Off-roading the UK is getting more and more difficult, especially in the South of England. Fantasies of green lane wanderlust are quashed by an ever increasing number of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) wins meaning BOATs (Byway Open to All Traffic) are being closed at an alarming rate. Thankfully the TET (Trans European Trail) organisation has gone some way to maintaining accessibility to what's left. But what if you just want to have a go without buying a bike and all the gear, or want to test ride a new model properly before slamming down a deposit, you book an off-road course - of course.
Triumph have invested heavily in their all-new Adventure Centre, based at the foot of the Breacon Beacons in South Wales. Headed by Touratech UK founder, 4 x Dakar Rally entrant and off-road legend Nick Plumb the Triumph setup is world class. The facility is new, slick and well kitted-out to welcome everyone from the first time novice to the seasoned around-the-world hero. I was invited to the press launch back in March, and shame on me for not publishing this sooner. But, there is reason to my apparent slackness....
I have some enduro type gear but not everyone did. Which isn't a problem, the centre has everything you'd need and provides it all as part of the package. The changing rooms and showers are clean, new and space plentiful. A sweaty bikers' locker room this isn't. Just turn up and get someone else's kit muddy, then slip into something more comfortable for the ride home.
The bikes too are all the very latest models and prepped by a permanent on-site team of technicians. Take your pick from the Bonneville Street Scrambler, Tiger 1200 XC or Tiger 800XC. We were to try all of them but before we set off for the hills Nick ran us through the basics of how to pick-up a quarter ton of Tiger from the deck. My aim for the day was to not have to use such knowledge.
The real aim of the day though was to have fun and glean skills from Nick's crew of experienced instructors. A short ride from the centre and we were a few hundred feet up a mountain in a working quarry. Triumph have access to hundreds of miles of trails ranging from rocky quarry tracks used by massive earth movers (not at the same time!) to open grass covered hillsides, fire trails and technical paths cut through a private forrest. We were on a tight schedule so were given a taster of just about everything the facility had to offer, and Nick recently told me he's been working flat out on building more runs and extending the training area within the quarry. More on this soon.
In a controlled environment with nothing to hit, and spare bikes on hand if you do, confidence grew and before long we were all pulling massive skids and power slides, just like Sam Sunderland and pals. Well, not quite. Some of our group were experienced off-roaders, that was certainly obvious. I've tickled about on a BMW1200GS with road biased tyres and used my Cagiva on the gravel trails when I lived in Italy but I haven't thrown a knobbly-shod proper adventure bike around. The Tiger 1200XC really surprised me.
The electronics package is staggeringly good and all but the most witless moves result in anything close to a drop. I turned everything off, traction, ABS etc as I went a bit old school and wanted to feel when I was close to running out of talent. The front ABS is hard-wired to remain switched on for school bikes and the computer's ability to allow plenty of lever pressure on loose, steep and slippery descents caused my brain to need a reboot.
After lunch I tried the Tiger 800XC and although it's a considerably lighter and narrower bike I preferred the low-end torque of its bigger brother. Plus I wanted to challenge myself as Stew and Mark back at Bike Shed keep talking about doing some more grown up trips and I'd want to be able to keep up. The Street Scrambler wasn't a surprise though. Having already given one (I think one of these actual bikes) a thorough test in the Surrey Hills on stock Metzeler Tourance road rubber I had no doubt it'd be a riot rolling on chunky Pirellis. For anyone wanting to find out what a knobblied Bonnie is capable of you need to book a day on one. I had a laugh, wore myself out and got arm-pump so let someone else have a go - their feedback was equally glowing.
Did I crash? No! Did I drop one? Might have. Being lent nice bikes isn't a new thing for me and I sometimes forget that the feeling of not worrying about wearing parts out or having a minor misdemeanour spoiling the rest of your day. And I'm not saying you can turn up and ride carelessly but off-road experiences like this really do make a lot of sense to try before you buy. But, you won't be faced with a clipboard or salesman trying to flog you a PCP in the showers. Turn up, ride, have fun, sip a beer with your new pals while watching gents in Triumph t-shirts draw straws at the jet-wash bay.
As you can tell I had a great time and we like working with the crew from Triumph so we're putting together a package so you can join the fun. Hence it taking so long for me to put this review together, we wanted to offer you something more than just words and photos. Now obviously Wales is sodding miles away from everywhere, so all you need do is book a places and turn up at the Bike Shed. We'll do the rest. There'll be an executive coach waiting and our chefs will pack you off with road trip grub. Have a blast with Nick and the gang and then we'll chauffeur you back to the 'Shed. If you want to bring kit you can but genuinely, you may as well use theirs.
And if you own a Street Scrambler already I'd wholeheartedly recommend investing in some more aggressive rubber and taking to the green lanes, before they're all gone!
Triumph have just announced their dates for 2019.
- Triumph Tiger Adventure Experience Day (£299)
- Two day Triumph Level 1 Off-road Motorcycle Training Experience (£499)
- Triumph Scrambler Experience Day (£299)
- Two day Gravel Tours Off-road Experience (£649)
- Two day Triumph Level 2 Off-Road Motorcycle Training Experience (£499)
- Triumph Ladies’ Day Off-Road Motorcycle Training Experience (£299)
To book a course or to purchase a voucher for the Triumph Adventure Experience, click here