There might not be any TT this year (2020) due to the plague, but I still thought it might be a great time to revisit my epic trip to the TT two years ago, 2018, and re-live a motorcycle journey that took in a fair bit of Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and of course, the Isle of Man itself. I hope you enjoy the ride…
Trev’s TT Trip 2018 Part Five
I will leave it up to my partner in crime on the 2018 TT Trip, Anthony De Groot, to cover this fifth instalment that details our recent epic UK adventure. Here we detail the Triumph Adventure Experience situated at Ystradgynlais, right at the foot of the Brecon Beacons region in South Wales.
The Triumph Adventure Experience was only launched recently and offers both experiences and structured courses starting from £299, which includes a loan motorcycle and all your riding gear.
There is not even an insurance disclaimer to sign as accidental damage is also covered inclusive of the price.
The supplied bikes are the latest Triumph Explorer XCa models in both 1200 and 800cc guises, or Triumph Scramblers.
Structured courses progress through three tiers and are held across two days. These cost £499 all inclusive and the course we undertook was a mix of all three levels to give us an idea what your average punter might experience on the course. The top level course concentrates on specialist drills and is aimed at those that have already covered Level Two, or are already well accomplished off-road riders.
Triumph Adventure Experience
It’s an exciting age in which we’re living, full of uncertainty and instability and change. I know that’s a deep and philosophical way to begin a story about the simple pleasures that come from ramming a big adventure bike into places better suited to a nimble enduro machine, but we’ll come back to that later.
Full disclaimer here, when the invitation to attend the Triumph Adventure Experience arrived I was more than a just a little nervous. With only a small amount of off-road experience to draw upon, and on much nimbler, lighter, more forgiving dirt bikes, I knew the two days ahead were going to test me. (Ant’s experience racing BMX into his late teens can be seen when he is riding off-road, as his balance and control on a dirtbike is amazing considering his relative lack of experience – Trev).
Only a week earlier I’d never ridden an adventure bike, and now I was set to send one slideways into an old coal mine in Wales. Nothing like a bit of fear and trepidation to calm the nerves.
Launched earlier this year, the Triumph Adventure Experience is an opportunity for riders of all levels and experience to escape the tarmac and go bush on a big adventure bike, or Scrambler, and have a laugh under the watchful eye of skilled instructors. If you’ve ever cast your eyes over a pannier laden adventure bike and wondered just how capable off-road it actually is, this is your chance to find out.
Located roughly four hours west of London in the Brecon Beacons, we were greeted by a fleet of Tiger 1200s and 800s, all shod with road/trail knobbleys, and welcomed inside by one of our Instructors, Matt, for a tour of the facilities.
It’s evident from the moment you set a boot inside the Adventure experience facility that a fair amount of thought has gone into making this as simple and comfortable as possible.
Plug and play experience…. That is, you just need to bring yourself. Don’t worry about needing the latest and greatest riding gear, Triumph supply the whole shooting match. All the necessary clothing and safety gear you’ll require is provided.
They take all your details and sizes when you book and provide a numbered locker with all your gear ready to go. After you’ve gotten it soaked in the rain and mud, they’ll take it and store it in their drying room overnight, so its crispy warm and dry for your second days riding. They also have bathrooms and showers so you can exit feeling slightly more human after your workout in the “arena”.
After a briefing with Mat and Keith, where they queried us about our riding experience and gave us an idea of the activities and terrain that lay ahead, we watched a quick introductory video. It was then time to suit up and head through a hall lined with scramblers out to the car park and our waiting steeds. The Triumph Tiger XCa 1200, 800, and the 900cc Bonneville Street Scrambler are all on offer as part of the experience. As I’d spent most of the previous week with the 800 between my legs, I thought best to stick with the devil I knew and we set off on the short journey to the Arena.
Offroad-Pro – How I sign off in my email signature now after surviving the two days with Triumph, and also one of the five rider modes on the Tiger XCa. Before venturing down into the “multi terrain arena” Matt and Keith explained the difference between the two off-road rider modes on the bikes, off-road & off-road pro.
The former allowing some rear wheel spin before traction limits throttle, the latter disabling traction control and abs. I made the mistake late in the day of setting off up a steep, muddy incline in Offroad mode only to have the TC step in to limit the power, this resulted in me eventually stalling out with no drive, and having a little lie-down. Offroad-Pro mode is definitely the go in wet and slippery off-road conditions if you need to try and get up hills, with that selected it was time for another go, and this time around I managed to complete the vertical instead of ending up horizontal.
After a bit of a history lesson on the semi-defunct coal mine the “arena” is set in, we set off and Matt and Keith lead us though some simple obstacles designed to highlight our weaknesses before settling back and assessing our skill level and giving us some pointers on getting more comfortable handling the bikes. I was fortunate that the little dirtbike experience I mentioned having earlier has mainly all been in the last 12 months so miraculously, the big Tiger didn’t feel as alien slipping and sliding underneath me as I expected. The road/trail tyres added to the amusement also as the front end troweled straight ahead through the mud while the rear just went all over the place.
Check out the video below that is taken onboard with Trev as he rode the larger 1200 XCa behind me through most sections.
Video – Triumph Adventure Experience
Somehow I managed to bluff the boys as to my ability and through the course of the first day they took us through some of the more difficult terrain providing plenty of giggles. One of the funnier moments was watching Keith flying past us on a sodden grass incline completely sideways (see video above), but somehow managing to keep the big 1200XCa upright and not take Trev out in the process. There’s certainly no shortage of varied and testing terrain in the arena.
Beyond the Arena, tight winding b-roads and the spectacular countryside of Wales also beckons around the Brecons. One of the beauties of the Triumph Adventure Experience is its flexibility. There’s no fixed schedule here, it can be adapted to suit the group in question. And if there are widely varying skill levels in the group, riders can be split into two groups that then take on different challenges.
As we became a little tired and sloppy, the boys took us off the dirt and on to the tarmac to show us some of the back roads that only the locals know about. Winding though tight little slippery roads between farms and forests, and eventually stopping to drip dry and fill our bellies. The little pub the boys took us to for lunch served up some of the best lamb I’ve ever eaten.
Our on-road adventures continued as the instructors showed us more of the Brecons, taking us through the national park via sections of the famous Welsh TT circuit that is in the process of being revived and put on the real road racing calendar.
Unfortunately thick fog made the ride a little treacherous, visbility was reduced and thus we weren’t able to really relax and enjoy the scenery this area is known for. The instructors promised that on clear days you can see all the way to the coast and the Irish Sea, I don’t doubt them.
Diverting away from the hills and heading south, we passed Caerphilly Castle, a sprawling 13th century stone fortress surrounded by moats and magnificent gardens.
After we wrapped up on the second day and expressed our thanks to the guides Matt and Keith, we hit the road for a good few hours ride up to the port of Holyhead to catch the Ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin.
On the ride my mind was still buzzing with excitement, the smart people at Triumph have done something very clever here. The whole enchilada.
Triumph have packaged, pitched and executed the adventure experience perfectly, and it got me thinking. With the change in the global financial landscape, and the rise of millennials shucking the traditional values of building wealth and owning possessions in favour of sharing and capturing memories, maybe Triumph are trying to entice a new generation of customers by manufacturing not just a product, but an experience?
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Especially if you are considering buying a Triumph Explorer, as this would be the best demonstration ride you could ever hope for. Considering the bike, all your gear, and any potential damage is all included in the cover price I would say its an absolute bargain.
Heading across to undertake it with a few mates would be a great craic, or leave the rest of your family to explore Wales while you are out riding. What ever excuse you need to come up with to get out and get amongst it, find one…
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