James May tackles Meccano bike challenge on Isle of Man TT circuit

James May and Oz Clarke set off around the TT course in an electric powered motorcycle and sidecar made out of Meccano parts

James May and Oz Clarke set off around the TT course in an electric powered motorcycle and sidecar made out of Meccano parts

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He may be used to life in the fast lane.

But Top Gear and Man Lab host James May had to take things at an altogether more leisurely pace when he arrived in the island for his latest challenge - to ride a motorbike and sidecar constructed out of Meccano around the TT circuit.

James and sidecar passenger, wine writer Oz Clarke, were cheered on by MGP fans as they set off from the Grandstand on their electric-powered bike, the challenge being filmed for a TV Christmas special of James May’s Toy Stories.

The bike, comprising thousands of pieces of Meccano, was constructed by Toy Stories and Man Lab’s project manager, inventor and engineer Simeon Oakley, popularly known as Simmy, over nine weeks - and had not been properly tested before it took the TT course.

James told iomtoday after stopping off at St Ninian’s: ‘It wasn’t scary but it felt disconcerting.

‘You think the darn thing’s going to fall apart and that would be embarrassing with no Christmas special!

‘I have to treat it very gently.

‘Meccano is a toy, full of holes and very weak. In TV there is a lot of false jeopardy.

‘But we genuinely have not really tested this.’

He said: ‘We almost had it finished last week but during a test run the brakes fell off and a wheel was completely mangled - so we only finished the bike hours before we started filming. So far it works.

‘Acceleration is very leisurely. We don’t know its top speed but we were doing 9.3 miles an hour on the downhill bit.

‘I’m sure things are going to come loose and will need tightening up as we go along.’

Toy Stories producer Will Daws came up with the idea for the Meccano motorbike.

James said: ‘Building the bike has been extremely complex.

‘Simmy started almost three months ago and spent nine weeks in his workshop. There’s 600 nuts and bolts in each wheel.’

Powered by a series of electric motors, it can develop just under a quarter of a horsepower.

Filming on the first day took place between MGP race and practice sessions but continued on Thursday on open roads and then yesterday before racing began.

Toy Stories began as a six-episode series which took James on a quest to show what favourite toys from his childhood can achieve by using them on a scale never seen before.

James said: ‘We can’t do more than one a year now as they are difficult to do, we are getting a bit old and we have to fit around Top Gear. We still have two or three ideas and we aim to keep going until we fail dismally!’


Do you have pictures of James and his bike on their way round the course?

Email newsdesk@newsiom.co.im

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