What do yo do with a Triumph Street Twin fitted with the Scrambler Inspiration Kit? Take it on a crazy off road mountain rally for Brit bikes, of course...
Triumph’s Street Twin is a lovely middleweight, oozing class and modernretro styling and technology. But can it handle some off-road action? We took two Street Twins, fitted them with a Scrambler Inspiration kit and headed for the tracks and trails of rural Spain.
Globe-trotting adventurer Austin Vince isn’t normal. When a man you’ve only briefly met before strips down to his pants to show you his Triumph tattoo you know his life rules are dramatically different from yours. After that I don’t even raise an eyebrow when Austin tells me he scouted out the trails for his first Twin Shock Trail Finder event in 2005 with his wife during their honeymoon. Well of course, why wouldn’t you?
With his ground-breaking 1996 Mondo Enduro TV series a distant memory, Vince has expanded the Mondo empire into several offshoots including two navigational challenges in the Pyrenees; the Vince (open to all trail bikes) and the Twin Shock Trail Finder. Originally created for old Brit bikes (and as a counter to the hardcore Dusk to Dawn Enduro) the Twin Shock has evolved into a challenge with competitors and motorcycles as unique as the event itself.
So what better way to test the official Scrambler Inspiration kit fitted to MCN’S Street Twin, complete with aluminium bash plate and high-level exhaust. Is it just for decoration, or can the bike really cut it off road?
The rules are simple enough. The Twin Shock is a treasure hunt style team contest where you score points by finding as many numbered plaques nailed to trees, posts and abandoned buildings as you can in a day. With a map and a road book indicating the location of the ‘treasure’ the key to success isn’t finding the checkpoints but planning your route between them efficiently. With no prize money the Trail Finder is supposed to be noncompetitive but some of the teams take it more seriously than others. Our team is firmly with the ‘others’.
GPS is banned but you’re posted the roadbook and maps well in advance so you can plan your route in fine detail, or at least that’s the idea.
My team-mates, Pete White and Ian Cornall are also riding Triumphs, Pete’s
‘Some teams take it more seriously than others. We’re with the ‘others’
on a Street Twin identical to mine and Ian’s on his 1968 T120 Bonneville. The Street Twins are fitted with Triumph’s Scrambler Inspiration kits (high-level exhaust, sump guard, bench seat, barrel grips and LED indicators) and the excellent Continental TKC80 Twinduro off-road tyres.
ABS isn’t switchable on the Street Twin so we disconnect the front wheel sensor and zip tie it out of the way (read more about this in the long term report on page 56).
After being stored for 41 years Ian’s 650 Bonnie was fired up for the first time and Mot’d on the Saturday before the event. We’ve also brought along Ian’s Rotax powered Harley-davidson MT350 as a spare should the Bonnie suffer any problems. I don’t think any of us expect the Bonnie to keep running in the 35°c heat and I predict we’ll be swapping it for the MT in the first hour (I am wrong. Except for a loosening exhaust clamp the bike runs perfectly).
On the first morning of the first day it quickly becomes obvious that we haven’t done enough planning. Looking over the other bikes at our hotel base in Oliana, rival teams have photocopied enlarged sections of the map with detailed directions they can quickly refer to when riding along. We’re left squinting at the map at every turn and junction, causing us to waste a huge amount of time. Better organised teams manage to get to over 15 checkpoints in a day; the best we manage is eight.
The mountain trails are a mix of farm tracks and access roads. Hard packed and rut free they make relatively easy riding with the exception of a few loose, rocky climbs. It’s difficult to exaggerate the truly jaw dropping scenery on the Pyrenean trails. From perfect wildflower meadows on plateaus to 20-mile vistas across craggy mountain ranges, the views are refreshed at every turn like a panoramic real life screen saver loaded with award-winning photos, each one more epic than the last.
As we’d half expected, the Street Twin’s road-style riding position isn’t exactly ideal for off-road riding. The low bars put too much weight over the front and it’s too cramped to ride standing up. On steep descents sliding back on the seat and gripping the tank with your knees helps, but it’s quickly tiring and the larger rocks bump you out of the saddle. Climbs are much easier, with a light touch on the bars and care- ful throttle control the fat rear TKC80 tyre claws its way through the scree, finding some impressive grip despite the bike’s 60ftlb of torque wanting to do the opposite. The Street Twin’s very light slip assist clutch also enables the lever to be comfortably operated with two fingers, inspiring confidence on the trail.
Pete and Ian agree we could all have picked bikes better-suited to the job. Ian’s fighting a losing battle to keep the T120 Bonnie’s front end from washing out in every turn and Pete’s having the same problems as me on the steep drops. At every stop we’re beaming though, there’s no real pressure and that frees up time to have fun and take in the stunning views.
At the end of the second day we reach a section on the trail that steeply descends down a rocky bank. We spot a rival team at the bottom of the descent
‘The fat rear TKC80 tyre claws its way through the scree’ ‘ The surface is loose and unforgiving, if we drop a bike it would fall 30 feet’
squinting up at us and spend the next 10 minutes planning a safe route down to them. The surface is loose and unforgiving, if we drop a bike it would fall at least 30 feet.
With only a couple of hours of the day left and storm clouds gathering we decide to turn back and head for home. Our disappointment at turning back quickly fades when we discover a perfectly surfaced tarmac road snaking along the hillside before plunging into a valley. If it’s not already, the L-511 from Boixols to Coll de Nargo needs to be on your motorcycling bucket list.
Here the Street Twin is a perfect fit. Even with the off-road rubber fitted the nimble handling and instant torque make short work of this stupendous route. The bike is transformed from an awkward, pondering scrambler into a perfectly focused road tool, honed to demolish just such a road.
The sharp crack of the Vance and Hines exhaust reverberates off the cliff faces as the bike swings into the next traffic-free bend. It’s 10 miles of road I could never tire of riding.
In the evening we gather to see prizes awarded and points announced. Vince starts with the wooden spoon. Astonishingly we don’t get it! The Sportax team of Gary Wigston (see right) and Ady Connell took the winner’s trophy with an impressive 46 points. With a more modest 13 points we come third from last but considering how unprepared we were I’ll take that as a win.
‘Vince starts with the wooden spoon. Amazingly we don’t get it ’
Thirty-five degree heat, somewhere in the Pyrenees. Will they get out alive?
2016 Street Twin 2016 Street Twin MCN’S long-term test Triumph is ready to tackle a rocky, off-road challenge Ridden by Pete White and fitted with the £1745 Scrambler inspiration kit
Maybe we should have looked at the maps before we left home Conti’s TKC80S had no trouble gripping on the dirt tracks
1968 T120 Bonneville Instead of Pokemons we’re hunting numbered tags Mountain vistas that’ll take your breath away In storage since 1974 the bike was fired up for the first time on the Saturday before the event
‘Want to see my tattoo again?’ No, you’re alright Austin
Ped clearly knows the way (or thinks he does) . The 60s Bonnie is doing well too
Some teams are more prepared than others
The intrepid Ian (left) Ped and Pete in full-on orienteering mode
Ped didn’t notice the four cows upstream relieving themselves
Austin shows his brand loyalty, note that it’s the old-style logo
It’s great rides like these that create memories for life
Easy going on the tarmac for our trio of Triumphs on their Spanish adventure