Outside, somewhere, I hear an old single, thump-coughing to a stop. Andrew, Padgett's apprentice mechanic, is prodding a bit of motorbike. He wanders up into Hodgson's office, then stops, as if he's forgotten why he came up. The whole "Employees Only" thing doesn't happen here; a customer has followed him, past the red stencilled "Caution" sign that is the shop's only concession to future liabilities. The guy is maybe 50 years old, in a Cordura riding suit that's seen some miles. Andrew hands the stranger his part--which looks like the float bowl from an old Amal concentric--saying, "It looks OK to me." With that, the stranger walks back down through the service bay and outside. A few minutes later, Andrew is back, handing Hodgson a #5 note. "What's that for?" Hodgson asks. "He just gave it to me," Andrew replies. "What did you do?" "His carb was leaking. I just told him to pull off his float bowl and I'd look at it," Andrew, who's only 16 years old, adds "but I've never seen anything like it, so I don't have a clue what's wrong." On cue, the stranger returns. Evidently, just pulling and replacing the float bowl hasn't fixed anything. To rescue Andrew (as usual, the apprentice was the only one doing any real work), Hodgson and I go out to look at the guy's bike. It was a 1960 Velocette Venom Clubman. Original, unrestored, the Amal now dribbling fuel at a rate some prostate patients would call progress. We stand there, in the sun, speculating about what the problem could be, but none of us really knows. We decide to call someone. In his office, Hodgson flips through a battered Rolodex. On the Isle of Man, you're never more than a couple of calls--a friend of a friend--from an expert on any motorcycle subject. The Velocette owner, meanwhile, introduces himself. His name is Iain Griffin. He rode a BSA B40 in his college days and has owned the Velo since the mid-'80s. "When I bought it, I was actually living in Australia," he explained, "but I used to come back to England every year or so on trips. Whenever I came back, I'd ride it for a day or two." Now with his kids grown, he'd recently transferred back to England. For the first time in ages, he'd gotten four days off in a row, and he'd left that morning from Birmingham on the Velo. Meanwhile, Hodgson's tracked down a Velocette expert who lives at Sulby, a guy named Vern Wallis. The next call is to Wallis himself, who suggests that if the bike will make it, the owner should just ride it to him. "Turn right between Sulby Bridge and Ginger Hall." A lot of addresses on the Isle of Man are home names, not numbers. Wallis' house is called "Rider's Retreat." "Sulby," Griffin says, "that's on the TT course, isn't it?" I start to explain how to get there, and he stops me. "Wait, I've got a map on the bike." He unfolds a faded, brittle topographical map of the Island. Each corner is peppered with pinholes. He tells us that he bought the map in '73 and put it up on the wall of his room at Oxford; he wanted to come to the TT after graduating. Since then, despite a series of moves that took him further and further from the Island, he'd always had it on the wall. In fact, the road we need to show him isn't on the map. I offer to lead the way on the CBR and keep an eye on the Velo. Out on the course we trundle along at approximately 40 mph; the old Venom has a ribbed front tire that looks a little too original for my liking, but when I check him out in my mirrors, Griffin confirms himself as a smooth, composed rider. It feels nice to be showing someone else the way 'round. I imagine him seeing the famous landmarks for the first time: the Highlander, Glen Helen, the bridge at Ballaugh, the front doors of the houses in Kirk Michael that open right onto the course. These places are now more familiar to me than the streets I grew up on, but leading him around, it's as though I'm seeing them again for the first time, too. I see the scenery, the flowing mix of fast and medium bends, the places where I've learned to compromise one bend in order to be better positioned for the following one. And it hits me: This would be one of the world's great riding roads even if it wasn't famous. Griffin is grinning like a kid when we stop in front of the Velocette expert's house. Wallis's wife Mary comes out; we're expected. She cocks an eyebrow at the gleaming CBR I've parked on the street, then looks more warmly at the Venom. "Push it in here." Wallis has already lowered one of the two bike lifts in his garage and backed some project off it to make space. There's a round of handshaking and introductions, and Mary goes in to make tea. This is not your ordinary garage; there's a restored Harley-Davidson Sprint on the other lift, a perfect Velocette KTT in race trim parked off to one side and a Manx engine on a work bench in the far corner. Another Venom, "built from bits" for a friend, awaits pick up in the driveway. The only reason I don't describe it as "showroom" is that they never looked that good when they were new. Wallis disassembles the Amal, handling it with a familiarity that other men reserve for their television remotes. I can see that he doesn't need to concentrate, so I ask him how long he's been here. He looks up into the middle distance and counts something off with little nods of his head. "Let's see," he says "this Manx, it'll be 14 years." The son of a machinist, Wallis apprenticed at Collier's, one of England's biggest Velocette dealers, when he was 14 years old. He saved up enough to come to the TT for the first time in '51, finally coming to race the Manx Grand Prix in the mid-'60s. When Velocette closed its doors, Wallis continued working on the bikes, restoring them, effectively serving as the "help desk" for the Velocette Owner's Club. Griffin's Venom has broken down on the Isle of Man. Purely by chance, he's brought it to the man who is, quite possibly, the world's greatest living expert on sick Velocettes. In the time it takes to drink a mug of tea, the carb's been fitted with a new needle and the Venom's been test-fired. The subject of payment never comes up. "What about you?" Wallis and his wife want to hear my story, too, "We've seen you out practicing." When I tell them what I'm doing here, that I've put my life on hold to move here for a few months and actually compete in the TT, Mary immediately says, "Well, stop in any time; there's always tea on here, and a loo."