13 November 2017



'Get revved up for a thrilling look at the lives and passions of the fearless men and women who populate the extraordinary white knuckle world of Irish road racing.'

'Every year, over 300 motorcyclists compete on Irish country roads. Most of them are amateurs. All of them are road racers.'

'I just think I'm immortal. I just think I'm not gonna get hurt. It's not gonna happen to me...'

I'm not entirely ignorant of the world of motorbikes, believe it or not, having earlier on in the year reviewed Bruce Brown's marvellous documentary from 1971, ON ANY SUNDAY. It's the story of American men (like celebrity biker Steve McQueen) who try to escape their wives and children and boring, responsibility-laden everyday lives by messing around with bikes in the company of other men looking to do exactly the same thing. I'm sorry if the truth stings a little, haha, but there it is.

ROAD RIDERS is sort of the modern-day Irish equivalent of the America-based ON ANY SUNDAY. Perhaps the most shocking development to have taken place since Steve McQueen's day is that more women are now donning the sexy battered biking leathers and burning rubber on roads that have been temporarily closed for the purpose.

It was a woman, in fact, who uttered the words quoted above: 'I just think I'm immortal. I just think I'm not gonna get hurt. It's not gonna happen to me...' Her name is Melissa and she's a petite little beautiful blonde lady in her mid-twenties.

Her friends from school are all getting married and settling down to have babies but she prefers to road-race, in full make-up, with her bike-mad Dad and her naturally worried Mum cheering her on.

She might give up the racing when she settles down herself, but for the moment, it's all about the road-racing for Melissa, who tragically lost her boyfriend Malachi in a road-race back in 2016. The tattoo she had done after his death helps to keep his generous and adventurous spirit alive for her.

Warren is another road-racer who risks life and limb on a regular basis for the love of the sport. 'You have to be at one with the bike,' he says. 'I'd never fall out with the bike. She's bigger than me.' Sensible to have a healthy respect for one's instrument, for sure.

Warren's wife is in the dual position of supporting her husband in his passion one hundred percent while also being on tenterhooks every single time he races until she hears he's okay. Men have died while practising this extremely dangerous sport, make no mistake about it.

Warren can't give it up, though, even though he's been injured pretty badly in the past. 'It's in the blood. It's like a drug,' says his blonde-haired Missus. She adds: 'It's not all Lewis Hamilton and high heels and make-up either.' Far from it. 'It's more like all wellies and raincoats...!'

Warren's attitude to life is: 'Do what you can when you can.' His brother Carl's death from a brain aneurism in 2005 was a harsh lesson in the fragility of the threads that bind us all to life. Now he just wants to take care of his family while indulging his passion for road-racing. 

Some people might think that the two things are incompatible with each other. But there really should be T-shirts made that say boldly: 'It's a bike thing. You wouldn't understand...!'

Bert loves the 'motorbikes and madness' and the 'festive atmosphere' of the race-meets, at which the road-racers congregate with their caravans and have a brew before the off, but he wouldn't necessarily want his kids to follow in his footsteps. As poor Bert has lost a leg due to road-racing, I'm not surprised that he takes this protective attitude towards his kids.

Good-looking, dark-haired mechanic Gareth is a family man with a wife and a young daughter, but not even a bad head-wound in a road-racing accident ('You'd swear someone had put an axe through it') and his parents begging him to stop racing have had any effect on his love of the sport. 'Riding's an addiction,' he says. 'It's like a drug.' Do you know, I've always thought the same about that myself...!

He works at his day-job purely to pay for the racing, he says, and if it's a choice between buying food for himself or something for the bike such as fuel, the bike wins hands-down every time. 'You'll do anything to get out on the road,' he says, 'beg, borrow, or steal.' I wonder what his poor long-suffering wife, who used to dig road-racing until her own hubby took it up, thinks of his bike-love...!

Bleached blonde bombshell Yvonne is sixty years old this year. She took up motorbikes and road-racing after the break-up of her marriage in 2004, and it was 'the start of a whole new life for me.' You go, girl! Some women might take up night classes after a divorce. Yvonne put on a helmet and leathers and out-raced her demons on the country roads of Northern Ireland.

Yvonne wishes she'd taken it up forty years ago, she says. She's under no illusions as to how tough the sport can be, however. She says: 'You really have to rely on yourself, because once the flag drops, it's just you and the bike...'

Sam's had a tougher time than most road-racers. In 2000, his uncle, the legendary Joey Dunlop, was killed while racing. 'Everyone thought Joey was invincible.' Well, that's what you'd think, isn't it, when someone's so good at what they do? You think they're always gonna be doing it. Eight years later, Sam's handsome brother Robert died in a road race too.

I like the deal that Sam says he made with his bike-crazy Dad, a former road-racer himself. 'If I fall off three times,' he promised his Pops, 'I'll quit.' Laughing his head off, he reveals that he fell off six times that same day and never quit. Never trust a biker, is obviously the moral of that story...!

The sexy Indi (whose father was Indonesian, hence the nickname) and his stunning girlfriend Veronika make an extremely glamorous power couple on the Northern Irish road-racing circuit. She's from Prague, which is where they live, but they regard Ireland as a sort of second home. They've been together for nine years after meeting through road-racing.

Oh, and why aren't they married yet? I'll let Indi field that one. 'We should be married soon, but there's no time between races.' And Veronika actually lets him away with this lame excuse? Huh. If he was my boyfriend, I'd have him down that aisle before he could say 'fill 'er up!,' even if he had to drag that bloody bike behind him everywhere we went...!

I like it when Veronika says: 'I like road-racing because I think maybe I'm too crazy for normal life.' I often feel the same about myself, except without the road-racing bit. 'Road-racing is in my heart. It's a passion.' She, not unnaturally, finds it hard to be on the sidelines when Indi races, though. She'd better resign herself to it, however, as the plucky little cuss plans to keep doing it until he's fifty...!

Barry says: 'There's a bond with the bike but I wouldn't try to move it into the bedroom or anything...!' I'm sure that Claire, his wife of twenty years who hasn't had a holiday since her honeymoon, will be delighted to hear that, Barry.

The road-races can't take place at all without a huge amount of organisation. Anne is one of the organisers. Her earliest memory is of handing her bike-crazy father a spanner while he tinkered about with bikes in their shed. Her priority, and that of the other organisers and safety marshalls, is that everyone has a great day and goes home safe and sound afterwards.

'Everybody's welcome,' she says warmly. 'That's what I love about it.' She adds: 'The
marshalls just want to keep everyone safe and preserve an amazing sport.' It's volunteers like the lovely blonde-haired Anne, generous with their time and their energy, who go a long way towards achieving this worthy goal.

Road-racing would be a little bit too much of a walk on the wild side for me, I think (I'm really more of a cocoa-at-bedtime-with-a-good-book kind of gal), but it seems to inspire all kinds of reverence and devotion in the folks who pursue it as a sport. That being the case, you crazy bikers, enjoy yourselves on the country roads, have fun and, for the love of God, return safely home to your families who love you at the end of the day.



Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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