Road Racing Ireland Skerries 100
Where might the Skerries 100 motorbike road racing weekend fit into an eco/environment/gardening blog you might wonder? Well, as a lifestyle blog too, it seems fitting to share a passion with you that I’ve carried since I was 14: motorbikes and the scene that surrounds them.
I feel at odds with myself as someone who’s committed to environmental causes yet now sharing my enjoyment for petrol guzzling engines. But it seems more important than ever that we consciously keep life in perspective whilst in the midst of a climate breakdown, otherwise we’re in danger of burnout, turn off or total despair.
Currently, no motorsport is environmentally friendly. That said, there is a shift towards electric motorcycles and they’re worth keeping an eye on. The first MotoE™ World Cup took place on 7th July in Germany, though the almost intergalactic sound of the bikes might take some getting used to. We might have to get used to the (lack of) sound on motorbikes but for electric cars, changes are underfoot. Following a new EU regulation that came into effect on 1st July 2019, electric and hybrid vehicles with four or more wheels that want to be approved for EU road use will have to have an “Acoustic Vehicle Alert System” fitted, making a continuous sound of a least 56 decibels if the car is travelling at 20km (12 mph) or slower. For the moment, it’s not applicable to motorbikes and scooters.
You can hear the new electric Harley Davidson debut bike in the video clip below that they sent out on the Goodwood track on the 8th July. I have a feeling it’s unlikely we’ll see many mainstream electric motorbikes on Irish roads for a while, but would like to be proven wrong.
Whilst we wait for alternatives to fossil fuel transport, we still have several traditional motorcycling road racing events taking place around the country, as well as more bike races at Mondello Park. If you’re interested in supporting the Skerries 100 motorcycle road race in 2020, or any of the other Irish bike racing events, scroll down for some spectator tips.
I mentioned lifestyle, so here’s a glimpse into my motorcycling background and why, after a break of a few years, we’ve rediscovered motorbikes.
The Early Years
The first bike I rode at 14 was a BSA Bantam around a motocross event in Hadleigh, Essex and from then on, I was hooked. Weekends were spent riding various borrowed bikes up and down the Dengie sea wall, until I left home. I passed my motorbike test on an XT125 aged 22, progressed to a Honda 400 four and started a bike club with a friend from work. That group became the Stonedragons MCC and the core have remained lifelong friends. For almost ten years we spent every weekend together, camping out, holidays and bike rallies, loving one another, arguing with one another, but always having the craic.
I’ve toured all of The Netherlands, most of the UK, as well as a good chunk of France travelling to and from the 24 hour Bol d’Or endurance bike race as a pillion (his were bigger and faster than mine ever were). These trips were usually fully packed with a tent and associated camping equipment strapped behind, often keeping me in place when I might doze off on the long mile-crunching journeys.
Biking is a fantastic way to view the world. I was perched on the small seat of a ZX10 when I first fell in love with Ireland, zigzagging across from Dublin to the Burren, Galway, Clare and back again. The countryside spoke to me way back then. As the sea and land mist engulfed us, leaving only a sense of what was beyond the rough and ready tarmacked roads, the ancient hills and mountains wrapped themselves around me, whispering paternal memories as they did so.
Motorcycling is one of the most exhilarating ways to travel, being buffered by wind, sun and rain, exposed to everything that nature throws at you, watching rivers, fields and loughs pass by while you’re alone with your thoughts in a personal little bubble that is your crash helmet.
Fast forward several years to a time when I was living alone with my 250cc Honda Superdream in a new town in the south-east of England. I joined the local bike group and met Mr G. He was the Ipswich MAG rally secretary, I became the Colchester MAG secretary. Love blossomed amongst the bikes (or was that the beer…). Now with a different bunch of friends we rallied and camped and played cricket, until Mr G and I decided to settle down and move to Ireland. We sold four of our five motorbikes to raise money for our new life, bringing the fifth over in a box of bits. And therein our bike scene ended as we became responsible adults, rearing our three wee children.
Into Middle Age
Or so we thought. Once motorbikes get into your blood they stay there. After the bulk of our house renovations were complete, Mr G took out his box of bits and began to rebuild his 1976 Triumph Tiger. Still not finished, and fearing that he’d never have a bike on the road again, a couple of years ago he spotted a Triumph Tiger 995i online. He caught a plane over the Irish sea, took a train to Surrey, bought the bike and road it home in February at -2°C.
Now with a small camper van to transport the family, and with Mr G pacing the way on his bike, we ventured to Mondello Park for Mothers Day and the start of the Superbike series. We then tested our toes at local bike rallies without the teens and headed to Donnington in the UK with the whole family in the summer of 2018 to watch our friend Gavin Kidwell race his classic MT125 in the CRMC racing championships. Sunday’s aren’t the same unless we’re watching what is arguably the most exciting motor sport on TV, the MotoGP. As bikes return to our life, I’ve taken an interest in the small ads as I try to envisage what bike a middle aged woman might throw her leg over to travel to work.
Irish Road Racing | Skerries 100
We fell upon the Skerries 100 by accident after searching online for Irish bike and racing events that we could venture to. It didn’t take too many clicks to unearth a series of road racing meetings that take place in Ireland every year from Cookstown to Cork. This was a revelation. Neither of us have made it to the Isle of Man TT, but figure we can wait several more years now that we’ve seen the Irish road racing calendar, with 10 races scheduled for 2019 between April and September. Sadly, we were at our first Skerries in 2018 with our girls when William Dunlop had his fatal crash, a sobering weekend for all who love this sport, with thoughts immediately turning to his family and friends.
2019 Skerries 100
We returned to Skerries this year with our youngest and her friend and having been once before, had a better idea of what to expect and take along to make the most of a weekend bike festival.
Thankfully there were no serious accidents, always a relief for motorsport enthusiasts, no matter what their discipline.
We were all delighted to see Guy Martin, who lives a few miles from my folks, win the Classic B 500-1000cc Irish Championship race on his BSA Rocket 3, and with a new lap record of 92.688 mph. I couldn’t help but cry out a loud cheer as Melissa Kennedy from Enniskillen crossed the finish line in second place on her KNR Honda 250cc during race 6. One of only a couple of female racers at the Skerries 100, she was averaging around 91 mph around the short road circuit. It was a treat to watch Gary Dunlop, and all the other dedicated riders out on the track, or road, following their own passion and giving it their all.
If you’ve made it this far, and I’ve wetted your motorcycling appetite and are looking for things to do in Ireland, why not consider supporting this fantastic sport that takes place, literally, on many doorsteps. Here’s a few tips to help you get the most from it.
5 Tips for Spectators of the Skerries 100 (and other) Motorcycle Road Race
1. Cost and Programme
The Skerries 100 is very well organised and great value for money. It’s been running for over 70 years in and around the area and the club have a superb team working throughout the year, as well as during the race weekend. It costs just €25 each for over 16s (Friday night through Sunday) which includes camping at the back of the paddock, wristbands and a programme. During Saturday afternoon, practice and qualifying takes place, with 10 races of different class motorbikes competing on the Sunday during 2019 between 10.30am to around about 6pm. Race commentators mentioned that the organisers, Loughshinney Motorcycle Supporters Club, have to raised over €125,000 to run the weekend racing. This is raised through sponsorship, fundraising, volunteers and ‘sponsor a bale’, something we happily did this year given the reasonable entrance fee.
2. Skerries 100 Camping and Accommodation
There are a few spots for camping as well as local accommodation providers, but we really enjoyed being in the paddocks just off the R127, soaking up the festival atmosphere. With portaloos and refreshments, everything is available on site though take ear plugs if you don’t want to be bothered by the supporter parties and motorhome generators. We took our campervan and a tent for the girls which enabled us to have a very low cost weekend as we barbequed and packed lunches up every day. Be prepared to pay up to €7.50 for two portions of chips otherwise.
3. Skerries 100 Road Closures
The roads close from midday Saturday, and then again all day on the Sunday so stock up with provisions. The race site is more than a good walk away from shops and town.
4. Race Day Comfort and Track Viewing
Consider taking a small stool, chair or blanket to sit on during the racing. With over seven hours of racing and breaks throughout the Sunday, it’s a long day and the scaffold grandstands that are provided around the course are dusty and unforgiving. That’s not a complaint, they provide fantastic views in safe positions. Use them.
(Derek Shiels crosses the finish line, winning the Grand Final of the 2019 Skerries 100
There are several great viewing spots around the circuit, consider checking them out on the Friday or during the breaks between practice on the Saturday. Spectators are allowed to move around between races unless long delays have been caused for various reasons. One of the races was red flagged during Skerries 100 because spectators were in a prohibited area and refused to move when the volunteer marshals asked them to. Racers and spectators had to wait for the Gardai to move them before the racing could continue. Not cool for many reasons.
Pack for all eventualities: a large umbrella for rain or sun, suncream, hats, waterproofs, cold or hot drinks, and if you’re not in biking leathers, layers. The wind can be cool coming off the Irish sea and the sun unrelenting.
You can take a slightly blurry trip around most of the 2 minute Skerries 100 track from the comfort of a car here to give you a flavour of the track:
5. Keeping Track
Grab a pen and follow the programme. If you’re new to road racing and aren’t familiar with all the racers and bikes, it will help you make sense of it all and add to the enjoyment. You can also download an app, Speedhive, that helps with lap times etc. This becomes essential when you’re watching mixed classes such as the 250 and 400 cc race.
Most of all stay safe. These guys and gals are fast. Really fast. The winner of the 600cc Supersport race was averaging 107.24 mph on the 2.9 mile circuit. When you’re roadside, rather than sat comfortably in a grandstand, it can be difficult to watch never mind describe the bikes as they fly past on the narrow, bumpy lanes. Track safety determines where it’s likely to be safe to watch the race from, but anything can happen. Motorsport can be unpredictable.
Have you and tips or thoughts to add for spending a day or weekend at an Irish motorbike event? We’d love to hear them.