Date tested: March 2018 | Tested by: Simon Hancocks | Price from: £199 | www.triumphmotorcycles.co.uk
“We’ll be riding some light trails in the morning, leading to some more technical sections in the afternoon”. The words of Nick Plumb, Britain’s youngest Dakar finisher and Triumph Adventure centre head instructor, were still ringing in my ears as we pulled off the main road and onto the dirt. With heated grips and seat blazing away as I rode up the track that leads to the Caerbont open coal mine, I feel relaxed. “This is gonna be great,” I think, “I survived the Triumph Tiger 800 launch Morocco back in February, there’s no way this could be as tough as that!”…
The Triumph Adventure Centre is a bespoke facility, set in the stunning Brecon Beacons, South Wales, and is a first for Triumph in more ways than one. Yes, it is the first adventure rider training facility the Hinckley factory have opened, but it’s not the last. Triumph’s plan is to set up similar centres anywhere on the globe that the Triumph brand has a presence. The idea is to not just train those looking to tour the world, Boorman and McGregor style, but also act as a stepping stone, helping nervous first-time adventurists to take their initial steps in the world of off-road riding.
First impressions stick and my first impressions of the centre, about 15-miles from Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, are bloody good! It’s not at all what I expected, imagine stepping into a high end health club but with added off-road boots and adventure bikes in the foyer. Thankfully all the gear needed for adventure is available to hire meaning I could stick my soaking wet textiles in the blissfully warm drying room. With a complimentary cup of coffee now chasing the aching cold from my fingers I head off to the changing room to get ready. Riding gear available comprises off-road boots, off-road motorcross style trousers and leg armour, upper body armour, an off-road jersey and gloves - all riders must bring their own helmet.
I was considering wearing my own textile riding gear for the day, thinking I would be cold - I’m glad I didn’t. The day I was there the temperature hovered between 5° and 10° and I would have roasted in my thermal trousers and jacket. In anything except the deepest coldest winter I would think the thin, breathable clothing supplied should be about all you would need.
As one of the first groups to take to the trails the riding gear on offer was all in brand-new condition and neatly laid out next to the drying room. After each group all the kit is washed, dried and deodorised ready for the next customer.
After the obligatory safety briefing and a quick outline of day’s activities we head out to collect our bikes. With 68-cylinders and over 20,000cc of Hinckley metal warming up outside the centre, the excitement starts to build. On offer are Triumph Tiger 1200 XCAs, Tiger 800 XCAs and tricked up Street Scramblers with knobbly tyres and cool looking – and sounding – Vance and Hines pipes. Call me boring if you like but I went with the Tiger 800 XCA, it’s off-road prowess and lightness – compared to the rest of the bikes on offer – was the package I felt I could get the most out of. Having spent two days riding the Tiger 800 on the launch in Morocco I had a pretty good idea of the bikes ability, if it could handle the dunes and climbs of the Atlas the mountains, Wales would be easy right?
The on-site area where the riding takes place is a multi-terrain environment that includes steep technical climbs, open fast gravel tracks, deep muddy sections, stream crossings and idyllic green lanes that track through forests. The best thing about this layout is that all of this terrain is available to you within a couple of minutes of leaving the centre and even better; you are only ever a couple of minutes away from your next challenge.
The day prior to my date with the dirt had been perfect off-road riding weather: not too windy, bone dry trails and glorious sunshine – perfect for rooster tailing a 100+hp adventure bike around an open mine. But the ‘off-road gods’ weren’t shining on me today, so after trudging a 130hp Street Triple down the M5 from Coventry, I’d now spend the rest of the day mud plugging with a Tiger.
Thankfully Tigers are one of the few members of the feline family that like the wet, in fact these Tigers, with knobbly Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres and adjusted foot and hand controls, are probably more at home here than anywhere else! The biggest problem is the inch thick layer of mud that coats the mine. It’s like a sticky, slippery confidence killer that has my heart jumping into my mouth every time the bike starts to get sideways. My mind seems to have forgotten the trails and dunes we rode in Morocco, I’m riding like a newb' and that’s bad, really bad.
“Your body position is good but you’re stiff as a board,” said former British and World Enduro, rally and Cross Country racer, Matt Reed, “you need to loosen up and let the bike move about.” Yeah right, easier said than done! With the mornings exercises complete I wonder where the two hours has gone as we thread our way through the valleys to our lunch stop.
Sitting chatting to the other riders at lunch, it’s apparent I’m not the only one that’s knackered after the morning’s exertions. That was hard going but sitting and talking to the other, more experienced riders, I realised it wasn’t the terrain or the 250kg bike that had me knackered, it was me. I needed to relax. My stiff upper body wasn't responding to my brain in a way that kept the bike bike moving smoothly.
Brimmed with beetroot and goats cheese tart we head off again for a more free-form afternoon of riding; less exercises and more trails were on the cards. For the first time we headed into the forest for some proper green lane riding and it was great. The surface was still treacherous but it was now small gravel we had to contend with, not the large rocks and boulders we were riding on in the morning - this was more like it!
My pace was up and my focus was now on the horizon not 6.3-inches ahead of my front wheel. Off-roading it seems is as much about confidence as it is about skill, if you have the confidence you will then be able to build up the skills you need to succeed. I'm not saying I was amazing but I was better, much better, and that'll do for me!
The stunning trails that cross the forest like a spider’s web see me riding in a much more relaxed and confident manner. I’m still using Off-Road Pro mode, we still have some steep climbs to beat, but the feedback and tuition we’d received throughout the day was starting to sink in.
Riding back to the adventure centre I feel content, it really was an exhilarating day of skids, wheelies, jumps and mud. My body was aching but my head was fizzing. I remember on the Tiger 800 lunch in Morocco, Filipe Lopez, rider of Triumph’s desert racing Tramontana bike, pulled up next to me with a maniacal grin on his face and said: "You have to be careful with off-road riding," he cackled into his open faced lid, "it’s like a drug you know!" I'm starting to agree with him, and this could be an expensive addiction.
80% of the day will be spent riding off-road on specially prepared Street Scramblers. Tuition, lunch and refreshments included.
90% of the day spent off-road riding multiple terrains on Tiger 800 and Tiger 1200 XCAs. Tuition, lunch and refreshments included.
Specifically designed for those returning to off-road riding or those who wish to build more confidence off-road. Riding Tiger 800 and Tiger 1200 XCAs. Tuition, lunch and refreshments included.
Riding Tiger 800 and Tiger 1200 XCAs. Designed to take a through from novice to intermediate off-road riding.
This course hones your skills and offers many more specialist off-road techniques.
An introductory one day course for ladies of any ability. Riding Tiger 800 and Tiger 1200 XCAs. Tuition, lunch and refreshments included.
Designed for novice off-road riders to help them choose which course to take next. Riding Tiger 800 and Tiger 1200 XCAs. Tuition, lunch and refreshments included.
You’ll learn how to make emergency and temporary repairs in a remote situation, and our experienced travel mechanics will advise on hints, tips and techniques to give you the confidence to explore the world, knowing you can rely on your skills to keep you adventure going.
An all-inclusive 2-day experience covering long distances, diverse riding conditions and epic scenery. (Around 70% off-road content). Accommodation with lunch and evening meal is included for this package. Riding Tiger 800 XCAs and Tiger 1200 XCAs. This experience is recommended for riders that have at least completed Level 2 (or intermediate off-road) training.
The Triumph Adventure Experience is, in my mind, the new benchmark in off-road rider training centres. The facilities alone put this centre above anything I have seen or heard of in this sector, and that’s before you take into account the skills and advice on offer from Nick Plumb and his team of world class trainers.
From the moment I walked in the door I felt reassured, that I was going to be leaving that night armed with the expertise to make my next two-wheeled foray into the dirt a more pleasurable and safer experience - I was right.
For more information on the Triumph Adventure centre, please click here.
Riding photography courtesy of Chippy Wood.