As the lead riders gently cruise through Porter’s Lodge, the procession of bikes more than 100 deep behind begin to purr their engines and prepare to follow in the tyre tracks of those in front.
This is Stornoway on anything but a typical Saturday afternoon as the first ever motorcycle rally was staged in the town.
2016 will be remember ed for the rise of the Midge Biter Rally – Lewis and Harris’ first ever motorcycle rally – and an event which has been hailed as a huge triumph.
Well over 100 bikes descended on the rally’s ‘home’ base of Stornoway Golf Club for the event with a massive 104 taking part in Saturday’s ride-out from the town to Rodel, Harris.
“It’s been brilliant and far beyond our expectations,” grinned Louis Morrison, one of six bikers to put their helmets together to create the Midge Biter Rally.
“We all go to rallies all over Scotland and it was on our way back from Shoot The Goose in Skye last year that the six of us just asked ourselves why couldn’t we put on and run an event of our own here? So it began with a post on Facebook from which we had a fantastic response.”
More than 20,000 views were registered on their tentative enquiry to gauge interest on hosting a motorcycle rally in the Hebrides leaving the six, Louis Morrison, David Stewart, Davie ‘Peats’ Macaulay, Karl Scott, David McShannon and John O’Hara, in no doubt that there was significant interest to put the pedal to the metal on the rally.
“We have around 200 bikes here which is amazing,” said David Stewart, “but initially we were hoping for 50 which would enable us to break even. We look like we will be making good money for charity now.”
All profits raised from the rally will help swell the coffers of the local branch of Alzheimer’s and Dementia charities while the influx of so many bikers also has the knock on effect of boosting the local economy at the same time.
“The knock-on effect in the economy is great with all these bikers using the local shops, petrol stations and bed and breakfasts and all the rest,” said Stewart.
“It has been stressful organising it but everyone has been so helpful from the police to the Comhairle. They have all kept us right.
“There was a lot of money required for the start-up costs with all profits going to Alzheimers and Dementia Charities locally. The community here giving us so much.”
The golf club car park was packed with stunning two wheelers, and a quad, throughout the weekend with the hustle and bustle of hundreds of bikers bringing a vitality and shot of life to the town.
Specially commissioned Midge Biter merchandise was pressed and sold for the event with demand outstripping what the boys had printed but all requests for merchandise will be fulfilled with hoodies and t-shirts being mailed out later to those who were unable to get on the day.
Louis continued: “It has been learning curve for the first year but things have gone so well there is very little we would change next time.
“The roads here are wonderful and we have some of the best beaches on the island.
“They just love it. A lot of the guys go all over the UK and Europe for rallies. When they visited they are blown away by the town, the people and they can’t get over the quality of the roads and rally food.
“Even the toilets they have described as the ‘poshest they have ever seen at a rally.’”
Among the huge number of bikers were a far travelled couple from south of Manchester who powered over 600-miles of tarmac to take part in the rally – all following the power of social media as first time visitors to the island.
But the 2017 rally has already piqued the interest of bikers from even further afield.
“Already people have been in touch from America, Canada and South Africa regarding next year’s rally so that’ll be a big one and even more diverse,” said Stewart, “this will be a yearly event and we hope it’ll be bigger every year.”
The biggest challenge to the growth of the rally will be getting the bikes across the Minch confesses Louis who is full of praise for all those who have assisted the fledgling project in its maiden year.
“Cal-Mac have been great with us and have tried to squeeze as many on as possible but it isn’t easy and we need to look at it,” he said.
“The biggest problem is the ferry and getting everyone over.
“In addition to all those previously mentioned, The Stornoway Trust as well have been great and some members have bent over backwards to help. The camp site provided is perfect and I think it’s the first time that particular site has ever been used.”
Live music from local bands Trouble Is and The Broken Ravens were among the weekend’s highlights, after the bikes were parked up for the night, while Darkcall were the Saturday night musical delight.
As the riders reflected on a weekend which will live long in the memory all who attended agreed the rally packed a Lion sized bite rather than that of a Midge and 2017 can’t come quick round enough.
“We did ok for six idiots,” adds Louis with a grin.
“It’s nice to see the town busy and with something different.
“Everybody is gaining and the rally is a winner for everyone.”