Isle Of Man Part Two
I’ve had a kind request to reveal the full story of our visit to the Isle of Man International Six Days Trial many many years ago. Which would link in nicely with all the debate on the HUBB about soft luggage v. hard luggage, and the danger of the former bursting into flames if too close to the bike’s exhaust.
Well, it’s not only soft luggage that can have that problem.
You see, a few days after our escapade up to the top of Snaefell mountain, we were poodling about the tracks on our trail bikes somewhere up in the north of the island, where we encountered quite a lot of river crossings.
The Isle of Man is quite a rainy place, all year round, so the rivers are healthily full and fast flowing, witness the number of watermills there. Indeed, the largest working watermill in the world, at Laxey, gathers the huge quantities of water running off of all those bogs up the sides of Snaefell to turn this behemoth at a magnificent speed of three revolutions per minute, originally to pump yet more water out of the old lead and copper mines below.
At the time of our trip to the Isle of Man, simple trail bikes with Villiers engines were not the most waterproof of devices, and magical potions like silicon sealers were completely unknown.
All we had to keep the water out of electrics and engines was……. Plasticine.
And a pretty good job it did – for about two and a half days.
But it was about eight days after re-Plasticine-ing my engine that we were splashing through deeper and deeper rivers. Until, in the middle of a particularly fast-flowing one, I and my Greeves wandered off of the line of the ford, dropped about a foot and a half into the flow and came to the same sort of steamy halt as a few days earlier halfway up Snaefell.
Except the engine stopped dead as well.
Never to fire again until safely back home in south London with new crankcase seals fitted.
The river had fought its way past those Plasticine seals to the electrics, and to the primary drive, and invaded the crankcase seal with fatal results.
Luckily, one of our party, Geoff, had the good sense not to believe in two-strokes and rode a good solid BSA 350cc 4-stroke trials iron. This was, he was confident, capable of towing me and my Greeves up the mountain road over Snaefell and back to our hotel in Douglas.
Except we had no tow-rope. Nor string nor even strong thread. But we did all have Belstaff jackets and trousers which, as everyone knows, come with belts strong enough to tow the Queen Mary.
Graciously, everyone donated theirs to this great cause, for which I am eternally grateful, and we set off up the mountain road at a slow pace, not to put the line of belts under too much strain.
None of us had panniers, so the idea of something burning on an exhaust couldn’t have been further from our minds. And even further from my mind as my exhaust was stone cold.
But halfway up the mountain road I noticed a strange misty smoke coming from Geoff’s BSA, labouring just ahead of me. I assumed it was a spot of oil burning in the engine, not uncommon under load and Geoff’s bike was under considerable load, hauling him, me, and my Greeves up the mountainside.
His brother John saw this from a different angle, being just ahead of me and alongside the tow-rope of Belstaff belts. Suddenly he accelerated ahead to reach Geoff, who stopped, showing immediate concern at something happening on the right hand side of his bike.
Then the flames appeared. Geoff leapt up into an entertaining German thigh-slapping dance and I couldn’t quite tell if he was trying to fan the flames or beat them into submission.
Anyway, his burning trousers were extinguished and cigarettes were lit, and we had an immediate inquest.
No one had a belt on their jacket; and when you don’t have a belt on your jacket, your trousers also get a bit blown about in the wind.
Geoff’s bike was working mightily hard, and the exhaust had reached a mighty high temperature. His Belstaff trousers were made of cotton and wax, just like a candle, and had become stuck to the hot BSA exhaust right by his right leg.
And sadly we had nothing to cook on the resulting flames.
Well, Geoff managed to beat the hell out of that fire and rig something up to keep the remains of his trousers out of danger – but it was not only them that were under strain. We still had some way to go and I don’t remember now how many of the belts broke on that journey, requiring regular stops to knot the broken ends together. I think it was all of them. Whoever said that you could tow the Queen Mary with a Belstaff jacket belt – well – never buy a second-hand motorbike from him!
So, we may have rescued our boots from the bogs of Snaefell, which tried unsuccessfully to suck them off our feet and into oblivion, but we all ended up beltless, and more seriously for one of us, trouserless. For which, again, I am eternally grateful.
So, HOW do you decide what to take on an adventure trip for spares and emergencies??? I’m going to add extra Plasticine to my list.
Posted by Ken Thomas at July 26, 2009 05:18 PM GMT