Isle Of Wight Scooter Rally Guide
Last updated : 15/8/2022
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
The main campsite is once again at Sandown Airport and what this means is that the official campsite, entertainment, custom show and dealer village are all on the same site. Rally patches and official t-shirts will be available at the airport only too, so make sure to visit the Crusader Promotions stall there.
You can buy tickets on the gate for the whole weekend, day passes and evening-only passes using CASH ONLY.
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. Beware of strike action though, and check whether it affects your sailing time.
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 2022 they are charging a whopping £59.50 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.
You can get a discount of 20% off ferry travel for crossings between the 25th and 29th August. Someone did mention they booked outside this window and still got the discount, but I’m not sure if that was a blip or anyone can do it!
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 £20 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 ticket on the gate which includes camping, all entertainment and entry to the custom show. This is great value even if you don’t camp, compared with the price of paying for each element separately.
Please note that all tickets on the gate are CASH ONLY.
You can buy daytime passes as well as evening-only passes for the on-site entertainment.
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 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 8, a circular Newport / Shanklin / Sandown / Ryde route. 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!
The Isle of Wight has the best rally custom show in the world, and is well worth a visit on Saturday morning. Trophies are given out in the afternoon at around 3.30pm.
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.
There’s also EST in Cowes, where owner Elliot keeps many spare parts and is also available for breakdowns. He may also have a stall on the rally site – his number is 07593 830953 and his address is 28 Somerton Industrial Park, Cowes.
If you can’t get what you need on the island 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
Thursday : VFM DJs play a warm-up session in the Hangar to welcome early arrivals.
Friday band : The Special Ltd with VFM DJs and a silent disco from 12-2am.
Saturday afternoon band : Double Barrel.
Saturday night band : Senior Class plus The Style councillors plus VFM DJs and silent disco 12-2am.
Sunday night : End of rally party in the Hangar.
Rocket Ronnies, Ryde
Visual Impact will be hosting a weekend of bands and DJs at Rocket Ronnies which is on the seafront opposite the bus station. A weekend wristband can be purchased now from the Visual Impact website for £29.50.
Ryde Castle – The Happening
The Happening returns to Ryde Castle and is brought to you by Top Clubs, KTF Soul Club, and Almost Grown. With very special guest DJs throughout the weekend. This event has sold out in all its previous years so get your tickets early to guarantee entry and avoid disappointment. Advance tickets priced at £10 per night. More on the door if any remain. Doors 8pm ’til 2am. Be Smart. For more info call Danny on 07895 538835.
The Marine Bar, Ryde
Ska Fever play at the Marine Bar, Ryde on Thurs 25th, Friday 26th, Sat 27th and Sun 28th.
Free entry all day and night.
House of Zabre, Union Street, Ryde
Decent mod clothing store and small courtyard cafe with DJs playing all weekend.
Ticket To Ryde
This takes place in Ryde on the seafront eastern garden next to Peter Pan’s fairground. Live music, outdoor bar, hot food and other stalls. Free entry.
Jon Shove (Vinyl Revenge) is playing soul, ska, 2-tone and indie at The Tap, Sandown on the Friday night 8-1am. On the Saturday at the Sands Hotel, Culver Parade he will be playing soul & northern from 8pm-midnight. On Sunday Jon plays soul, funk and ska for an afternoon session at the Sands Hotel from 2-6pm.
The Moochers are a two-piece band playing ska and reggae on Friday night and Sunday afternoon at McCarthy’s bar on the Fairway holiday park. Derek Sandy is DJing there on Saturday afternoon.
Audio Ghosts play at the Royal Pier Hotel on Friday evening.
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.