This weekend was our third May Bank weekend Isle of Man cycling trip. As per previous years the plan was to ride up to the Heysham ferry on Friday, ride the island Saturday and Sunday and ferry/ride home Monday.
Due to some ferry issues, we were on a faster boat (2 hrs rather than 4) but at an earlier time. We had top be at the ferry for 11:30, which meant leaving at 7:30. We got most of the gear laid out on Wednesday and Jayne did most of the packing Thursday before heading out to her bowling club. I finished off the packing and prepare a meal for my sister and Mum who were coming to house sit for the weekend.
Friday’s weather forecast wasn’t great but it dawned pretty clear and dry. We headed out expecting Karl and Alison to catch us by the Cartford bridge. This year’s group was quite different from previous years. With the regulars of me, Jayne, Karl, Alison and Ian were Mark (Birdy) and first timer Pete. Only 7 this year.
No sight of Karl and Alison by Cartford and we pressed on. As we passed Condor Green, Karl texted saying they were at Cartford. This was repeated for the rest of the morning, but they never caught up. Jayne and I arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time.
We were a bit worried about the others arriving as check-in closed at 11:30 and they still hadn’t arrived. Jayne asked if she could check them in but no, they had to be there. Eventually Alison, Birdy and Pete arrived, Ian had a puncture about 2 miles away. Fortunately the boat was late due and took a lot longer to unload due to it not usually going to Heysham where they didn’t have the gear to unload foot passengers properly. Eventually we were on and despite the hour delay, we were in Douglas much earlier than usual. Karl and Alison were cooking that night. There was some discussion about starter aesthetics.
Saturday was forecast to be sunny but cold. On the day it was very sunny and warm if you could keep out of the bitter northern wind. A guy on the ferry had recommended a ride that was hard but very pretty. It included a 1 in 4 section but took in a very pretty set of valleys. We decided to give it a go. It got off to a bad start as we had to turn around at the start of the first hill because we had left our stare tube and tools behind. Eventually we got onto the climb. The road was lined with wild primroses.
It was incredibly steep and exposed. Guess which way the prevailing winds blow!
Down the other side was exhilarating and a bit scary because of the wind. At the bottom Pete found he had a puncture probably due to hitting the cattle grid at 40+ mph.
After another short climb we drop down towards Kirk Michael. You can see Scotland and Ireland while only moving your head slightly.
And Ireland (honest!)
The road didn’t pan out as expected.
Eventually we mad it to Peel, where we saw a seal. The ride back took us past the Tynwald, the Manx parliament and possibly the oldest continuous government in the world.
We decided to avoid the ford, going via the foot bridge.
We were once again diverted by the closed road junior bike racing and eventually made it home after 45 miles and several thousand feet of climbing. It was our turn to cook and we did Tarragon Chicken which went down very well.
For Sunday the main group decided they would ride out to the Calf of Man and maybe risk getting the train back. Jayne and I were worried about getting the tandem on the train and didn’t fancy the 4000ft of climbing in 40 miles that the full route would require. Instead we headed once more to Laxey, this time armed with out English Heritage membership cards to get free entry. The weather was fine as the guys set off after some last minute maintenance.
Jayne and I set out in full sunshine in the opposite direction for Laxey. Soon it became apparent that the Laxey weather wasn’t going to be good. We got ourselves in to the Laxey Wheel grounds but there wasn't much cover from the hail.
The site is fascinating, and includes a huge moving rail viaduct that moves a mine pump that is 100+ yards from the wheel.
Eventually the weather improved and we got back in the same bright sunshine the others had enjoyed all day. The guys cooked stuffed mushrooms, roast lamb and chocolate sponge pudding, delicious.
The weather forecast for Monday was horrendous. We packed on Sunday night expecting the worst in the morning. It was actually not too bad, quite windy, overcast but not actually raining. After breakfast and tidying up, we headed in ones and twos down to the ferry. The crossing was uneventful apart from occasional trips to the deck to experience the howling wind, we were worried about the final 35 miles home. My sister texted just as we came into dock saying that the weather had deteriorated and the forecast was so bad that they were going to head home rather than wait for us. It didn’t bode well, but apart from the very strong winds, the rain stayed off for most of the way home. We had one problem where the road past the Golden Ball pub was flooded by the high tide.
This is not unusual, put we’ve managed to avoid it in previous years. Eventually, we got home, tired but pleased with our weekend’s riding.
As I sit here writing it up, the rain is tipping down so we were pretty lucky with the weather, apart from the hail!
Over the weekend we did 144 miles on the tandem, some very hilly, I’ll try to post elevation charts in the week. In addition to the 55 miles commuting, not a bad week at all.