Isle Of Wight Scooter Rally Guide
Last updated : 25/5/2021
The Isle of Wight is the biggest scooter rally in the world and I’ve been going since 1982. It’s always been my favourite and I met my husband there in 2001 and we got married in Ryde over the rally weekend in 2010, so it’s a very special place for me. I wanted to pass on a few tips for getting the best out of the weekend, and in this post you will learn :
- How to save money getting to the Isle of Wight
- Where to stay on the Isle of Wight
- What to do if you need spare parts while at the rally
- Where to eat on the Isle of Wight
- Where to see the best scenery on the island
- Where to go for the best scooter rally entertainment
Big news for 2021
The VFM collective, who run the main events on the island, have announced a change of venue for the rally hub. The main campsite has moved to Sandown Airport and what this means is that the official campsite, entertainment, custom show and dealer village will be based at Sandown now. Rally patches and official t-shirts will be available at the airport only.
Please note, if you have a 2020 rally ticket then it rolls over to 2021 so is valid for this year 😊
However, the Isle of Wight has always been a rally where scooterists are spread out over a number of locations. Ryde will still host many music nights, and will be the starting point for the Sunday rideout. Pubs in other towns on the island will still put on bands and scooterists will stay on campsites elsewhere too, as they always have. Scooters will still gather on the green at the bottom of Union Street in Ryde and day trippers who come on the Hovercraft may not notice much difference.
As more details are announced they will be added to my tips below during the forthcoming months.
How to get to the Isle Of Wight
The main ferry firms are Red Funnel (from Southampton) and Wightlink (from Portsmouth and Lymington). Red Funnel tends to be cheaper, so depending which direction you come from then Southampton may be the most cost-effective option for your departure point.
Red Funnel Discount
The helpful people at VFM usually negotiate a 25% discount with Red Funnel – and there’s usually no special code needed, you’ll just see the special discounted price when you look at prices. I’ll update details when I get them. In 2019 it was £33.60 for a return trip for a scooter with one passenger. Here is the link to the Red Funnel website.
Red Funnel offer flexi tickets which you pay a bit more for but they can be changed or cancelled. You’ll pay a bit more for one of these, compared with a standard ticket.
Wightlink have long been a bone of contention with scooterists due to the massive cost of travelling just a few miles across the Solent. In 2021 they are charging a whopping £55.50 for a single rider and scooter. That’s the online price; you pay an additional £5 booking fee by phone and an exhorbitant £10 extra if you pay in person at the ticket office.
They are offering a 20% discount again over the bank holiday weekend, which reduces the price by £10 or so. It applied to online bookings only and here is a direct link to the ferry booking page. If you want to read their blurb then here’s a link to their event page which includes terms and conditions for the discount.
Saving money using Wightlink
My best tip for crossing the Solent, which will save you a fortune, is to use Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Wightlink fares as you can boost the value by three times, and it doesn’t feel like spending real money to me. For every £1 in vouchers you get £3 of ferry tickets, so this year you’ll needed £19 worth of vouchers to pay for a scooter and rider in full without needing to top up with cash. Here is a link to the boost page for more details.
If you don’t have Tesco vouchers then it’s worth asking friends and family if they have some, as they may let you buy them for face value and then you can boost them, effectively saving 2/3 of the usual price. The process for exchanging them has improved over the years, and it can all be done online now without sending the paper vouchers in the post. Unfortunately you can’t use Tesco boost if you’re also taking advantage of any other discount, so pick which deal is best for you and book in advance.
Where to stay
Camping and glamping at Sandown Airport
If you want to camp on the official rally site at Sandown Airport then you can buy a weekend ticket from VFM which includes camping, all entertainment and entry to the custom show. It only costs £30 in advance (£35 on the gate) and is great value even if you don’t camp, compared with the price of paying for each element separately. Here is a link to the VFM website to buy a weekend pass. However, you don’t need to buy one in advance as you can pay on the gate for a few more quid, and day tickets and evening tickets are available too.
Please note, if you have a 2020 rally ticket then it rolls over to 2021 so is valid for this year 😊
If you’d like a more luxurious option but want to be where the action is then there are glamping options at the airport. For full details here is a link to the Canvas Co website, the company who organise boutique camping at events nationwide. Prices start at £180 for a basic option, but if you want the full luxury experience then you’ll pay £360 for proper metal beds with memory foam mattress and Egyptian cotton bedding! All bookings include access to the beauty parlour with hairdryer, straighteners and mobile phone charging. Plus free tea, coffee and softdrinks.
A regular bus service will run from the site to Sandown, Shanklin and Ryde.
The address of the airport is Scotchells Brook Lane, Sandown, PO36 0JP and the site will be open from midday on Thursday to midday on Monday.
There are other campsites around the island, a popular one being Kite Hill which is near Wooton Bridge, around five miles west of Ryde. Be careful though as some sites don’t welcome scooterists. Always book in advance for private campsites as it’s an extremely busy weekend for all businesses on the island.
Hotels and B&Bs
If you want a bit of luxury then there are plenty of hotels and guest houses around the island. Many are booked up year after year by the same guests, but it’s always worth checking on Booking.com to see if there is availability as you might get lucky. With the change of venue for the main rally campsite to Sandown there could be good availability there (click for hotels) and also at nearby Shanklin (click for hotels), and scooterists who stay there don’t need to go any further afield for entertainment. There isn’t much left in Ryde but you can try here in case there are cancellations.
VFM will run a bus service to and from the rally site to Sandown, Shanklin and Ryde. It’s usually about £3 each way and is perfect for getting to the main do on the campsite if you’re staying elsewhere on the island.
The island’s Southern Vectis bus provider also runs an excellent service really late into the night, with some routes running until 3am which is great for getting back from a do. Here is a link to the timetable for Route 3, a circular Newport / Shanklin / Sandown / Ryde route, which goes beyond 3am. All timetables are on their website here.
You can look on Booking.com to see if there is still availability although many hotels will be full by now.
There are also holiday parks around the island, including one overlooking the new campsite at Sandown Airport, full details of which will be included here very soon.
Another new option is AirBnB. There is a choice of accommodation available, all around the island, from apartments which would suit a couple to whole houses for a group. Prices start from £60 per night per bedroom which is extremely affordable compared to hotels, and if you are a new customer then I have a special link which will save you $35 (around £24) from your first booking – just click here to check it out. You must take cleaning costs into account as they are often on top of the rental fee. Be quick though as they are likely to be snapped up quickly!
Scooter rally tips : what to do
One of my biggest scooter rally tips is to ride around the island! I can’t emphasise this enough, and it seems so obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people park up their scooter and then leave it all weekend. It seems such a shame to me to visit such a scenic place without exploring a bit, and the country lanes are perfect for two-wheeled riding.
Places I’d recommend visiting include Brading Down (with its stunning viewing point) and Culver Down with its pub, the Culver Haven Inn, (read a TripAdvisor review here). The views at both sites are incredible, some of my favourites in the world!
There will always be breakdowns on a rally weekend and even if you prepare your scooter perfectly, and pack a variety of spare parts and tools, you may sometimes need a bit of help to get it back up and running again if something goes wrong.
There are many dealers on the main VFM campsite who sell an array of spare parts, and also stalls which offer mechanic assistance, so if you can make it there then you will hopefully be able to sort out most issues. If the campsite dealers don’t have the parts you need, then Portsmouth-based dealer Allstyles Scooters offer a tremendous service where they will take what you need onto the hovercraft at Southsea, which you (or a friend) can collect in Ryde.
They just charge £12 for the hovercraft fee and this can be a lifesaver if you can’t find what you need on the island on the Friday or Saturday of the rally. It’s worth saving Allstyles’ postcode into your Satnav if you are riding down via Portsmouth, just in case you need anything on the way to the ferry! It’s PO3 5NS.
Where to eat
Riding your scooter around the island is a great excuse to visit a pub for a drink and a nice meal, and some I’d recommend include the Propeller Inn right next to Bembridge Airport which is surrounded by rolling hills and occasional planes taking off and landing.
The Crab and Lobster at Bembridge is on a peninsular overlooking the English Channel and they have a lovely fish menu. We often go there for our anniversary lunch over the rally weekend!
In East Cowes there’s the Folly Inn which overlooks the marina and in Ventnor I’d recommend the Spyglass Inn. There are many more too – look on TripAdvisor using this link to find other options!
It’s impossible to list all the entertainment but I’ll include them here as soon as they are announced. If you’re organising a music event over the weekend please contact me and I’ll add it below.
VFM main site at Sandown Airport
On Friday night Angelo Starr and The Team take to the stage.
On Saturday afternoon Tasteless play live in the marquee and in the evening it’s the turn of The Liquidators and King Salami & The Cumberland 3.
From Thursday through to Sunday night there will be top VFM rally DJs playing all weekend.
On Ryde seafront, is the Pavilion bar and you’ll find a weekend of entertainment there. On Saturday night it’s the excellent Marquis Drive, and Sunday features Ska’d For Life. Tickets are £10 from the Visual Impact website. This venue is very likely to sell out so be sure to get tickets early if you want to go!
Ryde Castle – The Happening
DJs from Top Clubs, KTF Soul Club, and Almost Grown play northern soul, 60s, R&B and Motown all weekend. Friday and Saturday nights 8pm – 2am, smart dress only. This event usually sells out. For more info call Danny on 07895 538835.
There will be a massive choice of pubs, clubs and dos with various music genres throughout the island.
– The Crown, Ryde : Top Northern DJs playing until 2am
– Solent Inn, Ryde : Reggae from Rhythm & Chips Hi-Fi, 2pm – midnight
– House of Zabre, Ryde : Soul from midday – 4pm
– The Marine Bar, Ryde : Rhythm & Soul Party
– The Castle, High St, Ryde : Ska Fever, 8pm – 1am
– The Tap and Caulkheads in Sandown have scooterist entertainment
There is a Facebook group dedicated to the rally which keeps track of all the options, so I’d highly recommend joining so that you can find out where to go. Here is a link to the group.
The Sunday rideout is an event in itself, leaving from the ice rink car park in Ryde at lunchtime. It will leave at around 1pm but do get there early as it gets really busy in the car park. Thousands of locals and holidaymakers line the streets to wave at the scooters riding past, and it’s quite a spectacle.
Some scooterists dress up for the occasion and although it’s great to take part on a scooter I occasionally like being a spectator too, as you often don’t realise the massive scale of it unless you watch them all ride past.
The weather isn’t always kind, but on a sunny day then it’s an amazing experience whether you’re riding or watching. Just be careful not to burn your clutch out on some of the hills, as it’s not always easy riding slowly in a large group!
2021 Isle of Wight Rideout Route
The 2021 rideout will start from the Ice Rink as usual and will end at the rally hub of Sandown Airport. I will get more details nearer the time and post a map on here.
Rally patches and t-shirts
If you want an official rally patch or t-shirt then visit Crusader in the dealer village at the VFM campsite at Sandown where their friendly team will be delighted to sell you some goodies! They also stock a range of hoodies and scooter t-shirts in all sizes, from baby ones through to super extra large! Daz and Jude provide the gear for the VFM team and for many other rallies and events around the country.
You can buy 2021 rally shirts from the Crusader website.
This is more of a plea from the heart than a tip, but please note that when you think the ferry has docked, it will likely be at least 10 minutes before you can ride away. Therefore, there is NO NEED to start up your scooter until you see other vehicles STARTING TO LEAVE. It would be nice to go one year without getting 2 stroke poisoning!
I hope that some of these scooter rally tips have been useful, even if you’re a seasoned rally-goer like myself.
If you’re planning your scootering calendar for 2021 then check out my 2021 Rally Guide to get the best choice of accommodation.
For an in-depth guide to the biggest scooter rally in the world, here is a link to my Isle of Wight rally guide.