What a fantastic experience!! Whilst attending a Trail and Enduro bike Trail with Dean Allan of Central Bristol TRF, he asked if I’d like to join CDTRF trip to the Isle of Man, which he was managing along with the support of Alcuin Wilkie. Dean said, if I wanted to go, he could arrange transport, and the pick up for me and my bike and gear. All I’d need to bring is a change of underpants and a sense of humour (always needed when out with Dean and the guys from CBTRF! I think they’ve redefined the term banta!).
The trip to the Isle of Man was planned for the 3rd week of August, to ride some of its Green Roads, and to take in some of the practice week of the Manx GP. How could I refuse such an offer…
There was to be six members of the TRF gong to the IoM, Dean Allan, Alcuin Wilkie, Rom Dobbs, Nick Brudge, Tom Caruso, and myself. Dean put me in contact with Rom Dobbs, and we arranged for a pick up at 05:00, on the morning of the 16th, from my house, with an ETA at Liverpool, with other members of the group at 09:30. It was a wet start, got soaked to the bone just putting the bike in the back of the van. Was this going to be a taste of things to come! What happened to the long hot summer we were promised by the Met Office?
We made good progress, and arrived at the docks in plenty of time, and the hope that we’d beaten Dean was on my mind (he was giving Alcuin and Nick lifts to the docks), as he always seems to be the first at any rendezvous, dam, he’d got there before us again! Lol. Tom had gone over a few days earlier to ride his sports bike on the infamous TT route, and do some fishing.
By the time we’d got to Liverpool, the sun was shining, so we kicked back, enjoyed the sun and progressed with the usual male team bonding process. Why do we always take the mike out of each other? This continued on the ferry across to the IoM. What am I saying, it continued for the rest of the holiday, and was surly going to be captured by the resident photographer, Dean Allan! We picked up supplies in Douglas, and then made our way to our home for the week, Cronk Aashan Farm. What a place, fully functioning kitchen, shower block, washing machine and tumble dryer, and three garages for storing, I don’t know, 100+ bikes. Plus it was less than 100m away from a viewing point for the TT. Don’t think it could have been a better campsite, big thanks Dean and Alcuin for finding such a great site!
After setting up camp, and meeting up with Tom, we all enjoyed a dry warm evening agreeing the plan for the week ahead. The dryness did not continue. All through the night it rained solid, and didn’t relent throughout the day. But Dean had perused the maps, and planned and plotted all the legal highways of the island onto his GPS, this allowed Dean to lead and navigate us through heavy rain and fog on a fantastic soggy first day, and what a day!
Saw use undertake 90km of green roads, and take in the North East part of the island. With some hill climbs that just went on and on. I took a minor injury on the very first lane, bramble in the face, resulting in blood all over the inside of my helmet. Not very pretty, but all sorted after a short break
The day was called short when Dean and Nick swapped bikes, resulting in Nick falling of Dean’s bike and bending his front disc! So Dean had to ride his bike off the mountain with no front bike, back onto the sealed roads, and arrange to get his bike sorted. After some phoning around, Dean managed to find a Beta dealer near Ramsey, so off we went to Juan Knight’s garage, and it just so happened that David Knight Enduro Legend was also working on bikes there too. Dean was loving it! Lol. So a negative had turned into a positive, and Juan, was a total star. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He also set up Nicks suspension for him, and didn’t want any money for it, although, I think Nick saw him right.
Saturday was a better day than Friday, it was dry…. So we hit the green roads again, predominantly the West half of the island , led by Dean, and done some awesome lanes, with hill climbs that seemed to go on and on. And a killer one where most of us struggled to get up, myself beaten, resulting in Dean having to get me out of the poo, and to ride my bike out of the tricky section.
We finished a little earlier as we wanted to watch the racing, so back at the campsite Rom, Alcuin and myself walked down to the viewing point near the campsite, and Dean took Nick and Tom off to see the practice at other locations on the race route on their bikes (the campsite was inside the circuit and the dirt bikes were excellent for getting to locations others could not otherwise get to) with a fantastic ride back across the mountains in glorious sunshine. Lovely evening watching the Manx GP practice for an hour or two, whilst the sun set over the horizon.
Sunday was an alleged rest day, for us and the Manx GP! As the sun was shining, well it wasn’t raining…..So we decided to go to “Dean’s play area” (a disused mine area) where trial sections were laid out amongst other interesting landscape and obstacles. The journey there involved a nice leisurely poodle over the mountain, lunch in Douglas, and back a little to the play area. The reality wash little different, some more awesome hillclimbs, that just go on and on and landscape, that just took your breath away.
At the play area the guys practiced on skills and techniques for an hour or two, whilst me and Alcuin took a bit of a rest, and lied down in the afternoon sun, and chilled out. The three days off continuous riding and never ending hill climbs was taking its toll on my stamina levels. Whilst everyone was honing their skills, Dean organised a birthday celebrated for Ron with an energy bar, some candles (pink ones, Dean said he would like pink! Lol) and a round of “happy birthday” was sung by all. I think Rom was very pleasantly surprised. Then it was time to make our way back to the campsite on more endless green roads.
On the way back, it became apparent that Rom was having technical problems, where it was thought the replacement of rear break pads would resolve the issue. However, things escalated, and it became apparent that Rom had a master break cylinder failure. More technical issues…
Over the evenings campfire, it was agreed that Rom would get up early and make himself ready, whilst Dean rang around to see if anyone had a Brembo rear break master cylinder. The conclusion was that Juan Knight, said for Rom to pop over, albeit, he didn’t have spare parts for Brembo as he’s a Beta dealer, but he’d see what he could do. So Rom rode off about 08:00 and was back by 10:00. Bike sorted! No new parts I’m afraid, but all taken apart and cleaned. Juan did say that if Dave Knight was in, he’d of robbed a cylinder off of one of his bikes…
As I was worn out from the previous three days riding, I took a day off and caught up around the campsite, and relaxed for the day. The rest of the guys took off to explore more of the island guided yet again by Dean. Upon their return, it looked like there were more technical issues with Tom’s rear moose disintegrating minutes after leaving the campsite. So yet another call upon the Knight’s, who were literally becoming our shining armour! Lol. Tom was up for purchasing a new moose, but Juan, said there was no point in fitting a new one into Tom’s worn tyre, so Juan suggested that he install one of Dave Knights old ones (only been used for one race!) and why not a tyre whilst your at it! This results in Tom and Dean having almost new rear rubber on their bikes. Apparently Juan didn’t want paying but the guys made sure he was not out of pocket.
The days riding was again cut short due to the technical difficulties and the wanting to see some racing, but an adventure was still had, with an epic decent, resulting in some of the bikes being lowered down by tow ropes…
This was our last day of riding as we were due to leave the next day. I was fully up for a full days riding, as rested from the day before, and being our last day, and all that! However, with Dean building such a rapport with the Knight clan, the youngest member of the family, Tom Knight, offered to take us off the beaten track and onto lanes that are not normally ridden. This was subject to him phoning family members and getting agreement and keys to gates etc.
So we arrived mid morning at Juan’s garage, where Tom Knight was waiting, and shortly after, we were off, almost instantly into a river crossing, and then onto virgin pastures to the many. What an experience, Tom took us up into the mountains, across river beds, and some awesome bogs, that saw most of us doing Superman impersonations, and man hauling bikes. Tom inspired Dean into undertaking some impressive jumps, which the rest of us just didn’t have the guts or skill to attempt. Dean took a big fall on one of the jumps, and bent his handlebars, but this didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. Getting off the mountain was just as interesting as getting up where some of us practiced our broadside sliding techniques! Lol. Finishing off back at the Knights establishment. What a great way to finish off this fantastic trip to the beautiful Isle of Man…
This was a pack up and get going day, with a visit to the MANX GP Pits before aiming for the ferry. We managed to pitch the tents in the dry, and we managed to get the tents down in the dry, always a bonus! We just needed now to get the vehicles off the grass and back onto the hard standing. Dean went first, and got out with ease. Then it was Rom’s turn. Rom turned the ignition, engine turns over, but didn’t fire up! Yet more technical issues… So Dean gets on the phone for Rom and calls the recovery people, and then phones a buddy of his for guidance. Nick also rings a buddy of his, and both come to the same conclusions. To cut a long story short, a solenoid on the fuel pump had failed. Tom and Nick started taking the front of the van apart, and “hot wired” a wire from the battery to the solenoid. Rom, has another go at starting the van again, turns the key, and hey presto, it fires up! The recovery guy shows up, just as Tom and Nick have got it going, and he wanted to have a look, as he was impressed with their skill and ingenuity.
Rom easily got the van on to the hard standing. We then loaded the bikes and gear. A quick visit to the pits, and then onto the ferry port. Rom got me home without further ordeal, and the journey home allowed me to reminisce on what a great time we’d all had. It had rained every day. But we only had one day of riding in the rain, and we managed to set up and break camp in the dry. We’d all learnt new skills, seen some amazing scenery, and ridden some awesome lanes. We’d sat by the camp fire at night, chewed the fat, and had some banter, and forged some new friendships, and created memories that keep making me smile, and makes me want to go back there tomorrow…
I’d love to tell you all the lanes we did and the mountains we went on, but regrettably, I cant. All I had to do was to follow the bike in front of me. Dean did a great job in navigating, we didn’t lose anyone. We had technical problems, which were overcome with relative ease (by the Knight’s), but led to opportunities none of us expected. Just the way it should be….
There isn’t much more to say, except to say a personal big thank you to Dean Allan for sowing the seed, which made me decide to take him up on his offer to join the group. Also for all the time, effort and dedication Dean has shown in mapping out all the routes, navigating us around the island, riding skill advice, support and patients with individual riding abilities. In addition, I’d like to thank Alcuin, for his behind the scenes administration and support, where without this, the trip would not of been possible. And to Rom, Nick and Tom, who just made the whole week such a great laugh, and a very, very memorable experience. — with Dean Allen and 3 others.
Words by Byron Williams