Tag Archive: bike rally


So what is the simmer dim, anyway? And why would anyone name a bike rally after it?

Firstly it’s worth remembering just how far North the Shetland Islands are. If you’re anything like me you’ll have mostly seen them shown in a little box just off the cost of north of Scotland. This is about as true to life as the topological London Underground map, and in reality the islands are at a latitude not dissimilar to Bergen, Norway and mid Hudson Bay, Canada.

Whilst this means that they are not quite in the lands of the midnight sun, it does mean that at midsummer, it never gets completely dark. The sun dips below the horizon for around 5 hours, and the time in between is a surreal twilight known in Shetland as the “simmer dim”.

Bike rallies are often named after the events that inspire them, and as the rally is held over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice at the time of the simmer dim, I guess the name seemed self-evident.

After the gloomy start to the Thursday of the rally, the weather improved considerably, gifting us with a beautifully clear night. One of our new friends, Stenton, had nipped out to go to the loo at around 1am, then came back in and grabbed us both to drag us outside. “You’ve got to see this” he shouted, and pointed across the field of tents to the simply stunning sight of the full moon hovering over the horizon in the simmer dim sky.

The next day was rather amazingly warm and sunny, so we took advantage and went for exploratory ride with Stenton. The scenery was stunning, with a strange kind of bleak beauty. We didn’t cover many miles as we stopped so often to take in the views, along with a ramble through the lovely little Tangwick Haa Museum that we stumbled upon just off the road to Eshaness.

After enjoying the cliffs at Eshaness lighthouse, we rode back through the wonderfully named Mavis Grind to Brae, where we scoffed a lovely fish and chip supper at the UK’s most Northerly Chippy.

I had wondered when I packed for the trip north if I was being a little optimistic including the sun cream, but was pleasantly surprised when the sun decided to keep us company for the majority of our time on Shetland – thank you weather gods!

Other highlights of the rally included a visit by local Jarl Squads, who serenaded us with such surreal Country and Western delights as “Coward of the County”, and the rather more appropriate “Bring Me Sunshine” of Morecombe and Wise fame.

It was nice to see them again at the Lerwick Carnival on Saturday afternoon, though without the singing this time.

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Back on the motorcycles for a mini-fled at last! In June we returned to Aberdeen for the 4th time in 4 months, this time on our trusty Moto Guzzi V7s. We had bought tickets for the Simmer Dim Rally on the Shetland Islands, which is held every year over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice, our wedding anniversary.

We saw a bit of it from the road!The first days ride was lovely – both of us were happy to be back on the road again. We broke the journey at Stirling, staying at a hotel right next to the Wallace Monument.

Sadly our schedule didn’t allow us time to actually visit the monument as we had a 50th Birthday party to get to, so it will have to wait until another time. After a decent nights sleep we packed the bikes up and set off for our second days riding, just as it started to rain.

Gone was the warmth of the previous day – as the rain started to soak through our “waterproofs”, we found ourselves getting colder and colder. I was so very grateful for my heated grips, which I had used on a number of occasions in the past. Tony doesn’t feel the cold as much as I do, so had never used his before. Unfortunately as he tried to turn them on, the control knob broke off in his hand. Bugger.

We were staying with friends about 20 miles North of Aberdeen. Luckily as fellow bikers they anticipated the depth of cold we would be feeling, and greeted us with hot drinks, towels, and a roaring log burner, all of which were very welcome! Once we had defrosted a little we headed over to the 50th party for a few drinks before coming back for a fairly early night.

The following Wednesday we rode back to Aberdeen to catch the ferry to Shetland. It is an overnight crossing so we had treated ourselves to a cabin, as we knew it would be a good idea to stock up on our sleep before the rally.

The ferry port was flooded with motorcycles, all heading to the rally – the lady at the gate said there were only a handful of cars booked for the ferry – I should imagine they were feeling a tad outnumbered!

We settled into our cabins before heading for the bar. Tony commented on how surprisingly quiet it was, considering the ship was full of bikers…

Cue a strolling bunch of biker “minstrels”: a couple of guitar players accompanied by several kazoos. Unusual to say the least, especially as they were playing “Ring of Fire” which is not generally known as a biker favourite. A jolly night of singing ensued before we retired to our cabin for some sleep.

The next morning we awoke bright and early to leave the ferry on arrival in Lerwick, Shetland. The rally site was only about 20 miles from the ferry terminal, which meant that we were there, had the tent up, and were finishing our breakfast by 9.30am.

Now normally we arrive at rallies on Friday afternoon or evening, so once the tent is set up we start socializing over a pint or three, but 9.30 on the Thursday morning was a tad early even for us. The weather was dark and drizzly, so we retreated back to the tent with warming cups of tea and coffee.

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Wallace Monument photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc

Despite the disappointment of having our trip curtailed, we had at least managed to time things so that we could go home via a bike rally, “Ye Gert Busturds”, run by the Moonrakers MCC in deepest darkest Wiltshire. For those of you that haven’t heard of bike rallies, they are nothing at all to do with racing. They are basically biker parties, held in pubs, halls and marquees across the land. Mostly people camp, and there is often live music, the imbibing of the odd alcoholic beverage, and usually a lot of laughing and silliness. Oh and hugs, lots of hugs – bikers might look like a scary bunch en masse, but really they’re mostly a bunch of teddy bears who hardly ever bite the heads off chickens any more 😉

We’d arrived in Portsmouth on a Thursday and the rally wasn’t starting until Friday, so we’d arranged to stay with a friend who lived 30 miles away. Lucky it wasn’t too far to ride, given how green around the gills I was feeling! Navigating by the skin of our teeth and the occasional aid of Google maps on my iPhone, as our SatNav (Mip) was still completely dead, we headed off down some lovely country lanes in search of somewhere to stop for a late brunch.

The road we had taken off the M27 was devoid of any habitation other than the odd farm dotted here and there, so eventually we took a single-lane road to the left, as a pub was signposted to be within hailing distance. What felt like 10 miles later but was probably a lot less we finally found the place, only to find they’d stopped serving food about 20 minutes before. D’oh! Luckily we had lots of directions from the locals, who came out in force to gawp at these two pasty looking strangers on loaded up motorbikes, and eventually we found the village they’d mentioned. We pulled into the car park of the White Horse Inn, attracted by the sign outside that said “Food available all day” – huzzah!

The pub was indeed serving food all day, and had a choice of a full Indian menu or a more traditional English pub grub menu. As someone who would happily eat curry for breakfast, lunch and tea Tony was in his element. I was still feeling rather delicate, so went for the more classic gammon and chips. It was just what the doctor ordered, and after washing the meal and a couple of paracetamol down with lashings of orange juice and lemonade, we went on our way feeling much refreshed.

That evening we had a good catch up with our friend whilst watching him sort through his belongings, as he was moving out the following weekend. I wimped out early and left the two boys talking late into the night, so was feeling considerably better the next day. Well fed and watered we left for the rally, after promising to return the following weekend to help with the move.