View from the Manx

Late with the column this week having been to the Isle of Man for the Manx Two Day Trial, and you know what it’s like after a long weekend away, things to do when you get back home and for me, writing a column is just one of many, and unfortunately is some way down the list of importance. However, it’s 10.30 on Monday evening and it needs to be written.

As many will know, together with Andrew Scott, I made a return to the sidecar class for this year’s trial, it having been 26 years (I think) since I last rode a sidecar in the Isle of Man, and definitely 15 years since I rode an outfit in any trial.

I recognise that sidecars are very much on the peripheral of the sport for the bulk of the readers of this column, but equally, they are as enthusiastic about their side of the feet-up game as are the solo boys. So for once, (and because I was there, doing it) I’ll concentrate on the sidecar side for a change.

But before giving my views on the three-wheel scene, let me make a brief mention about the solo category. It’s totally wrong for me to make a fair judgement without having seen a solo section, but I’ve spoken to a large number of riders and I think I have formed some opinion about the trial.

By and large, riders enjoyed the trial, after all, it’s a fantastic effort by the Manx team, but certainly the solo clubman class needs to be eased – at least, that’s what I’ve been told by many acquaintances. There is absolutely no reason why the best clubman has to lose 28 marks, as was the case with Darren Wasley, who it has to be said, is a fine expert. It would be perfectly acceptable for Daz, or any potential winner, to complete the trial with a score under ten. Then, the far less able riders would have all round easier days, but the good riders who make up the top 80 or so would still be losing significant marks. Easier sections would also cut down on the amount of queuing, which I’m told was a real problem this year.

There is a golden rule that all trials organisers should consider, keep the vast majority happy, then they’ll be back and they will spread the word.

And if what I say is wrong, then postings on the forum will be eagerly awaited.

Now, to the sidecars. Twenty-six years is a long time to be away from the scene, so we had no expectations of how the sections would be, and even less of an idea of how we would shape up against regular sidecar riders. What has changed? A lot in some respect, but equally, not much in other respects. The level of rider ability amongst the top men seems much higher to me than it did all those years ago. Bikes have changed, suspension has changed, sidecar set-up has changed massively, and now they are ridden much more in the style of solos than they once were.

Jon Tuck and Matt Sparkes are the current stars and their talent is a joy to watch. Robin Luscombe, currently riding with his son Sam, still has the nerve and verve to be a winner and the husband and wife pairing of Robin and Gill Morewood command lots of respect.

And there are numerous really good crews who have some real talent between them and on their day thay can be well in the reckoning. The sport may be miniscule in comparison to the solo scene, but it is extremely competitive and hugely entertaining, confirmed by the fact that there were a significant number of spectators watching the sidecars in action.

From a rider’s point of view (i.e. mine) the sections seemed to be very narrow. There’s no room to move and much of the way through hazards is very much one line. Perhaps it has always been like that and I’ve simply forgotten, but several times I longed for a section that had some room to it. But was it good? Yes, absolutely brilliant and I’m delighted to have been able to ride a three-wheeler one more time.

This was very much a one-off return and for that Andrew and I have to thank Martin Bracey for the encouragement last year to give it a go and to Mike and Cynthia Ryde for the generous loan of their 320 Gas Gas, and to Tim Walker and Paul Norman for transporting the bike to the island. And personally, I have to say a huge thank you to Andrew for his total commitment to the weekend and for being so willing to let an old codger fulfil a longing whilst still able to do so.

Our weekend didn’t go without a significant number of problems, so thanks to Adrian Beale and Gary Cawtherley for enabling us to effect a repair to total rear brake failure and to the back markers for helping us to dry out a drowned engine, and to the anonymous lady who donated a tank of fuel when we had run out. In fact it was a catalogue of disasters in many ways, but we got round and consider that if the trial was to run again next weekend we would be able to polish our performance significantly.

Sorry if this is more about me than the sport this week, but it’s all relevant and I hope helps to keep everybody interested.