IOMTT: Tuesday’s Practice Session

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Yesterday we all witnessed a brief monsoon, which probably washed a few campers out, so that was practice cancelled. Great weather for ducks, not so much humans. It did stop raining, but at that point, there is no way the road would have dried in time. In fact, it definitely didn’t.

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Apparently I was a keyboard warrior for saying this, but no practice means no qualifying and no qualifying means no racing. It really isn’t difficult. I’m also not trying to be a party-pooper, I’m just trying to be realistic. This isn’t short circuit racing where you stick a set of wets on, change a few settings and off you go. This is road racing and for numerous years now the Isle of Man TT is not raced in the wet hence why practice sessions get cancelled. I’m not going into the reasons why, etc. except for there’s a rather long and plausible list.

In the regulations it states the following with regards to qualifying:

• To start a race, a newcomer to the TT Mountain Course qualifying for the first time must complete a minimum of six laps on a solo machine or four laps on a sidecar machine. This applies to sidecar passengers as well as drivers.
• All other competitors must have signed on and commenced qualifying by the end of Monday’s session.
• Competitors who have qualified to start in any previous race on the TT Mountain Course (TT or Festival of Motorcycling) shall be required to complete a minimum of five laps for solos and three laps for sidecars, unless the Clerk of the Course grants permission otherwise.
• For all Isle of Man TT Race classes a minimum of two laps must be completed on each machine entered, one of which must be within the qualifying time. For TT Zero machines, one qualifying lap on the machine entered is required.
• Any competitor who does not attain the required number of laps or qualification time may not be permitted into the race.

It’s essentially a large piece of jargon, but it’s very important. Each rider has to do a specific number of laps themselves and at least two-laps on each machine they’re racing. However, this is down to CoC’s discretion. Therefore, practice week is the key to race week. Yes, they can run practice session after races, move races days to allow a day’s practice, etc. but I believe there’s also a rule of how many laps a rider can do in a certain period of time. Many people purely come for race week or even the odd few days. I totally get that, I’m only here for the two weeks because I live here (although even if I didn’t I’d still try my bloody hardest to be here for two weeks), but my annoyance came from people saying: ‘oh it doesn’t matter about the weather in practice week, race week is going to be glorious.’ So far we’ve only managed to run two practice sessions due to the weather and fortunately the first session was timed. Usually it isn’t and currently, the weather isn’t looking too clever for the rest of the fortnight either.

Practice week is so vital and it is obviously a top priority for CoC Gary Thompson to run the sessions, but he can’t control the weather! There are contingency sessions ‘just in case’, but it must be a massive concern as well as a headache for those in the control tower to figure out how they’re going to fit in enough practice ahead of race week. Yes, races can be moved, they have the Tuesday and Thursday to use if needs be, but that might not solve the problem if the weather isn’t kind. Also, imagine racing/practicing every. single. day. The racers would be mentally and physically worn out by the time Senior came around. Sometimes it’s just not feasible. I believe in 2017 we had the same kind of issue and contingency plans, such as short-lapping the riders and introducing a speed-controlled run over the Mountain section, were put into place. I think the Superbike race was moved to the Sunday and various other movements happened. Back in 2013, it was Wednesday evening practice and the Superbikes hadn’t even turned a wheel due to the weather conditions and their first race was on the Saturday! I vaguely remember that being a year of concern with regards to enough practice time. 

I’m not being a keyboard warrior, although that did make me chuckle, I’m just being honest. I’ve always supported the TT, not because it’s the ‘fashionable thing to be into’, but because it’s a passion. There’s more than just race week at the TT. Just because you aren’t here to witness it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Obviously I want practice to happen, I want everyone to qualify and of course I want a fabulous race week, who doesn’t?! All the racers want to qualify and be ready for race week too, but we all know what the weather can be like. It’s out of everyone’s control!

Anyway, back to this evening’s session because it did go ahead. It was freezing out there, but they managed to get some laps in and that’s all that matters!

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Michael Dunlop on the Tyco BMW Superbike Photo: Lucas-Croydon Photography

Superbike/Supersport/Superstock/Newcomer all together in one big session. As always, it didn’t go strictly according to plan. Firstly, roads were due to close at 6:00pm. I’m very lucky that my employer allows me to leave work at half 4 to allow time for me to get to my marshals post. However, it took me 50-minutes to get to the bottom of Barregarrow… At 6:00pm the traffic was backed up from Ballacraine to Greeba, so eventually, everyone had to turn off at Ballacraine off the course. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare closing 37.73 miles of public roads, but it has to be done if we are to go racing! Hedges were full of sweaty humans in leathers, the white line turned into a personal lane for motorcycles and people were walking along main road footpaths that hadn’t been walked on for approx. 365 days. These weren’t the only issues! There was a non-racing medical emergency that had to be dealt with so there was a precise 11-minute delay to the start of the session. Finally, at 6:31pm the beasts were unleashed and the Superbikes were having their first taste of TT tarmac of 2019.

Holy macaroni shall we say. That little flutter you get from hearing ‘bike on voddy straight’. I think I probably say ‘ooo I’m nervous’ more times than I care to image, and then there it is. Nothing compares to hearing then seeing a Superbike flash by. It’s insane. All your senses go into overdrive. The biggest smile slapped on my face. Superbikes are out and they’re flying. Michael Rutter on the Bathams Racing Honda and James Hillier on the Quattro Place Wicked Coatings Kawasaki led the field away, both Superbike mounted, with Honda Racing’s Ian Hutchinson and David Johnson following suit. Silicone Engineering Kawasaki’s Dean Harrison had issues before he’d even turned a wheel as the Superbike machine cut-out just before he set off. The team quickly wheeled out the second Superbike machine just in time.

After completing his British Superbike round and therefore missing Sunday’s practice session, Hickman set-off along Glencrutchery Road on his Superstock machine and down Bray Hill only to encounter an issue at Quarter Bridge. He found his way back to the grandstand and immediately went back out on his Triumph Supersport machine. In fact, Hickman didn’t have much luck at all during this evening’s practice session. Hicky PR, as they’re known on Twitter, were also confused as to where Hickman had got to a few times… turns out he was hungry and took a de-tour through McDonald’s:

Ok. So … here’s your run down on that slightly confusing session Superstock went out.
Returned to paddock via Douglas.
Supersport went out.
Superbike went out.
Returned to paddock via McDonalds.
Superstock went out.
P1 Supersport P7 Superstock.

Hickman managed to put the Supersport machine at the top of the timesheets, so that Big Mac must have worked wonders! 123.29mph… not bad for the world’s fastest road racer, eh? Oh, and thanks to HickyPR for keeping us all entertained as usual! 

Manxman Conor Cummins was fast out the blocks as he set the best sector times on the opening lap to completed a lap of 128.09mph on-board the Milenco by Padgetts Superbike. That’s a mighty fine looking machine, go take a look at it if you’re having a gander down the paddock! Rutter completed his lap at 124.22mph whilst John McGuinness stopped at Sulby to make adjustments. Dunlop clocked an average lap time of 126.65mph whilst Hutchinson was slightly slower at 125.39mph. However, it wasn’t Hutchinson’s evening. We heard the emergency button being pressed and knew there was an incident. It was at the 11th milestone. Anyone who’s been to the TT will know that’s unfortuntely a very infamous part of the course. It’s not very giving, well, road racing isn’t at the best of times, but when that part bites it usually bites bad. Next thing, they’d lost the rider. Panic panic. Nope, just the marshal not completing his sentence. The rider had walked away from it unscathed by the sounds of things, but probably spitting feathers and that rider was Hutchinson. I don’t really think he was in the mood for a chat hence why he walked away for some thinking time and to let the adrenaline simmer. Good news is, he’s reportedly okay, but no doubt he’s going to hurt in the morning.

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Photo: Impact Images

Cummins’ was on a mega second lap and the pace had increased dramatically – on for a 129mph+ lap. The radio announced he had been blagged flagged as the Honda machine had reportedly been smoking. Soz hun, not today. Just the smoke from my tyres because I’m SO DAMN FAST. I’m joking, it’s important to check if a bike is smoking. It could be oil or anything, but fortunately, on this occassion, Cummins got the all clear and made it back to the Grandstand at an average speed of 104.96mph. Gary Johnson was also black flagged as a beady-eyed marshal had noticed his camera was loose. I’m pretty sure Gary probably ripped that off and chucked it in a hedge somewhere to complete his lap. On the fourth lap, Harrison almost touched the 130mph barrier on his Superstock machine with a lap speed of 129.34mph with Hillier the third rider to break the 128mph mark with a speed of 128.07mph on his Superbike. Harrison continued on his mission to dominate the timesheets as right on his last lap his stuck his Superbike at the top of the leaderboard with a stonking 129.53mph, close to that of his Superstock machine. Almost forgot, shout out to Rob Hodson for making me almost s**t my pants. He did apologise afterward, always the gentleman!

I am aware that there were various incidents during the solo session today. Here is what the official news has stated so far:

Paul Williams – Off at Governors. Rider OK
Jason Corcoran – Off at Glen Helen. Taken to Nobles with reported neck injury.
Emmett Burke – Off at Gooseneck. Taken to Nobles with reported leg injury.
And, we’re aware of this one: Ian Hutchinson – Off at 11th Milestone. Rider OK, although Honda Racing have said he’s ‘battered and bruised’.

Wishing all the above a speedy recovery and hopefully, Williams and Hutchinson aren’t too bruised tomorrow morning. Also, Daniel Mettam, who parted company from his machine at the Black Hut on Sunday, has been discharged from Nobles which is always good news.

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The Crowe Brothers! Photo: Lucas-Croydon Photography

 

The solo session was flagged and it was soon time to see the sidecars out for their very first session. The temperature had dropped significantly by 8pm and I was starting to lose any kind of feeling in my toes let alone my fingers. The midges started to appear in full force, and before anyone says it, they’re immune to Avon’s Skin So Soft thanks to us marshals. If anyone has an alternative, let me know! With that in mind, we were all dithering around trying to keep warm whilst downing a hot coffee before they reached us.

The Formula Two sidecars were let loose at 8:04pm. As it’s the first session for the sidecars it’s more a chance to test out some settings and have a bit of a fiddle. I don’t personally feel you can take much from this session other than it’s great they’ve finally got a couple of laps in! Dave Molyneux and passenger Harry Payne set-off, but retired at Laurel Bank. There were other outfits who had stopped to make adjustments, like Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes, and then there were the Birchall’s who were probably sandbagging as usual with a lap of 111.55mph placing them fifth. It was John Holden/Lee Cain who set the best opening lap at 114.99mph with Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley, Alan Founds/Jake Lowther and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney (111.80mph) slotting into 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

Although it may not be too much of a shock for those who follow anything on three wheels,  newcomers Ryan and Callum Crowe, two brothers who’s dad is five-time TT winner Nick Crowe, pulled a 109.76mph out the bag on their very first lap on their 675cc Triumph. By the way, if you’re out and about watching the sidecars you can’t miss the Crowe brothers. Nope, not because their outfit is painted in whacky colours (it’s white and blue), but because the noise it makes is tremendous. It makes your ears vibrate for a good couple of minutes after. They’re definitely ones to watch so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for that pair! As some of you may also know, Maria Costello (alongside the Lightweight solo class) has decided to take up the three-wheeled sport and completed a lap just shy of 100mph at 99.37mph whilst fellow passenger newcomer Sarah Stokoe (driver Mike Jackson) completed a lap of 102.32mph.

Despite a few tumbles, all in all, a great evening for practice despite the cold conditions. I don’t believe the sun was too much of an issue, but we can only hope it will be for the next week or so. The weather forecast is looking very bleak for tomorrow, potentially a break in the weather at the weekend, but even then it’s not looking promising.

Time will tell, but for now, I’ll leave you with this little memory that popped up today of a racer who is sorely missed:

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#14

Back in 2016 Dan Kneen was unable to race due to sustaining an injury prior to the TT, so he came down to the bottom of the Barregarrow and joined the Orange Army. I remember him saying: ‘Is that what it looks like when I’m racing? It’s not that scary when you’re the one on the bike.’

Words by Samantha Wanless

 

 

 

 

First 2019 IOMTT Practice Session

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It may be a day later than planned, but the first 2019 Isle of Man TT practice session has been completed over a rather blustery Mountain.

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Dean Harrison on-board the Silicone Engineering 600cc Kawasaki

The first practice was due to take place yesterday (Saturday), however due to extensive hill fog and intermittent rain the Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson chose to cancel the session at approx 3:30pm. The prompt decision is something as a marshal I am very grateful for and it meant we could go grab a takeaway instead rather than stand around for hours in the rain awaiting a decision. Happy days!

There is a contingency plan in place one of which allows the roads to close on Sunday for practice until no later than 6:30pm. CoC announced this would happen to allow the solo and sidecar newcomer’s to complete their speed controlled lap followed by Supersport, Supertwin and all newcomers. The schedule was provided as follows:

  • 11.45:  Mountain closes Barrule Park Ramsey to Bungalow
  • 12.00:  Mountain closes Bungalow to Creg Ny Baa
  • 13.00:  All roads closed
  • 13.30:  Solo Newcomers’ speed controlled lap
  • 13.35:  Sidecar Newcomers’ speed controlled lap
  • 13.50:  Start Supersport / Lightweight Practice
  • 17.30:  Roads open except Mountain section
  • 18.30:  All roads open

Obviously it’s great to say we’ll use the contingency plan, but the weather needs to behave itself first. I got woke up by my other half at 5:30 this morning saying the rain woke up him… I can tell you now, I was dreading opening the curtains when I woke up properly. I’d already pretty much written off today, but then the sun started to poke its way through and the wind was acting like an official TT hairdryer. Next thing, I’m grabbing bags of crisps, snacks and whatever else I can find from the cupboards to put in the scruffy racing bag ready to marshal. A marshal’s diet is very important you know. We thrive on chocolate, crisps and sarnies, but are partial to cake, biscuits and most definitely coffee. 

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…okay, I may have grabbed more than some snacks. Full Factory Marshalling this!

After we’d set-up, roads closed and there we had it… a 30-minute delay.  The road was still drying in places, particularly under the trees, but most vitally there were not enough marshals in certain places around the course. Every marshal’s post has a minimum number. If that minimum number is not met, the TT racers cannot turn a wheel. A plea went over the Marshal’s radio asking those who were over minimum to shuffle around. It appeared there were technically enough marshals, they just weren’t dispersed evenly.  This led to a further 15-minute delay, and then another 5-minute delay. If you are here to watch the TT, please consider signing on to marshal. If you’re unsure as to what it all entails, you can find out more here. 50-minutes later than scheduled, it was GO time!

First out were the solo and sidecar newcomers. They must complete a speed-controlled lap before they can be let loose on their own. If the speed controlled lap is not completed, whether it be mechanical faults, etc., they will be given another chance during the next practice session. I believe all solo’s completed their lap, but one sidecar outfit, unfortunately, didn’t. When they had all nearly completed their first-ever lap, the flood barriers were opened as well as the throttles on the Supersport and Supertwin machines. It was finally time to release the beasts down Bray Hill for the very first time… and boy were those throttles pinned.

During practice two riders set off together with a 10-second interval between each pair.  This is obviously unlike a TT race where they set off alone 10-seconds apart. Time trial remember… Before Michael Dunlop set off he said live on the radio ‘I need to sort my shit out.’ Er, yes please. If you could do that before you begin your lap that’d be ace, or at least before you get to the bottom of Barregarrow because you scare me enough as it is on the first lap…! Always fills a marshal full of confidence that. The two men first off the line were Ashcourt Racing’s Lee Johnston and Honda Racing’s Ian Hutchinson. Throttles pinned they were down Bray Hill on their Supersport machines. It doesn’t take long until they reached cronk-y-voddy. With the wind strong, we could hear them storming their way through Glen Helen. We knew it wouldn’t be long until they flashed by, but it wasn’t who we were expecting. It was Dean Harrioson on-board the beautiful Silicone Engineering Kawasaki shortly followed by Johnston and Hutchinson. Wow. First thought, in fact the same I thought I have every year on the first day of practice, this is f!*king BONKERS.

Usually the first practice session is untimed, however it was announced that it would, in fact, be timed today and the laps will count towards qualifying. It can be quite difficult to keep up with timings when there are different classes out and about around the course, but it’s even more difficult when you’re marshalling. You don’t really get the privilege of listening to the radio because you can’t hear yourself think let alone hear what Chris Kinley has to say. You don’t look at your phone unless there’s an interval, so timing-wise, you’re quite blind! However, I’ve heard the new live timing app isn’t that great anyway and that all sounds like a political farce, but I’ll save that for another day shall I? Instead, I keep myself entertained by oohing and aahing at different race lines, telling newcomers to put their knee away even if they can’t hear me and testing my race number/rider name skills. Oh, this is whilst fuelling myself with coffee and cake. It’s quite the multi-tasking effort you know!

Unsurprisingly it was Harrison who took to the top of the timesheets – 121.97mph quickly followed by a 124.39mph lap. He was hungry for that Senior win last year and I think he’s back to take another bite of the action proving to be a very popular guy in the road racing paddock. Harrison put in six-laps all together, but I felt like I’d seen him more times than that. Every lap I saw him get smoother and smoother; it was almost as though he had ironed out all the bumps and he was gliding along. Then boom. A 126.09mph lap. That’ll do, lets park it. Now he’s qualified in this class, he’ll probably work on perfecting the settings on his Superbike machine going forward, but maybe he won’t. We won’t know until the day! When being interviewed after their laps, it was clear the winds were proving to be a bit of a nightmare up over the Mountain. Conor Cummins said there were tail-winds, head-winds, cross-winds and windy corner was windier than usual. It doesn’t get any more windy that that, does it? Gary Johnson didn’t seem too phased and even told everyone he’s survived wind, so if Gary can we all can! Joking aside, the high winds are very challenging up top. It can completely blow you off-line, unsettle the bike. However, it didn’t deter many racers as most completed at least four if not five laps.

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Manxman Conor Cummins on-board the Padgett’s Milenco Honda Supersport machine

It was great to see Michael Dunlop back on the roads as he set a lap speed of 123.9mph with Manxman Conor Cummins clocking 123.71mph on his fifth lap of on-board the Milenco Padgett’s Honda. If you get chance to go down to the bottom of Barregarrow, go and watch Conor from down there. He has got it so finely tuned that the bike drops away from him, arms extended and away he goes. It’s just so perfect. He doesn’t fight to stay tucked in, he just goes with the flow and it’s clearly working. Prez Racing’s Jamie coward was fourth on the timesheets at 123.19mph and James Hillier managed to not cause chaos down at Barregarrow to clock 121.9mph placing him fifth. Ian Hutchinson finished in 12th for the Honda Racing Team just ahead of the legendary John McGuinness. I must admit, I wasn’t too impressed with his overtaking manoeuvre on a higher numbered rider just as they were to tip into the bottom of Barregarrow. Maybe understandable during a race, but personally I don’t think it’s called for during practice. Thankfully it was all okay, but I definitely think it would’ve been safer to have waited till after Barregarrow considering the stretch to Cammal Farm is straight… Onto McGuinness – he does indeed have a Supersport ride after announcing yesterday he had partnered with his Padgett’s family once again to ride the stunning Milenco machine. So get that scribbled in your race programme! He didn’t go too mad on his first time back at the TT since his NW200 accident, despite doing a couple of parade laps last year, placing himself 13th. Respectable first practice place.

The Supertwins were also out amongst the Supersport machines with Jamie Coward topping the leaderboard at 119.96mph and defending champion Dunlop putting in a 118.52mph lap placing him second. Last year’s runner-up Derek McGee finished in fourth with a 116.19mph lap whilst Stefan Bonetti, after his mega win at the NW200, posted the fifth fastest time at 116.02mph.

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McPint on-board the Norton Lightweight machine

I personally don’t think that lap times/speeds really matter on the first day of practice, but I’ve put them in for you just in case you are bothered. Yes, it’s great that it has counted towards their qualification within the Supersport and Supertwin classes because it can sometimes be very difficult to qualify every machine due to delays, cancellations, mechanical issues. However, it really isn’t necessary to go all balls out for the ‘fastest racer in first practice’ headline. I’m just glad they’ve managed to get a few laps of practice under their leathers because it really is so vitally important for them to get the laps in. With over 200 corners, I don’t think I could ever do enough laps around here to know them all inside out and I live on the Isle of Man!  Some of these racers take part in British Superbikes/Supersport, other road races and of course they must obtain enough signatures for their Mountain Course license, but they don’t get to race here every weekend. Some do race in the Classic TT, but many only race the TT meaning the last time they took to the Mountain Course was approx. one year ago. I’ve said it many times, but the road surface changes significantly. Trees disappear, appear. Curbs appear, get lowered. Your yellow drain braking marker might have disappeared or a new drain cover has appeared. That year really has an impact on a racer’s memory of the course, the bike settings, everything. For me, the first practice session is the most important. Racer’s will now spend the evening relaying all their information back to their teams. Adjusting front/rear suspension, altering tyre pressures, gearing. This first practice session is about fettling the bike back in and sorting out your own head. Johnston spoke about how he was clearly feeling a little rusty, but it’s now time for them to process the 37.73 miles in an attempt to perfect their lap times. It must be so mentally draining, but the adrenaline and the TT in its entirety is clearly worth it. First practice is literally just the beginning for these racers and there is certainly more to come.

The session was thankfully relatively uneventful although New Zealander Daniel Mettam did part company with his machine at Black Hut in the Supersport session and was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital. His condition is reportedly not serious, but no further details have been issued. Tomorrow evening we should hopefully see some more practice with roads closing at 6pm and an approx. aim of a 6:20pm flood gate opening. Let’s see what tomorrow brings…

One last little, but important note about today’s practice session – I couldn’t help but think about Dan Kneen, James Cowton and William Dunlop. I’m sure I’m not alone by trying not to think too much about it on the lead up to this year’s TT, but I have certainly missed seeing them race these roads today. They’ve definitely not been forgotten, but are most definitely missed by all. x

(Full practice times can be shown here, although the website doesn’t appear to be very user-friendly, so good luck if you’re attempting to use it!)

Words by Samantha Wanless

 

 

Learning To Ride A Motorcycle

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This is something a little different from the race reports I usually waffle about so hang in there…

I am currently learning to ride… a motorbike. Having always been around motorbikes, whether it’s racing or travelling as pillion, learning to ride is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve had a few obstacles in the way, but I’m ready to tick this off my bucket list. Let’s face it, I live on the Isle of Man… there’s no excuse not to get it done!

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I’m yet to attempt the beautiful Mountain road… there’s a time and a place…

I passed my car test at 16 and yes, that is legal on the Isle of Man. I think everyone believes that because you are aware of the rules of the road that side of things shouldn’t be difficult. Okay, in some respects I believe that, but in others… not so much! I honestly think it makes you believe you should pass your motorbike test in a blink of an eye because you’ve practically done it before. Nope, wrong, false. It’s completely different and sometimes I envy those who did their bike test before learning to drive a car. I’m already thinking I should have done it that way round!

Let’s start from the beginning. Your CBT (Compulsory Basic Training.) I passed my first CBT when I was 19. Loved every minute of it even though it lashed it down. I then didn’t take my test. At 24 I decided to do my CBT again. When I did my re-CBT, the instructor said in the car park ‘are you sure you’ve done your CBT before?’ Oh eff off, yes I am sure! I’d never felt so embarrassed or put down. Yes, it had been a while since I’d been on two wheels. I’d been open and honest about that as well as the fact I’d lost all my confidence. It probably also didn’t help it was SO fucking hot the sweat was running into my eyes. It was madness, but the moment I started to ride on an actual road rather than a bloody playground, it all came flooding back. The life savers, mirror and head check…. I felt like I was spending more time looking backwards just as I did before. And, before anyone says it, yes I’m fully aware they are very necessary thank you. They take you over part of the TT course, through estates, along the prom and them dreaded horse tram lines. Potentially you pass the grandstand at a phenomenal 30mph (because that’s the speed limit folks…!) and then it’s done and dusted. You can ride legally on the road on your own on your own motorcycle as long as it’s no more than 125cc. Let the panic begin.

It is terrifying. The first time I put my gear on and sat on Nelli ready to go out on her I was nervous… of course. I was on a brand new bike for the very first time and I’d only just passed my CBT. Now, yes I’m a woman, maybe a man or another woman may find learning to ride a motorbike differently to how I did, but there are reasons why. Fortunately, riding a motorcycle kind of came easy to me, but I can see how it doesn’t for so many people. The amount of times I’ve sat there about to set off and I’m constantly thinking ‘shit, I’ve forgotten how to do this,’ ‘1 down 4 up,’ ‘fuck where’s my brakes.’ As soon as you get going it’s absolutely fine and you forget about all the crap you were thinking 5 seconds before you let the clutch out. As much as I enjoyed being on two-wheels, the fear of falling off or whatever else could happen ruined it for me at the beginning. I have now, however, found the reason why I was so worried!

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I currently have a Benelli TNT 125

Being only 5’2″, it’s been a slight struggle finding a motorbike I can actually reach the floor on as long as trousers that fit, etc, etc. (Thankfully I found MotoGirl who’s kevlar legging type trousers are DIVINE. I will do a little gear list eventually on here.) After I passed my CBT the first time my Dad helped me buy a KTM Duke 125. She was a bloody beauty and I loved her, but I’m pretty sure I rode that bike on pure adrenaline. I couldn’t reach the floor very well at all and without the experience and confidence behind you, there is just no way you can deal with that as a learner. I lost all my confidence. I didn’t want to go out on it and instead she sat dormant in the garage for 2 years. I loved the idea of a Honda Grom, but didn’t like them to look at… They look fun-sized, but without looking too ridiculous. The amount of grown 6’4” men riding round on them at TT last year was obscene, but they all looked like they were having the time of their life! Anyway, my partner had spotted a different motorbike which was similar looking to the Grom… that’s when we took a drive up to Dedman’s Performance in Ramsey. Little Nelli was sat outside and I fell in love. Probably two weeks later I’d ordered my brand new Benelli TNT 125 and booked my CBT. I part-exed my KTM for Nelli, Paul Dedman came to drop it off and pick the KTM up and that was that. Don’t buy a bike that you don’t feel comfortable with. I learnt the hard way and now I’m starting all over again!

My little Benelli TNT 125 – I absolutely love her. The OTR prices are considerably lower (potentially £2k less) than a Honda MSX 125 and in my opinion I think the Benelli have got the design of it on point. I’ve had a few comments now asking what it is, how smart it looks, how fast does it go and they all end with ‘I want one!’ If you are looking for a little 125 to bob around on, I can highly recommend this:

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Benelli TNT 125 in white

 

As you have probably guessed, I did pass my re-CBT and here we are. Riding on the roads solo. Well, not technically. I think my mother would probably kill me if I decided to go out on my own, but also my little comfort is having Chris ride with me. Trust me, that poor ZX-7 is fed up of my 50mph riding and Chris is too…

 

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You’ve got to start somewhere to join in with the big boys…

Talking of 50mph, that’s the learner limit here in derestricted zones. If you’re not familiar with derestricted zones, it basically means if in doubt flat about because there is no limit. If I’m honest, I’m quite content at that speed right now. The thought of going any faster currently makes me want to vomit, but I’m sure in time that will pass. Now, in a car, I’d happily do *insert high number here* mph, but I probably wasn’t happy doing that when I was learning to drive or just passed. It’s come with time, practice and experience. After all, that was almost 10 years ago. *feeling old*

The other week I got overtaken by some crazy woman in a clapped out Nissan Micra. Was I upset? A little. Chris was even more infuriated because she then persisted on tailgating him allllllll the way through Ballaugh’s 30mph zone. Prick. Anyway, let not forget I am riding on the Isle of Man TT course and I am most definitely not a TT racer. Usually they’re in the range of 150mph+, not under 50mph, so I’ll keep motoring along at my own speed for now. I got frustrated, but there was no point because Nelli probably only does a max of 60mph bless. Also, legally 50mph is my limit and in all honesty it is where I’m comfortable at the minute. Yeah, yeah, take the piss. Everyone has to start somewhere. Whatever, overtake me. See what I care. I’m learning to ride a motorbike and that’s not something everyone does in their life, so give me an effing break. 

This little blog was inspired by that shitty Nissan Micra woman, so thanks to her you got this little insight into my brain whilst learning to ride a motorbike. 10% of the time I’m shitting myself. 85% of the time I’m loving life and probably ‘whoop whooping’ in my helmet, and the other 5% I’m raging at a shitty car driver for not understanding that I’m a learner and people have to learn.

I am currently loving and living for every minute on two wheels. It rained the other morning, the sun shined at lunchtime and I’m asking work colleagues ‘IS THE ROAD DRY?! DID YOU NOTICE?!’ Going out in the wet isn’t at the top of my list just yet, but I’ll do it eventually. Aside from letting Chris take the ZX-7 out for a blast, I’m trying to sieze every little moment on Nelli because quite honestly, at the moment, it’s the best little stress reliever going. I would 100% recommend to a friend. Just do it.

I’ve still got a lot of learning to do, lots to experience and a test to pass, but I’m enjoying being back on two wheels especially on such a beautiful island where motorcycles are a way of life.

 

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17 days and counting…

Updates to follow…