Manx Double-Header For Rappers


It was a busy couple of weekends last weekend (if you get what I mean!) with two separate visits to the Isle of Man for the Manx Two Day Trial followed the next weekend with a return trip to the Classic Manx Two Day Trial.


I first rode the Manx Two Day Trial back in 1966 on a 250 Royal Enfield Crusader and since then have taken part in either the modern bike trial or the classic bike version some 20 plus times. I don’t know exactly how many and it doesn’t matter as many riders have ridden more frequently than me. However, I don’t suppose many have ridden solo, sidecar and classic.


However, what does matter is the fact that this year I went to Douglas as the ACU National Steward, so was able to see the (modern bike) trial in a totally different light. As a rider it has always been about the sections, the severity, the result, the experience and the enjoyment, but this year it was about the sections, the severity, the experience and the enjoyment – with the result aspect totally immaterial to me.


As a rider one wears the competitors “hat”, as the Steward one wears a totally different “hat” as you are there to see that the trial runs to ACU rules and regulations and of course to make an impartial judgement of the event as a whole.


In many respects the trial has changed over the years. I guess that land loss for sections is something of a problem, particularly this year as there is a tree disease that is rife in the north west of the island which effectively means that forestry to the north and west of the TT Course is out of bounds to the trial for a number of years.


It meant that to accommodate the trial, smaller pieces of land have had to be used, which as I understand it means more work for the organisers in getting permissions, finding sections and planning a route.


However, these problems can be overcome with diligence and effort on the part of the organisers; what is much more difficult to overcome is the rapidly diminishing entry list. Some years ago the trial attracted approaching 270 riders (plus sidecars), this year just 138 solos started and the organising Isle of Man Centre are justifiably worried that any further reduction in entries could be critical to the future of the trial.


I was privileged to be asked to present some of the awards in the Villa Marina prize-giving and was asked to say a few words. Let me briefly reiterate what I said. The trial remains a true classic, a fabulous event; the severity of the sections has been eased to accommodate the clubmen who make up the bulk of the entry, the organisation is beyond criticism, the route and enjoyment of the days is marvellous, and if you make your ferry bookings early enough together with your accommodation bookings, the cost of the weekend becomes manageable. Get as many bikes as possible into a van, book the surplus persons as foot passengers and if needs must, find farmhouse/cottage accommodation outside Douglas.


I suggested at the presentation that every rider there should attempt to get just one extra riding friend to attend, because the Manx Two Day needs YOU.


Having returned home on Monday morning (thankfully home is only 20 minutes from the Heysham ferry), it was back to the Island on Friday for the Classic Two Day, this time not wearing a Steward’s “hat” but this time a competitor’s “hat”. Is there a difference? Too right. Different rules as a rider!! – Just joking.


Whereas the modern bike trial is suffering an entry shortage, the Classic trial had an entry some 230 strong – and was over-subscribed by another 50

or so with several foreign riders taking part.


It too was a grand trial, pretty easy on Saturday and generally a bit tougher on Sunday which seemed to suit everybody to whom I spoke. I know that as a relative newcomer to the Pre 65 scene, it suited me admirably, indeed the event is incredibly competitive with far more potential winners than there was in the modern bike version. It was my fourth Classic ride and whilst the organisers are totally different to those who promote the modern bike trial, much of the land used is the same and the atmosphere is equally conducive to a great weekend of trialing.


It’s hard to say anything negative about the two weekends except that unfortunately the ferry company that services the island has a total monopoly and as such can charge almost what it wants, particularly during a busy time like the newly important Classic TT period. There don’t appear to be any concessions to make life and travelling easier and cheaper, so the only way is to book early and get as many folks together as possible to get the price to a reasonable amount. And it can be done.


Talking of the Classic TT, it was great to see both TT winner Steve Plater and John McGuinness – the 20 time winning TT legend – riding the Classic trial. Steve was riding Bob Moore’s Cub and John was aboard Mick Grant’s Cub – Mick of course a Pre 65 regular these days and a seven time TT winner.


Steve rode last year (and thanks for stopping when I was out of petrol near Tholt-y-Will), whilst for John it was his first ever trial. He said at the finish, supping a pint, that it was the best two days he had enjoyed on a bike for years and Granty immediately booked him in for another ride next year.

John also said to me that racing is one long pressure for him – I guess his career and reputation is always up for inspection, but riding the trial was simply being out on a bike with like minded souls with absolutely no pressure, except to notch up a few personal cleans and relish a rare weekend with some mates.