Would I like to go to South Wales and learn how to ride an adventure bike off road? That was the question I was asked. It took me about a nano second to reply yes.
Triumph Motorcycles have an adventure training academy in the foothills of the Brecon Beacon mountains in South Wales where they offer varying levels of training for beginners to more advanced off road riders, one to one training, guided light off road riding experience around mid to south Wales on some of the best roads and trails, gravel tours and even a Portugal adventure holiday trip!
The bikes used for these experiences are the Street Scrambler, the Scrambler 1200 or the latest generation Tigers.
I used to race a land rover off road for many years before I got into biking so have experience driving off road but I have never done adventure bike riding before so this was going to be interesting.
I went up the night before and stayed at a hotel with the other guys and girls that were taking part in the adventure with me the following day. We had a great evening eating, drinking and chatting about our biking history, a few of which had done it before, a few who had some off road riding experience and a couple (including me) who had never done it before so a great mix of people and abilities.
We arrived early the following morning at the training academy where we were greeted with coffee and a very friendly welcome from the guys there. I had borrowed some gear from Triumph for the day which had already been placed in a locker for me in the ladies changing room, but I had my own boots, helmet and gloves. After changing we met in the reception area for a chit chat and then went outside to find the bike that had been allocated to us. Mine was a Street Scrambler 900 which I was happy about but if you were not happy with the choice of bike or during the day you wanted to swap and try something different, then you could.
We were greeted by former British and World Enduro, British Rally & Cross Country Champion, Matt Reed, who runs the training academy and he gave us a run down of how the academy works, what we should expect from the day and what we would be doing. We then got on our bikes and followed Matt to where our training would be taking place which was about a fifteen minute road ride. I liked this bit, I could do this part easily – I was now getting nervous as to whether I would be able to do the next part ……
We arrived and parked up and were then introduced to the other instructors there. Everyone was so nice and friendly which immediately put me at ease. We all had a bottle of water strapped on the back seat of our bikes – it was barely nine o’clock in the morning, it was hot and sunny already and it was going to be a hot day. In fact the temperature did get up to 32 degrees during the day.
We were divided into two groups – the more experienced off road riders went off with Matt and a couple of instructors and I was in a group with one rider that had never done it before like me and two who had some off road experience. Our instructors for the day were Keith and John.
Keith explained what he had planned for us during the course of the day but he stressed that if there was anything we did not like the look of or were not comfortable with, then not to push ourselves to do it. If we felt tired and wanted to sit out a section then to do so. If we were getting tired and wanted to ride sitting down, then to do so. I started to relax a little bit.
Our first exercise of the day was a gentle slalom just to get us used to the bikes and also to riding standing up. When riding standing up, Keith said we should bend our knees and elbows and have two fingers on the clutch and front brake at all times to give us maximum control of the bike. Okay I can do this. Wow I could do this. Riding standing up is a whole new experience for me but surprisingly it felt okay and not at all weird like I thought it would. I managed the slalom with only one or two cones ending up as casualties. We did the slalom one way and then the other, the idea being that riding the course a different way you have to angle yourself and the bike differently. We stopped for a drink of water and a chat about how we felt that went. So far so good.
The next exercise there were four cones set out in a square. We had to ride around the outside of these cones in a kind of circle progressing to riding around the inside of the cones. We went anti clockwise to start and I could do the outside of the cones no problem just about managing half the inside of the cones. We then switched to clockwise. I got round the outside once and it just felt weird and then I’m not sure what happened but both the bike and I were on the floor. Terrific. John helped me pick up the bike, I got back on and had another go, I managed the outside of the cones but not the inside. Another water break.
We then went for a trail ride. Oooh this was good, I like this, I can do this. Obviously a completely different way of riding to what I am used to but it was okay. We were using the skills we had learnt in the previous exercises and it was clicking. We then headed back to base for a well earnt cuppa.
The other group had stopped for a cuppa too and it was really good to chat with the others as to how their day was going and learn tips.
Back on the bikes to our next exercise which was learning how to skid in a controlled manner! First off we had to build our speed to 20 mph and then brake using both the front and back brakes. This I could do although John said I needed to go faster. Back round and this time we had to brake just using the front brake. Still I needed to go faster. Next time brake just using the back brake – yayyy I did it, I did a controlled skid. So chuffed with myself. Water break.
After we had finished this exercise we then went off for a trail ride. I really enjoyed the riding part. I know the exercises are good as you need to learn different techniques but it’s then really good to go off and put them into practice. The terrain for this trail ride was harder than the earlier one but I was enjoying it. I was following a fellow rider and we had to go down a slope and then back up the other side at an angle. Unfortunately the rider in front came to an almost stop in front of me whilst doing the angle bit before getting going again and I tried to keep going but by this time I had lost momentum and both the bike I had another tumble on the floor. Ooompf. John helped me pick the bike up, I dusted myself off and got back on. Deep breath, I can do this and I did. I got to the top. Phew! We stopped for a water break.
It was an incredibly hot day and we were all suffering a bit in the heat with our bike gear on. Luckily there was a plentiful supply of water!
We carried on our trail ride to some ruts. John demonstrated how we should ride through the ruts. We were to start by sitting down and ‘paddling our feet’ at slow speed and once we were happy paddling we could then stand up to go through the ruts if we wished. We must remember here that when our feet are on the pegs we should keep them pointed inwards so they don’t get caught on the edge of the rut and twisted around! I could manage the paddling bit and then when I went to go through standing up I actually found this easier sitting down and may have gone through a little quicker than I should have but it was huge fun and could hear myself laughing.
We then carried on our trail ride back to base and to lunch. I think we had all built up an appetite by then!
After a leisurely lunch our next exercise was going over humpy bits (I’m pretty sure this is not the correct technical term here!) in both directions which showed us the difference in braking we needed for different humps and speeds. I really liked this bit, this was definitely something I could do. You kind of do a loop through the bushes which is pretty rough and rutty terrain to get back to the start and during the bush part I kicked the bike into neutral and did not realise. I completely lost my momentum and by the time I realised what had happened it was all a bit late and the bike and I ended up in a bush together. A fellow rider stopped and untangled me and the bike and helped get the bike back up. Another dusting down and deep breath and then the bike and I went off to find the humps together again. I was really liking riding the Street Scrambler, it is incredibly easy to ride and coped with the terrain easily.
Another water break and then we went off for a date with some strategically placed logs. I am pleased to say that I could do this part. We had to ride through a course of logs, a bit like a log slalom, remembering the skills we had learnt earlier, moving our body to help with the way we wanted the bike to go and then loop round and do it again. Thankfully the bike and I stayed upright.
Another drink and then we were going off for our last trail ride before finishing for the day. I was trying to use all that I had learnt during the course of the day on our last ride and was really enjoying myself. I had completely relaxed as the day had gone on but I had to admit by this last ride I had taken to sitting down a lot of it. Muscles in my arms and legs that I didn’t know I had were beginning to protest but I was really enjoying myself and I could feel myself still grinning under my helmet. I was having fun which was the main thing.
Back to base for a last drink and a catch up with the other group.
For our ride back to the academy, we followed Matt a different way back going both on the road and off road a little and through a water splash stopping to refuel the bikes en route. I loved the ride back and I had grown really fond of my Street Scrambler as the day had gone on. I was very comfy on this bike, it was so easy to ride and it put up with our little tumbles together, a very capable adventure bike indeed.
Back at the academy, I jumped in the shower, had a drink or three and a chit chat with the others before heading on my way.
I had a brilliant day, learnt lots, met some incredible people and got to ride a cool bike all day. What a perfect day out.
Thank you to Triumph Motorcycles for the opportunity of trying something new and to Matt, Keith and John who were brilliant.
PS the pics and videos of the day were taken by Tom and Denis of Plesca – thank you guys, you were brilliant 🙂
I couldn’t have got through the day without the encouragement from Dom and Andy too, thanks guys 🙂 🙂 🙂
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