Fox me! Fox me!

From Cyril's memoirs dated 17 July 2007

Glencrutchery this and Cronk-y-Voddy that has brought back vivid and frankly unsettling memories of the TT.

In 1998 I was there with Yamaha, meeting others from the industry for an annual pow-wow. A friend of mine, Paul Carlton, was racing a FireBlade in the Production TT as a privateer, so one morning after the first early practice of the week I went over to the paddock to see how he’d got on.

Well, poor old Paul was in a bit of a state. His mechanic, the only other member of his two-man team, had gone down with something tropical involving worms and orifices after an adventure holiday in Belize and would have to rest his spectacularly enlarged scrotum on a soft pillow for at least two weeks. I promised Paul I’d put the word out to see what could be done. That, as it turned out, was my mistake.

Steve ‘Deadly’ Davies came recommended via a friend of a colleague’s brother and warning bells should have rung when I sought him out at the campsite in Peel. His tent was draped with an army camouflage net and a crudely home-made flag fluttered above it bearing the barely legible words scrawled in marker pen, “Swift and Bald”. It later transpired that it was actually “Swift and Bold”, not his favourite two washing powders but the motto of the Royal Green Jackets, of which he claimed to be a former member. I tapped on the ridge pole and out stumbled a ginger-haired man dressed in a tartan dressing gown and huge slippers shaped like penguins. He clearly had no shame, something that would become apparent as the week wore on.

I left him to get dressed and when I returned to ride together to Douglas so Steve could meet Paul, he was dressed in garish full leathers made up of a patchwork of colours, making him look like a cross between a jester and a bean bag. But next to him stood a beautiful and elegant woman who, inexplicably, turned out to be his wife, Sacha (affectionately known as Basha, for reasons unrepeatable here). I was with my own lovely young wife, Francesca. We’d been married for just nine months and were virtually inseparable (literally so at one point, but that was a rare spasm and eventually solved with a squirt of Swarfega and a lollipop stick) and it was soon obvious that Sacha and Francesca got on like a house on fire. If only I’d found Steve ‘Deadly’ Davies as likeable. I recall sitting on our Yamaha R1 watching Steve go through a bizarre, tai-chi-style stretching routine, complete with muted squawks, before getting on his 600 Bandit. ‘He’s very keen on Jackie Chan,’ Sacha said, rolling her eyes.

As weird as Steve was, Paul was desperate for a spannerman and Steve talked the talk, so the problem seemed solved. However, I called by a couple of days later and things weren’t going well.

‘Cyril,’ said Paul, pink-rimmed eyes struggling to focus with sheer fatigue, ‘the bloke’s a nutter. For a start, he precedes everything he does with ridiculous martial arts moves, complete with sound effects, so everything takes forever, and this is despite constantly saying, ‘crack on’, which is something I’ve yet to see him actually do. When he does get to work he’s not bad, but the bloke’s living in a dream world. He whispered to me yesterday that he’s actually on the Island on secret army manoeuvres and might get called away at any moment. It’s patently bollocks, Cyril. I mean, this is the man who claims with all sincerity that his red hair is down to a Welsh ancestor having been raped by a fox. He hates the things with a passion.’

Things came to a head on race Thursday when Steve was caught in the paddock toilets sodomising a Basil Brush soft toy, insomuch as that's possible at all. As the police led him away in cuffs he pleaded that he was actually a copper himself (that did turn out to be true) and that he’d been ‘teaching that bastard fox a lesson’, a defence which later failed to convince the magistrates.



From Cyril's memoirs dated 28 June 2007

The smell of warm rubber always brings back such powerful memories. The thrilling, acrid whiff from the snot-bobbled edge of a Dragon Supercorsa after a wild ride in Umbria’s Testa di Cazzo hills. The pungent, all-enveloping scent on entering a tyre fitter’s workshop – and look, there’s the man himself, hands glistening with rim lube. Then there are the thrashings I received from my father, wielding a 19in Avon ‘Ne’r-Breach’ inner tube (deflated, I’m sad to say, else beatings could have been quite comical). The faint smell of rubber on my mother’s lips as she kissed me goodbye before I set off for school (I’d always assumed it was from her Marigolds, though thinking back, she never used them). And the vaguely fishy pong from the air let out of a police Triumph T110’s tyres round the back of an Okell’s pub on the Isle of Man one year. Yes, tyres. Perhaps the most all-round sensorially stimulating part of a motorcycle.

I recall, back in the mid-Seventies, my then-wife Teresa (oh, you remember, the asthmatic one with a penchant for spit roasts and swearing) had a real thing for tyres. I discovered this by accident after spending an increasingly desperate afternoon in the garden trying to seat the bead on a Dunlop Gold Seal. It was a hot day and eventually I returned to the house, defeated, and flopped down on a kitchen chair like a wet rag doll. Teresa brought me over a cold tin of Double Diamond and the next thing I knew her hot-pants were hanging from the cooker hood and she was riding me like a Maico 250 over the Hawkstone Park whoops – fine with adequate damping and a fat knobbly, but I was merely a passenger holding on for dear life.

Then there was that time in Germany in 1994. A few of us were at a trade show in Berlin and one evening, after a few beers in the bar at the show, a chap called Terry Fletcher, the sales manager for an aftermarket spares firm that must remain nameless, decided it would be great fun to steal one of those huge Michelin Man costumes from behind one of the stands. He somehow sneaked it out via the goods entrance and we met him around the back. This costume was so cumbersome that Terry had to be helped into it and once in, couldn’t get out again on his own. After ten minutes of messing about, the taxi arrived to take us into town for the evening. We’d all had a bit to drink so we jumped into the cab and sped off laughing, leaving Terry lumbering around the deserted carpark.

About five minutes later we saw sense and turned back to get him, but we couldn’t find Terry anywhere. Only one of us had a mobile phone back then, so there was no way of contacting him and eventually we gave up and went into the city, assuming he’d gone off on his own. What we didn’t realise was that as we stuffed our faces with smoked sausage washed down with weissbier, Terry was stumbling around like an obese albino freak in the thick rubber suit, vision severely restricted, and eventually tumbled down a steep grass bank at the back of the main hall, becoming wedged between the spars of a stout wooden fence. He was there for five days and was in a bit of a state when they rescued him. I’ve since seen him attack a cuddly Michelin Man toy with the ferocity of a drugged and taunted pit bull. The scars are deep.

Finally, when riding hard I always bear in mind the advice given to me by Pietro Ficabagnata, chief tester at Pirelli in the late Eighties. ‘Cyril,’ he told me, ‘the tyre is a fickle mistress, with a full, rounded body and a powerful grip. Treat her with respect and she will bring you untold joy, but ignore her warnings and she will tear off your manhood and throw it over the hedge of uncertainty for the wild boar of skidding to feast upon.’ Wise words indeed.