Keith’s Isle of Wight Annual Run 24th July 2022.

24 bikes and riders, (should have been 25 but one illness on the day) + 4 pillions. 205 miles from start to finish.

Below are the thoughts of some of those who attended what was a great day’s riding.

6.06am – yes, A.M. Too bloody early really. On the bike and heading from Woking to Chieveley to meet up with the Isle of Wight (IoW) run led by Keith Miller and back-marked by Allie Gane. I arrived at the services for about 6.50am – I was expecting to be there earlier than most, but it turned out that everyone had the idea of getting there early! Good idea, really.

We emptied bladders and filled up (bikes with petrol, bellies with tea) and set off at pace down the A34 to escape the dual-carriageway nastiness. Turning off after three junctions we wended our way south via Kingsclere then skirted Whitchurch and Stockbridge to meet up with others at Romsey. We again filled up with petrol and carried on towards Southampton and Red Funnel ferries.

Advice from those who’ve been on a ferry before – leave your bike in gear, and turn off any tracking devices that require the key in the ignition. Turn off alarms. I did. Good advice on all counts.

isle of wight

The weather was not sunny (at this point) but it was not raining either, so I felt fairly comfortable riding over the metal gangplank onto the ferry. We parked up and surrounded a Co-Op lorry – I think that the guys working the ferry must have had to put up with noisy bikers before and so like to get them off the ferry first.

The ferry crossing was smooth, and we disembarked after the Co-Op lorry – riding through Cowes we kept to the speed limits and climbed a shallow incline for about a mile, eventually giving us fabulous views off to the right. While enjoying traffic and beautifully maintained roads with lovely curves. After a filtery half a mile we turned left at the bottom of a hill towards St Helens and the east coast, cruising the coastal roads and enjoying the views. The sun was now out, making us feel like we were abroad. We reach Sandown airport for about 12:15 where Keith had lunch pre-booked.

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We stayed there for a good 90 mins, enjoying the surroundings, and not having to hurry lunch at all – something that a lot of bike days could do with, I think.  

After lunch we had a briefing advising us that we would be riding the purported Isle of Wight TT course. We would be riding half of Military Road one way, taking in the route and the sights, then turning straight back around and heading for the Needles. “I’ll see you there” quipped Keith.

I stayed at the back since to be honest I don’t enjoy the faster speeds that my (new) bike can do. As soon as Allie and I set off there was a siren, and we could see flashing lights behind us…uh oh – the local police were clearly on the lookout for a biker gang making a nuisance of themselves! The police car didn’t even slow down for us and sped along Military Road, making light of any traffic. “Ah well, I thought – they are REALLY in a hurry!” At which point I saw a second police car chasing the first. I (more or less) stayed to the national for that road!

 On reaching the Needles Keith had booked a coach space in which we fitted all of the bikes. Brilliant idea! The normal car park is like a pitted wreck, and you need a GS to manoeuvre through it (we were told). Tom (Gray) and I found ourselves a cup of tea inside one of the cafes, then made our way to the best viewing point for the Needles – without actually walking there.

isle of wight

Back on the road we headed towards Newport, but then – to my mind – had the best roads of the day travelling back towards the west coast, then through some excellent minor roads, back around Brighstone, Chale Green then starting North again through Godshill. Back to the ferry at Cowes Keith had again showed planning (he had a list of all of us, our bike registrations and booking refs) so in effect all the staff had to do was ask our name and tick us off the list. We made it into the ferry queue with a good 25 mins before being loaded.

On the way back Keith had advised that once we hit the M3 he’d not be placing any more markers and that folk could peel off as required. A brilliant day’s riding – for me approximately 250 miles in all. I made it home to Woking for 20:38.

Thank you to Keith and Allie – Keith for organising so well, Allie for back marking the whole way. Awesome!

Wow – what a stand-out ride we had to the Isle of Wight. Impeccable precision organising by Keith, who was more ‘Mein Host’ than run leader, superb back marking by Allie and brilliant camaraderie among the entire group. The bar has been set incredibly high and it’s going to take a hell of a good run to beat this one.

Thanks very much for a great day out.  As ever the TVAM company was good. It certainly adds something to catch a ferry, even if the IOW does look a lot like the Dorset and Hampshire coast.  Maybe more of us should have gone to look at the Needles instead of enjoying an ice cream and chat! Whoever had a puncture, it was well sorted, I didn’t know anyone had one. 

I wondered if anyone saw my very near miss leaving Southampton on the dual carriageway.  A cyclist shot out onto the road without looking through a gap in the fencing.  He saw me (unsurprising since he was only about two yards away), slowed down slightly and I missed him….just.  He carried on and I was aware of car and bikes stopping behind me as his suicide mission continued.  I could only think that it was drink/drugs or that he was being pursued. Presumably no-one else actually hit him. Anyhow, a great day out, assisted by the god of weather and ensured by Keith’s mapping and marking.   

Thanks for a great day and well done on the organization which went like clockwork. That was the best run I have had in while and just goes to show what good planning can do. The company was very pleasant and riding standards adhered too, which just leaves the tarmac which was smooth and a joy to ride on.

An early start, 200+ miles, 2 x ferries, an island, lunch outside with live music and an ice cream in the sunshine. Home before dark – what more can you ask for? Not to mention the usual, great roads in great company – thanks Keith for a cracking day out – felt like a mini-break all in one day.

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… and view from the REAR END

Forward planning – seems to be the thing that makes any ride brilliant, or not. Take Keith’s 53 points and a prayer at the briefing… no one could say he hadn’t thought of everything! Except sharing our phone numbers!  Next year…

… and “lessons learnt” from last year’s run – pay £1 for parking in the coach park at the Needles so no contortions trying to park on the slopped gravel pit that is the car park!  Such fun.. NOT! 

On last year’s run with Keith, I was a “trainee” back marker, – madness learning to back mark on a new bike, somewhere new and home via several circuits of Southampton IN THE DARK. Now I had 10,000 miles on the wheels, a “certified” BM plus circa 20 back marker runs.  I was SO looking forward to it again, and 25 bikes? Well, I was only seeing one at a time from the rear. And it so helps that everyone was of the same riding standard, and very well behaved! Made my job REALLY easy!  Thanks guys!!

The run to the ferry was good fun, so many lovely familiar back roads, but maybe not the humongous tractor that decided to come out at a corner onto a narrow road, straight into the bike ahead of me, well done avoiding that young man. Then there was the road savvy horses with cart, the driver seemed so chuffed with us all slowing down to let him trot by…

The Queen Vic was parked at Southampton, that’s one boat!  And of course, Keith being the font of all knowledge, new what the big orange boat was ahead of us on the water – some eco thingy.   Very unusual.

Once on the Isle, I so enjoy chatting with the locals, or as was the moment, stopped whilst filtering down a hill with a parent as they were stuck in their cars, (halve your wheels, have twice the fun).  Just so friendly, makes being on the IoW such a joy!

There is one problem with riding on the Isle of Wight – do I watch the road or look at the stunning scenery – every bend, rise, corner has a different vista, and with the clear blue sky, just glorious! It’s tough call. And I had to, on my third visit here, (2nd trip here with WOBMOB couple months ago) stop and take a photo at the top of the Blackgang hill (pages 12/13), and looking across the bay to the Needles… stunning (pages 14/15).

Once we left the Needles I just thought we were heading back to the boat for home… oh no… Had Keith left the best til last? So hard to quantify as it’s all just fab!  But maybe it was the string of roads he put together, one set after another and just as you think “there can’t possibly be any more”, another set of fab roads!

I remembered some roads from my previous trips, others, different direction, and then there’s the scenery, have I mentioned how fab it is?  Reminds me of the “Long White Cloud” aka New Zealand and maybe why I feel so at home riding on the Isle of Wight.

Can’t wait till next year… forever your back marker!

Allie Gane & Hugo

First published in Slipstream September 2022