Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 3 – Practice Week 1

If you came here from Part 2 – Getting There, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had arrived at the Isle of Man, having overcome significant personal injury and shipping obstacles. After a full day of thrashing, they were finally ready to put the bike on the one and only Isle of Man Mountain Course.

Finally, the bike goes on course

On Wednesday, August 20, I finally got great news: after a thrash on Tuesday and Wednesday to get everything installed, they passed tech inspection and Wade took the bike out on course for the practice session at 7:05pm. Lap time 25:47.279, ave speed 87.785. The bike needs a few minor tweaks, but is otherwise running fine. Other teams have rallied to their cause and are sending mechanics to help, and the organizers really want him to run so they’re being lenient with some of the qualification requirements. Wade’s foot is holding up (as long as he doesn’t walk too far) and Rich reports that he (Wade) is grinning from ear to ear. Thomas (our new German friend) took this photo at 6:24pm – they look confident and ready to go, even before the initial success!

From Thomas Aug 20 18.24

On a much more grim note, Rich texted that a rider who was staying next door to their B&B digs at Roundhay crashed in practice and was killed. This is the reality of the Isle of Man, and substantiates its reputation as the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world.

Hurry up and wait

Practice on Thursday, August 21, cancelled due to rain. This is another huge setback, because in order to qualify for the race, riders must have 5 laps on the bike and at least one lap time under 23:00.

The rain day wasn’t a complete waste, though. When Rich and Wade arrived, with both of them in rather tenuous states of physical disrepair, they made the wise decision to rent a car to get them around the island. As it turned out, this was as much a strategic decision as practical. Every day, when the roads were open to the public, they drove around the course at least once, sometimes twice. These “laps” gave Rich an invaluable opportunity to learn the course through Wade’s eyes, which enabled him to visualize the feedback Wade gave him after each practice session on the bike and then make educated adjustments to the suspension.

On Friday, August 22, they made practice and Wade posted a lap time of 22:17.111, ave speed 101.583. Whew, he made time, but still doesn’t have enough laps. No worries, there’s another practice session next week to get that required lap, right? Maybe…

Hubris and Social Media

On Friday August 22, I stumbled on a photo of Wade on a Twitter feed and posted it on Facebook with this comment: “This is happening right now! Rich built this race bike from the ground up and he’s currently on an uber-bucket list adventure at the Isle of Man, where his friend Wade Boyd has just qualified for the Senior Manx GP race next week with a top speed of 145mph. They had SO many challenges to get there (Rich’s crash in March, Wade’s crash in June, shipments with forks and body parts not arriving until Day 3 of practice), but it’s all working now (except for a nagging clutch-slipping problem) and Wade is getting faster every day of practice. The race is a week from today.”


The fellow standing next to Wade is Thomas, the benevolent German I mentioned in Part 2, who helped so much during the entire stay (including pushing the bike around so that our injured heroes didn’t have to).

Engine Disaster

On Saturday August 23, everything blew up. Literally. No better way to convey than by publishing my text exchange with Rich with some Twitter accompaniments:

Him: “Wade is out for a practice lap. A bit hard to sit around and wait 25 min for him to show back up. The hand-wringers, me included, are everywhere. Upside? Full bar in the paddock.”

Me: “I wondered about that.”

Him: “Yep, here I sit having an Irish Whiskey. There’s a red flag so time to worry. I’ll let you know what’s up.”

At that point, I checked in with Twitter and found this:
@iom_tt: delay due to oil spill on road. More info when we have it

Me: “Oil spill in Crosby = red flag”

Him: “Yep, was us. Sawed the engine in two. May have a loaner, otherwise we watch.”

More Twitter:
@iom_tt: Oil on road at Gorse Lea – we’ll continue with programme as soon as the course is clear
@iom_tt: 45 mins to 1 hour delay until Joey Dunlop parade can start – standing down for now
@iom_tt: No further practices tonight – detergent on road makes road unsafe for race bikes. Parade lap will go ahead, if possible

Me: “I’ll give you credit, he oiled the course so spectacularly that they canceled the rest of practice!”

Him: “Hey, we yanks don’t mess around.”

This photo was posted on Twitter: “Marshalls to stand on whiteline and direct riders over to clean side of road.” I can’t be certain, but I’m guessing that was our line of goo.

Line of Goo

Naturally, I blamed myself and my moment of hubris on Facebook for this disaster, and followed up on Saturday with this post: “CRAP!!! I’m not usually superstitious, but my instincts were to not post much about the Isle of Man until it was over. My excitement about seeing the photo got away from me yesterday. Today they blew the motor. Hoping to find a loaner, but they may have become spectators. DOUBLE-CRAP!!!”

Next up: Part 4 – The Engine Adventure

Photo credits:

Wade and Thomas in the pits – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)

Line of Goo – Mark Kneen – @markkneeniom (or maybe Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online)

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