STREET TOUGH

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...

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week in MCN - By Peter Baker MANAG­ING EDI­TOR

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

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