| TT Tales - Memories of the
Here is another extract
from TRUE TALES AND SILLY STORIES FROM THE T.T. COURSE, which is being put
together by John Foster. Contributions are most welcome.
profits from the sale of this will go to motorcycle charities on the Island,
especially helicopter funds
'Keith Heckles and mechanic await
for the start of the
Thursday afternoon practice' (1959 MGP GE34 FF)
It was June 1958, when I first went to the Isle of Man
to see the world famous T.T. races. The mountain circuit made a big impression
on me. I started racing on a 350 B.S.A. Gold Star machine and, after one
Aintree and two Rhydymwyn (a very small circuit in north Wales) meetings, I was
ready for my first M.G.P.!
In August 1959 I entered my first Manx, but
my debut got off to a very bad start and just got worse as the week went on.
Everything that could fall off the bike did so, except me fortunately. It had
big-end seizures, the lot. I soon realised that machine preparation was most
important in the Isle of Man.
By the end of the week I had put a lap in
at 82m.p.h. -Not bad for an old bike with a map of the course on the tank to
help me keep the bike on the black parts.
All too soon it was time for
the actual race. Everything was screwed down and wired up, and the weather was
fine and dry. I had a long wait, being number 88 and starting at 10 seconds
intervals, but then it was my turn to push and hope the machine would fire up
first time. I got a very good start, and set off to the fearsome drop down Bray
All was going well until I got to Sulby. I saw two bikes ahead, a
Norton and a 7R. I thought to myself, I will show these guys how my newly
converted, twin leading shoe, B.S.A. brake works. I shot past these
unsuspecting riders, hard on their brakes and tipped the bike into the right
hand corner at Sulby Bridge. But what they did not know, and I did not know at
the time, was that my homemade, primary-chain oiler tank had split, and emptied
its contents all over the back tyre. I was heading speedway style,
on full lock, for the bridge wall!
I remembered seeing the heads of the
spectators disappearing from the other side of the bridge wall, before I hit
the bridge (no straw bales in those days) and bounced off, breaking the back
brake pedal off. Somehow I managed to stay with the bike. I stopped the machine
some way down the road and put it in the hedge. I crossed the road and went
back to retrieve the brake pedal, fearing that it would create a hazard for
As I crossed the road again I heard the roar of
another bike coming round the corner, so I sprinted for safety. Recklessly I
put one hand on the low bridge wall and vaulted over. It was only then, when I
was in mid-air, that I found to my horror the other side of the wall was about
12 feet down into a field!
Fortunately I landed without injury. The
spectators said I gave them two heart-stopping moments. I said I had a worse
fright as I was on the bike!
Then I found out how I had been deceived
by the drop. The spectators were standing on a small ledge at the back of the
bridge wall, which created the illusion, for me, certainly, that the ground was
the same height on both sides. It is all too easy to be right in hindsight, but
I should have respected the well-known proverb, Look before you leap!
(The True Tale above is closely adapted from the account that
was very kindly sent in by Keith Heckles.)
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