This story is part of an ongoing blog about the realities of getting into dirt bikes: the good, the bad and the ugly. Brutal honesty only and there might be a naughty word or two.
“It’s loose, really loose, with lots of rocks about this big.” The British journalist holds up his hands, cupping the air about the size of a baseball. “There was one section for about 30 minutes where you’re just sort of holding on and trying not to crash. Some sand, but you never know when you’ll hit it, you’re sort of just riding along then — whoops! Then there’s one steep, rocky, technical climb.” He takes a deep breath, blows it out. “You’ll have fun.”
I went to bed that night, in our hotel outside the coastal city of Essaouira, Morocco, more than a little nervous. The torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder was already aching from the long road ride that day, not a good sign for tomorrow’s off-road adventures. And after years spent away from off-road ADV riding I felt rusty and unsure of myself.
The Triumph guys separated us into advanced, intermediate and beginner groups, but as it turned out we all rode the same route. We started on the beach, which turned out to be the highlight of the day for me. I’ve seen plenty of hero photos and videos showing riders spraying rooster tails of sand as they drifted across the flat, firm sand, but have never had the chance to do it myself.
After picking our way across the deep, loose sand and onto the hard pack, the four of us in my group accelerated along the surf, carving long, curving arcs and looking at each other, laughing and reveling in sheer joy. Inexplicably, Triumph hadn’t set up photos there, so my only mementos of the experience are a couple of static shots I took and warm memories that will light up my soul for the rest of my days.
I decided almost immediately that the Tiger 900 Rally Pro was good — really good. It’s fairly lightweight, very well-balanced, with a nice throttle response and absolutely amazing suspension. I’ve dreamed about riding it in the weeks since my return. No joke.
So I know I can at least partially credit the bike for what was a fantastic, fun day of riding. But I also know my preparation paid off in spades.
The route, as promised, was loose and sandy, and we spent nearly the entire time standing (my quads were burning at times). There were water crossings, a couple of technical sections and even a camel in the trail at one point. I felt comfortable, balanced and in control at all times.
While my dirt bike rides surely helped, I think the real secret to my comfort level on those trails, on that bike, was my mountain bike.
I’m out on my Giant e-mountain bike every weekend, and when I can play hooky during the week I can. My MTB skills have definitely improved, but I can feel it translating directly into my motorcycle skills as well, specifically balance, line choice, comfort ascending and descending and letting the bike move under me. This is the most dedicated I’ve ever been to MTB riding, and the dividends it’s paying in terms of my health, riding skills and general enjoyment are proving to be invaluable.
Triumph says Tiger 900 test bikes will be available later this spring, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on another Rally Pro so I can take it somewhere adventurous. But until then, I’ll keep hitting the trails on my Kawasaki dirt bike when I can, and my Giant e-MTB in between. This off-road thing is just as fun as I remember.