I was shocked and saddened yesterday to hear that local racer and business owner, Ian Bell had died racing at The Isle of Man TT with his son Carl who, thankfully, is reported to be uninjured. Understandably the passing of the well-known and successful racer has resulted in heartfelt tributes from bikers and non bikers alike and I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere condolences to Carl, Trudi, his family, friends and the staff at his dealership.
I first met Ian when he came to pick me up after my first ever bike broke down in Cramlington just days after buying it off good old Ebay! I knew of Ian but had never met him and didn’t realise it was him that had come to pick me up. In my head a successful racer and dealership owner would be sat in his office next to a coffee machine dressed smartly but here he was in oily overalls wheeling my knackered old CBR into the back of his van. It was only after the journey when speaking to my dad that I realised it was Ian that had picked me up. If only I’d known who it was I’d have asked him all about his racing, sidecars and the TT but Instead it was him asking the questions, eager to find out about my “new bike” and how I was getting on as a new rider.
It only took that ten minute van ride to realise he was a friendly and genuine guy. A fact further reinforced a year later on a sunny Saturday morning when a planned days riding was in jeopardy due to a dodgy tyre valve. All the other bike shops were too busy but Ian said if I was able to ride it down he’d sort it. I hadn’t bought the bike from him, it wasn’t a Yamaha and I didn’t visit enough to be classed as a regular customer but he fixed it there and then and refused to take a penny for it. In an effort to say thanks I bought twenty quids worth of Go Pro mounts even though I didn’t need them; I still haven’t used all of them. The last time I properly spoke to Ian was last spring when I was toying with the idea of buying the new Tracer but still felt lured towards the speed, exhilaration and bum clenching thrills that sports bikes could offer which he said he could understand. Of course he could understand, he raced the TT!
My girlfriend and I loved watching Ian and Carl race around Oliver’s mount; their immaculately turned out outfit seemed to be on another level compared to everyone else’s. It’s an overused term but that thing really did look like it cornered as if it were on rails. At the last Spring Cup we watched as the father and son duo waited for the restart of a red flagged race, Ian chatting away to a Marshall for a good while and letting her sit in his sidecar. The fact she was easier on the eye than her bearded, beanie hat wearing brethren may have had something to do with her getting a try, but in my experience Ian was happy to chat away to anyone, bearded or not. As one customer brilliantly summed up in their tribute to him last night; “he made you feel like a friend, not a customer”