn’t relenting that I was on it. Once again set my pace to make sure that I got over the top. Some of the descents were a bit dodgy with broken up road surfaces and potholes but the dangerous bits had been marked by the organisers. I took my time when the going got rough, I’m not exactly a stranger to the odd two wheeled crash but falling off a bicycle at 30mph whilst wearing what is essentially a leotard is not something that was on my agenda. I did come across one fellow rider and his mates dragging his bike out of the hedge on a tight downhill turn so I guess others weren’t as cautious.
I met Jo for the last time of the ride at the 60 mile point, just outside of Coed Poeth the highest village in Wales apparently. By this point I was starting to feel the effects of the climb and my thighs were beginning to stiffen up. As, for the first time in the ride, I knew geographically where I was I guessed that I’d done the ‘World’s End” climb without realising. I said to Jo “Please tell me that the worst of the climbing is over, I don’t care if it isn’t just tell me that it is”. A nearby spectator chuckled. “I guess that means that the World’s End is still to come?” I directed to him and he nodded in reply! Apparently as I rode away the same spectator said to Jo “I didn’t want to say anything but you see up there” gesturing to the top of a nearby mountain, “that’s where he’s going!”
The road turned sharply around a hairpin right as I noted the sign for the World’s End. It wasn’t wrong, the incline hit something like 20% instantly. I went to stand up on the pedals to keep some sort of momentum going but a muscle in the tops of both of my thighs almost locked my legs solid. Now there’s probably some long winded latin name for whatever muscle this was but bugger me, it was hurting. I just sat down in the saddle and kept turning the pedals through some sort of cramp in both legs. At an amazing 3.5mph I kept putting less and less pressure on knowing that if I stopped I’d not be able to get moving again. I was also conscious that, if one of my legs did seize up, I’d need to twist my foot out of the pedal clips pretty quickly or I’d end up face down on the tarmac looking like a right tit. Eventually whatever was burning/tearing/breaking in my thighs calmed down and the incline tailed off slightly. The climb kept going for another mile or so but I was settled into a pace making it to the summit and to a great view, what an amazing place to go cycling. The descent was pretty gravel rashed and potholed, I took it easy and everyone walked through a slippery ford near the bottom of the hill.
The final 10 miles were pretty much downhill all the way. I picked up the pace for the last few miles and clung onto the back of a group who were pushing about 23mph for a decent spell until my calves started cramping up forcing me to slow down and stretch them out! Crossing the finish line in a time of 6hrs and 4 minutes, this was my slowest ever sportive at an average speed of 14.1mph. Almost instantly a text message pinged onto my phone giving me my finishing time. Looking later at the results I had finished 654th so was in the top 1/3rd which I was happy enough with considering the Cheshire plains aren’t exactly a climbing cyclist’s training ground.
Jo, Ted and Ann met me at the finish, the organisers dished out some free coconut water, which incidently is gross so it was no wonder that they were giving it away. I still drank it though as it was something different than the energy drinks I’d been having for the last 6 hours! I ate most of the food from Jo’s packed lunch on the journey home and had a very gentle walk around the local park before becoming comatosed on the sofa in the early evening. All in all a great event, the weather was perfect and the scenery spectacular. I’ll definitely ride it again next year, with some more hill climbing training I could even do it slightly faster!
On the racing front things have been fairly static as I’ve not ridden since the last Wirral 100 meeting in June. Having taken the engine out of the bike, to get it refreshed, it’s been a nice looking ornament in the workshop for two months. With a huge workload and Manx GP tyre support to attend, getting it to RLR Motorsport hasn’t been top of the list. Eventually we got it down there and once it’s back I’ll get it back in the frame and prepped ready for my last meeting of the year at the Anglesey Grand.
As always I’ll keep you posted.
Since my last blog, racing has tailed off a bit so with not much happening for a couple of months my attention turned to cycling once more. I’d still been keeping up with a couple of rides a week to work and back, iPod on for the 19 mile scenic route running through the same old playlist. For those out there who haven’t seen Disney’s latest film ‘Frozen’ I can recite the script/soundtrack with ease (please stay behind after class for the full rendition). With young Ted being at nursery if you’re not into Frozen you’re nobody! I reckon I’m up to about 8 viewings of the film and the soundtrack is on permanent repeat in the car. So it was no surprise as I’m turning the pedals up a steep (well not that steep really but it seemed it to me) climb out of Frodsham that the headline song burst into my headphones ‘Let It Go’. Not only did I leave it to play but actually found myself singing along. Now I don’t claim to have ever been badass but singing along to Disney, what exactly has happened to my life?
As my 35th birthday approached I found myself tuning into Radio 2 for longer and longer each day, no longer able to stand the dance/trance/teenie bopper junk that Radio 1 air to the world. I also have stuff like Meatloaf on my iPod, music that I wouldn’t have dreamt of listening to ten years ago even though it was in existence. I can only conclude that I must be officially old.
Dave Read, a member of the Warrington motor club and also a keen cyclist suggested that I meet up with him and his mate Colin on a Wednesday night for the local cycling club’s ten mile time trial. It seemed like a great idea, at the time, I didn’t really know what to expect but going along with a couple of other blokes would be better than turning up like Billy no mates. Meeting at Dave’s house we rode the six miles to the start of the event at Shakerley Mere near Knutsford. Signed on and £3 fee paid we pinned our numbers on and had a look around at some of the other competitors. Some were on full on knife edged time trial bikes and wearing aerodynamic helmets looking like something out of Tron. Many were just on road bikes like us and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. Some had, but I hadn’t, gone as far as shaving their legs. I figured that enough hair had dropped from my receding hairline to counteract the amount of drag that my hairy legs might be providing.
The bikes start at one minute intervals, you sit on the chalked line on the road feet clipped into the pedals with a start marshal holding the bike up. In a nutshell they count you down from ten seconds, push you off and you pedal as hard as possible for the next ten miles! I was slightly concerned that I might get lost to be honest, not knowing the area very well and various people chipping in with landmarks and directions was adding to my confusion. I figured that I’d just follow the guy in front anyway. So the count down began, a push off the line and I was on my way. Within 3 minutes I decided that I must be pushing too hard. I was breathing like a man dying and my heart rate monitor was reading numbers greater than I’d ever seen before. I didn’t want to bonk (cycling term) halfway around the course so figured I’d better pace it out a bit better. In cycling terms bonking is what happens when you run out of energy and have to eat/drink to fuel yourself to carry on. Where I come from bonking means something completely different!
Dave had gone off a minute ahead of me, being 18 years my senior I secretly hoped that I could catch him up or at least make some ground on him. At the three mile point I was starting to wonder why the hell I was putting myself through this. Jo and Ted had parked up to cheer me on, Ted was cheering and waving, Jo was shaking her head and looking at her watch. “Two minutes” she said as I passed which I guessed was the time that I was now behind Dave! Colin, who set off a minute behind me, flew passed me shortly afterwards head down and seemingly the only thing moving on man and machine were the wheels, the pedals and his legs. I, in total contrast, was weaving and nodding like West Tip getting a whipping from Richard Dunwoody entering the final furlong at Aintree. Another rider overtook me looking smooth and fast, I guessed that the next one to come by would either have a shopping basket or be a ten year old on a BMX! I nearly missed the turning off the A50, just catching a glimpse of Bradley Wiggins (well the speed he was going it must’ve been him), who had passed me earlier, showed me the way to go. A slight downhill section was welcome and I got my head down, thighs burning and I was start to count the miles down to the finish!
My aim had been to finish in under 30 minutes (or 20mph average), I aim for this time regularly on my journey to work but it rarely happens, from my onboard speedo it was looking like it might. An uphill section for the last mile was a real killer, especially as for the last 300 yards it climbed steeper over a motorway bridge. I crossed the line, after not pedalling for half of the down slope, to finish at 28 minutes 30 seconds. 18 seconds slower than Dave, bugger! The fastest guys, who obviously must’ve been holding onto the passing cars or something, finished five minutes faster! Five minutes, where is that amount of time? I scanned the results to make sure that I wasn’t last! I had beaten three people of the 22 who ran, and one of them was a man! By the time I’d calmed my breathing back down I’d decided that I had actually enjoyed myself! During the ride I possibly wasn’t quite convinced but I now find myself addicted to going faster!
I upped my weekly cycling mileage for the following week, to about 150 and arrived at the Mere knowing the route and how much pain to expect – I must be able to do this quicker I convinced myself! Dave set off behind me this time, Colin was absent after breaking his collarbone in a fun cycling event at the weekend, bloody dangerous this cycling! Knowing where I was going, where the slopes were etc helped me no end this time. I ran a slightly faster time for the first section of course and aimed on keeping my speed above 22mph as much as possible throughout. I knew things were going better and I actually passed three others on the road. The pain really started to set in for that last mile, but I kept my head down knowing the distance to the finish this time – crossing the line in a time of 27min 40secs. Almost a minute faster than the previous week and actually feeling less knackered too. Dave was stood at the finish which confused me as he had set off behind me and hadn’t passed me on the road. As it turned out one of his pedals had fallen off during the ride and he had to get a lift back! I scanned the results again and was pleasantly surprised to have finished 10th out of 24. Dave got a lift home and I rode the 18 miles home after the event in what ended up being a hard day. Working on motorbikes all day, warming up during the 6 mile ride to the start, 10 miles flat out, then 18 miles home I was ready for dinner when I got in that was for sure! No bonking for me!!
I’ve now put an entry for the Manchester 100 mile cycle ride (August 31st), I’m doing it in aid of a charity called Joining Jack who are attempting to raise £100,000 in the event. They hope to get 1000 people each to raise £100. I’ve never used his blog to beg before, as it’s not something that’s in my genetic make up, but please if you like what you read then you can easily donate by following this link.
To date I’ve raised absolutely bugger all, so it would be nice to actually be able to donate something to the cause at the end of the ride!
After this I’ve entered the mid-September Etape Cymru, which is an 85 mile cycle ride taking in some enormous climbs in North Wales, the Horseshoe pass being the one of most note. I really don’t know what I’ve let myself in for as I’m more your steam it along the flat kind of rider, than a climber, but fingers crossed I’ll be able to complete the course.
As always I’ll keep you posted.
With the TT over, James and I stepped back into the Infront Motorcycles unit on Monday morning and the TT blues really hit hard. Neither of us were really feeling it for the first couple of days to be honest. Things have picked up since then and once again we are flat out building race bikes, maintaining road bikes, swearing and laughing.
With the Wirral 100 meeting only a couple of weeks after the TT, I had all sorts of plans to get the bike prepped and ready to race. As normal, with work building up, the race bike took a back seat and I finally got around to wiping the flies off from the Senior and carrying out a few token repairs on the Wednesday evening before loading the bike up on Thursday! Another TT racer, Dom Herbertson, was set to ride the IFM superstock bike.
Dom had impressed us at the TT, taking bronze replicas and 117mph+ laps in his first TT riding his own superstock Kawasaki ZX6. He is a young lad, from the north east, who like most racers needs some support. He is also a great story teller probably as a result of working in the forest as a lumberjack every day; once he’s got company without ear defenders on he just goes for it! Apparently Byker Grove is a real place, although from the sound of things it’s not the sort of place you’d go for a quiet pint! The most memorable of his stories from the TT has to be about his holiday to America as a child, where he was shocked at the enormity of everything. Most notably the superstores where the cheese aisle sits right next to the shotguns aisle! I can see how this would leave a mark on an impressionable young English lad, I mean you wouldn’t get that at Tesco, and I’m pretty sure not even at Tesco Extra! Ever since this recollection was aired young Ted now keeps piping up at random times of the day “Shotguns….Cheese”.
So after staying at the unit to finish a customer’s track bike build on Thursday night until 10.25pm (needs must) James and I set off for Anglesey that night. For Friday’s practice session I’d been asked by Ricky Leddy of RLR Motorsport to run a couple of his classic TT Suzuki GSXR750 machines. Ricky had built the bikes from the ground up to run at the event during the Manx GP. Paul Shoesmith is set to ride one, with Dan Kneen on the other. It would be an experience for me having not ridden a race bike with carbs since 2004 on my ZXR400. With my head full of instructions, “Don’t just bang the throttle open it’s got flat slides”, “Don’t stall it there’s no starter motor” etc, I headed down pitlane for the first time.
Not that it’s obvious just walking the streets but mankind must have evolved since the early nineties. People must’ve had really long arms and really short legs back then as bikes of this era have a massive reach to the handlebars and a short one to the pegs! I don’t remember people’s knuckle dragging back then but I guess they must have! Squeezing my seemingly hugely long legs on I set about riding a few laps. I was pleasantly surprised – always a fan of early sports bikes (I restored and ride a RD350LC remember) a few laps in and some changes to the bike beckoned, softly sprung suspension was stiffened up and gearing altered.
After a couple more sessions the bike was now feeling like a race bike, riding underneath and around the trackday gang with their modern sports rockets on a bike old enough to remember when ‘Everything I do I do it for you’ spent 16 weeks at number one was quite a satisfying experience! All in all, a successful run out for the RLR bikes, hopefully I’ve given Ricky a direction to go in for their next outing in a few weeks before they head to the Manx. I managed to get a couple of sessions on the IFM superbike too. I had a bit of trouble with a binding and overheating brake, not a surprise given the rushed preparations, oops! A caliper strip and new brake lines for Saturday’s races sorted the problem.
Dom’s inaugral ride on the superstock bike didn’t start so well. Coming back from the riders’ briefing on Friday morning his tyre warmers hadn’t been on for long but the sighting laps were about to get underway. Rushing about, knowing that these laps are important to the organisers for insurance purposes etc he jumped on board full of youthful exuberance. Riding out of the pitlane and tipping into the right handed hairpin of “the banking” on a closed throttle at low speed, the rear, cold tyre cried ‘enough!’ Coming around broadside at first, then gripping and highsiding Dom into the scenery and the bike onto its left side. I don’t think anyone could’ve been as hard on Dom as he was on himself. He obviously had to put up with some piss taking, which was deserved; crashing 200 yards after joining the circuit in mostly male company it’s the only outcome to expect.
I got in from the session and searched all over the place, eventually finding Dom I slapped him on the back turned that frown upside down and we got to work fixing the bike. As I tell Ted, if you fall off you must get straight back on! The bike wasn’t too bad, some cosmetic damage, a bent handlebar and snapped footpeg – it didn’t take much to get it mobile again. We both had a good day from here on in, I got to watch one of the sessions while changes were being made to the classic bike and Dom was looking smooth and fast.
Saturday’s weather was almost perfect for racing, if anything a bit on the hot side. I came in after the qualifying session with not a good word to say. The bike was chattering from the front as I released the brake in the mid-corner. “It won’t do this, I can’t do that blah blah blah” I moaned, although I quietened down a bit when a time sheet was thrust in my face and I was on pole! That aside though if the bike isn’t right then it can be adjusted to go faster, it doesn’t matter where you are in the grid if you know it can be improved. The times were good and there were three of us at the front who were going well; myself, Johnny Blackshaw and David Jones. I was keen on beating the lap times that we were running at the Wirral 100 meeting in March. We had been close to the lap record for the Coastal circuit and I think all of us had our eyes on bagging that.
We had three close races, everyone had a turn at the front. I pushed hard but kept coming up short of the record by half a second. Johnny had a couple of fastest laps, David rode well although lost the front while leading in the senior open at the end of the first day. Johnny crashed in the same race at the first corner leaving me out on my own. I figured I must be the last man standing when I saw all these riders emerging from the barriers during the slowing down lap! Three wins from three starts was a good way to get back into short circuit racing but ultimately the best thing was that there was some top competition and good close racing too. Dom was running well bagging 6th and 7th places, he was bouncing off the walls, great results for his first time on the bike. Not forgetting that he had crashed the day before- none of us let him forget that and we probably never will!
Sunday’s racing took place on the International circuit. Again the main goal was to beat the lap record set by yours truly at last year’s Anglesey Grand. James, myself and Ricky Leddy had slowly been making progress with the chatter from the front wheel. Although it had never really gone away, having spoken to several other riders it would appear that I wasn’t alone with this problem. I now wonder if the circuit is beginning to get bumpier, with car meetings and trackdays on the increase here it could just be the rippling effect that the cars have in the braking areas causing the problems. Anyway the problem was one which others were also having so basically I needed to just get hold of it and make it have it!
I won the first race after a battle with David, still the lap times were half a second short of the record. Johnny beat me to the first corner in the second race, I got a run around the flat out sweeper and made a pass into Rocket, the bike was slightly broadside though! Running wide Johnny got back by me and I had no answer to him, covering the passing line on the final laps I crossed the line 0.1secs behind in what was the best race of the day. I finally made a decent start in the last race of the day getting the hole shot I stuck my head down and went for that lap time. The bike, by this point, was riding great. On the brakes, into the last ninety degree left hander, the rear wheel hangs out with just a touch of the clutch as I tip the bike in to bring it back into line and hit the apex… Perfect. I still didn’t manage to break the record and am starting to wonder how I ever went that fast! I now have a great handling bike with 25 more horsepower and am consistently half a second off, Doh! Dom set some impressive times for only his second time at the circuit and first time on the big bike.
Next up for me is a cycling club’s ten mile time trial which a friend has got me involved with. I have no idea what to expect but he says I won’t look like a weirdo so that’s good. I’ve also got another Oset electric trial to organise and run on July 6th. As always keep an eye on the blog for the updates.
And finally: this got uploaded onto my Facebook by Phil Windrum. I reckon it needs a caption like “strawberry blonde actually”….
Thursday was spent waiting for most of the day whilst the (postponed) sidecar race was completed after a further weather related delay in the morning. We had a single lap of practice scheduled for the afternoon on the superbike for the Senior race on Friday. I set off from the line next to John McGuinness, which was great as it’d give me a chance to follow and learn from the master even if only for a few miles before he buggered off into the distance. I followed John, losing a few tenths at Ballagarey, and was still with him at Greeba Bridge (around eight miles into the course). As I pulled on the bars to change direction in the high speed section running through Greeba one of the handlebars moved slightly on the fork leg. I pulled up at Ballacraine, knowing that I couldn’t finish the lap like this. Once stopped I had a go at moving the bar back. Even breaking out the gun show I was unable to move the bar highlighting how hard the rider has to work to turn a bike around here.
The marshal let me through the fence and gave me some directions on how to get back on open roads. Amazing that I’ve been coming here for eight years and still only really know my way around the course, the rest of the Island’s roads remain a complete mystery to me! I got a few odd looks riding along Douglas Prom on the superbike, having to keep turning it off in the heavy traffic – no cooling fans here folks! Getting back to the race truck, James immediately practiced the rear wheel change in preparation for the blue riband Senior race set for Friday. A top job, wheel changed in under 40 seconds, gave us all some confidence for the next day’s race.
Blue skies and great weather greeted Friday’s Senior race day. The Infront Motorcycles superbike GSXR 1000 was the bike which I’d felt most confident on, and spent the most time on, so all was set for a good race. I started well and felt good on the bike immediately, although seemed to be struggling to set a consistent lap making a few mistakes. The wind was strong over the Mountain especially tipping into Black Hut my helmet was twisting on my head against the crosswind and the bike really needed to be fought to hold the racing line.
Passing Ben Wylie on the road was the only real event of what was a fairly lonely race. My lap times were held back a bit by the wind, my best lap being five seconds short of my personal best which I was happy to be near. For some of the race I was honestly hoping to either get overtaken or catch another rider up. It really gives you something to aim at, riding around flat out for two hours on your own can lead to getting stuck in your comfort zone. Following someone else just gives you that carrot to chase and brings your times down generally.
The pitstops both went perfectly; fuel, visor and rear wheel were all swapped in 40 seconds, a testament to the team which have been with me since my first TT in 2007. I crossed the line for the final time of 2014, to finish 15th over all. A great result for myself and the team, tagging onto the back of the big names and teams from the British Championship on a bike which myself and Infront Motorcycles put together at our unit in Chester.
The name dropping moment of the TT goes to team chef/child care executive Ann. At the end of the Senior we packed the awnings away not wanting to have to do so during the forecast storms of Saturday. Dinner was looking to be a bit late as a result and the prize giving start time was looming so Jo and Ann headed down to the local Chinese. As Ann walked in Jo, waiting in the car, was shocked to hear Keith Flint, of Prodigy fame, say hello and call Ann by her first name. “Err, how do you know my mum?” Jo then asked. “Everyone on the grandstand knows your mum” came the reply. A conversation about the TT followed, on her return Ann needed some explanation of who ‘the bloke in the grandstand’ was!! I never thought my mother-in-law was so rock and roll!
All in all a good TT for me and the gang. Finally getting that 125mph lap was probably the stand out achievement of the fortnight for me. Alongside this was taking a great result in the Senior, coming close to some of the fastest teams/riders in the country in the process.
All that’s left is to give thanks to all of the supporters, which is something I’m terrible at by the way, stiff upper lip and all that! Infront Motorcycles, Kemtile, RLR Motorsport, Electrico, Dunlop, Ohlins, Maxton, Zero One race fx, HEL hoses, A&S Transport, Daniel Cross, Howard & John Tipping, Bob Beese, AM leathers, and many more besides that I’ve probably forgotten.
The trackside crew… Me (obviously the most important person in the equation!), Jo (for keeping everyone in order), James (for everything from financial input, owning the bikes, closing the shop for a fortnight to changing the wheel in the pitstop), Jack (for twirling the spanners, at all hours without complaint or errr payment), Ann (childcare executive, chef, energy drink mixer etc etc), Dad (pitlane re-fueller, even after seeing the consequences of it going bad!), Alasdair (born to be a trucker). Many, many others from Gary Thompson (clerk of the course) who does a fantastic job of keeping the riders informed and making some very tough calls, through to the marshals, giving their time to stick their neck on the line so the event can go ahead.
So is that my last TT? Many of my personal goals have been achieved, lots of money spent, risks taken and a young son who is now starting to understand what’s going on. I think the time maybe upon us.
Thanks for reading, next up Anglesey in mid-June, and another Oset trial in early July.
I’ll keep you informed.
Sorry for the late update, it’s been a crazy race week. Monday’s Superstock race ended up being postponed until Tuesday. The first Supersport race went ahead on Monday, after a delay. I’d not spent an enormous amount of time on the 600 during practice week, focusing my attention on the superbike. The first couple of laps I struggled to get my head into Supersport mode; thrashing a machine with little or no mechanical sympathy isn’t really my style. I also appeared to be lacking top speed, getting passed at Sulby and then held up through the bumpy section to Ramsey. I hung onto the riders who passed me but patchy damp areas on the Mountain and light rain aren’t conditions that favour me on the TT course. The Supersport class is never my best so sticking my neck out to finish a few places higher wasn’t the sensible option. I crossed the line a disappointing 34th having lapped at 117.8mph. I managed to avoid the enormously popular physiotherapist’s tape. I’ve seen half of the competitors covered with it from the first night of practice onwards – it’s more popular than Prada, just man up and hold on!
Superstock got underway on Tuesday. Again with limited time on the stock bike we decided to fit the suspension from the superbike into the stock machine, knowing that the settings wouldn’t be too far out. I had a good steady race really. The conditions were good and the bike felt good throughout the race. There were a lot of waved yellow flags during the race. Gary Johnson had crashed exiting Ramsey hairpin and was being attended to for the first two laps. Another incident on the run up to Joey’s was covered with waved yellows for the final two laps. As a result the lap speeds were a little down on previous years. My best wishes go out to all involved in those incidents. The Superstock bike did me proud, against the high top speeds of the BMW and Kawasaki a stock Suzuki is always going to suffer down the long straights here. The good handling and stable chassis is its trump card, I was pleased to cross the line in 23rd place, lapping at just under 122mph. I have been faster in previous years on this type of bike but on-track incidents taken into account I was about on my previous pace.
Supersport race two went ahead on Wednesday as planned. A change to the gearing and instructions from team boss, James Powell, to “Rev the tits off it!” were the two main differences from Monday’s race. I set off and immediately the bike felt better on the new gearing. The first two laps were faster than I’d managed in the whole race on Monday. Coming into the pits for the only pitstop of the race, I was greeted by the fire siren sounding and pit entrance blocked. I later found out that some spilled fuel had ignited during a fill up. The rider sensibly dropped the bike on its side but the fuel filler, in his pit crew, was also on fire across his chest. Other pit crews and the fire brigade quickly sorted the blaze out. I lost around 20 seconds waiting at the stop box at the entrance to pit lane. A quick pitstop followed, I left the pits with a gaggle of riders.
Obviously a decent amount of us had been held up and with everyone’s pitstop taking about the same amount of time the track was now going to be pretty busy. I quickly got past Rob Barber and set about catching a group of three others who were about five seconds ahead. By Ramsey I was on the group one of whom was riding my old Triumph (the one that spilled its guts on the Mountain Mile in 2011). I managed to get past going into the Les Graham memorial. Getting by Ryan Kneen coming into the 33rd milestone, I was again spurred on by a small gap to Roger Maher. Making a pass on the entrance to Laurel Bank I pressed on only for Roger to pass me back on the Cronk-y-Voddy straight and signal for me to follow him! This wasn’t my plan, having caught a gap and made an overtake, following wasn’t an option. I stuck behind, getting a good exit towards Douglas Road corner I made a pass stick going into Kirk Michael. A final run over the mountain and I crossed the line in 22nd place, my best lap was my final one 120.5mph. Happy enough to have finally got the supersport bike working better for me, it had been a good race. Thanks very much to Mark from Electrico for loaning me the bike.
To be continued shortly…