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Fun in the Forest with Moto Scotland

So, I am following Instructor Andy down a steep rocky track in mountainous terrain, the bike held in 1st gear to control the descent speed and notice a sharp turn right at the bottom on to a grassy trail so just dab the front brake to knock a bit more speed off  —-EH, ERE,  WHAT !   let’s rewind a few days.

Chairman Ken and myself are on our way to Inveraray to meet the team at Moto Scotland to sample their offroad training school.  Since I am an offroad newby, but as a ex road bike trainer, have the appropriate lack of skill to ride off road, but can also judge if this skill is transferable to road bikes.  Maybe you  Tiger riders out there have also wondered about this.

Moto Scotland are based in the private estate of the Duke of Argyle and the initial approach is down a gravel and rocky track and I am riding a 300 kg tour bike, my Trophy 1215. Carefully we go then. I meet Clive and Donna who own and run the school and with their relaxed and  friendly manner easily convince you that this is going to be a good day.  There are five of us today, roughly of equal ability, one a returning student who convinced his two brothers to come along as well. The banter starts up as you might expect.

A bit of paperwork and we sort the pre-arranged kit and make sure everything fits as it should. I have been around some training schools who skimp on decent kit but this is good stuff: Wolfsport armour and proper scram boots and once on it is comfortable.  Next, trainer Andy introduces the bikes and riding positions and explains how to steer with the feet.  Slightly sceptical I am, but we are here to try.

Instruction on the correct standing position

Here you can see a bike held in a wheel clamp to try the riding position

Next we are off up an easy trail to the training area, to learn a few basics

Instruction on how to pick up a bike safely 2

This is Clive demonstrating some techniques on how not to hurt yourself if  this should happen

It’s all about slow control so lets try some and gradually improve

Learn the theory of how to steer your bike with your legs and then put it into practice

Shifting body weight and yes, steering with the feet, so it does work

Instructor Andy now sets up a riding course a bit like an offroad CBT and we have fun having a play and gradually gain confidence and become more and more stable.  Now Andy moves on to braking.   I was really impressed to see this as part of the training.  First, we gain speed and deliberately lock the back wheel up just to find out what it feels like.  Did you do this on your pedal cycle before you were old enough to ride, and see who could gain the longest skid? it was just like that. I knew this would be fun.  A bit more difficult is the front brake, but needs to be done as the back one is not always effective.  So, we practise and practise and learn to lock the front wheel and immediately release.  Just think about that and the steep descent I started with where the back brake would simply lock and slide.

Now we are all a bit more capable and Andy takes us off to some trails to start to put our training into practise.  After a lunch break we head off again up the hills to the trails.  Starting with a fairly firm surface Andy demonstrates weaving and steering with the feet and we get a feel for that which is then put into use actually most of the time.  We try rock and gravel trails, some woodland and grass trails then Andy stops to explain the next trail.  We look down the side of the hill to see a two foot wide track that runs down off the edge.  During our time so far, Andy has been carefully assessing our ability so that he can keep everything the right side of our capability.  “You can do this” he says, “just keep the bike at 90 degrees before you go off the side”.  I should also mention that Andy is a world class trials  competitor, his next one the famous Scottish International 6 day event.  Ok then, we have faith in the lad and over we go.  Once the front wheel is over, you are  committed  and look where you want to go.  Heart goes back to where it should be and hey, it works. You will never be forced into anything that you are not willing to do, Andy always asked first if we wished to attempt his “technical ” bits.  Back at base at the end of the first day we talked and considered and laughed and laughed and laughed.  Great day.

Second day, I am introduced to my riding buddy for the day, again similar level and again with Andy.  We start in a similar fashion just building up the capability now and soon head off up the Glen.  A variety of trails slightly more technical and we also try a different way to get on and off a very tall trail bike, a bit like the great Dakar riders, that is left foot on the peg, balance and pull away and then cock the other leg over when under way.  After practice it is easier to get off that way.  Another useful technique was how to turn around on a narrow trail, or road for that matter.  The hill recovery was also enlightening and I learned something there that I had never even considered.  Now we are off to a lake fed by a brook and guess what, we ride down into the brook, along the pretty brook and out the other side.  As before, we stop and look at the section and walk it first. we both agree to have a go. We also have a go at some ascents and descents and I almost lose it coming over the top with too much gas.  Andy takes us back to base now.

We are presented with certificates for completing the two day course and also details of insurance companies that recognise the level of training and offer discounts, because improved control has a positive impact on road safety.  This two day course is designed around road riders to enable them to experience how a bike can move around on loose surfaces but still easily remain upright with the small amount of rider input and not the overreaction that some might be tempted to do.  On the way out back on the mighty Trophy on to the gravel road, ok ,stand up on the pegs and the trophy bars are well placed –  and no drama – a testament to the training I think. Says it all really. Yes the skills really are transferable, which is what it is all about. Thank you Andy, Clive and Donna.

When I trained riders for tests, upon completion my final  comments were something like – please continue with your training, don’t spend silly money on your bike, spend some on yourself in training, you get far more pleasure from your machine, whatever it is.  The IAM and RoSPA recognise that off road riding can take your ability up a notch, but are limited on road.  Here is an organisation that can do that for you and at the same time you can ride in such places as this with an ACU qualified coach.

Transferable skills

I will be going back, maybe on a Tiger, we shall see.

All details at

Just do it.


Ride to Fitzpatrick’s cafe Bethesda


On a warm sunny day five of us made the ride. As it clashed with the meeting at the Raven, I expect some members went there in preference. In the window is a Triton and inside, two concours machines are behind glass cases, a T120 and a T90.  Various memorabilia adorn the walls and a pleasant sitting area is outside as well. On the way, in the Snowdonia area is a section of resurfaced  road with a temporary 40 mph restriction. At a steady speed almost upright the traction cut in on the Trophy, first time ever. Bit odd I thought until later discovering we had all had an issue with the surface.  So new tarmac really can be very, very slippy. There was a fair bit of traffic about on the A5 and A55, but we had a pleasant day

T.O.M.C.C. B &W pay tribute to the White Helmets

We were kindly invited to the White Helmets training camp before their show season starts and watch their final preparations.  During their rest period, we had a play with some of their toys.


Ken with a Tiger 750


Let’s have a go at this pyramid thing, Dave is first one on Andy’s Tiger


Oh err, starting to get a bit more difficult.


Trust me, It is harder than it looks, and these bikes are not moving.


On a previous visit by Ken and Jan, the R.A.F. came to play and bought their own little toy.


Very special thanks to club member Flt. Lt. Mark, chinook pilot, seen here with ken.

Boys of the White Helmets and armed forces, you have our enduring thanks for this wonderful day.

An easier 2017 Dragon Rally, for us at least

The tradition of the Dragon Rally, held in February in Snowdonia, requires it to be cold and miserable, preferably snowing. Why do we go, pay too much and then moan about it?  This year the site was a mud bath to enter or leave the field and not for my Trophy, oh no.  This year, we left bikes on the road, walked in, had a nose around, then left to go to the pre-booked cottage with log fire and central heating.  Try both ways and see which you prefer.  Second method means you can take your own food to cook and beer to drink without having a cold nose. I still admire the individuals on oddball machines, nice to look at, and then go and sit somewhere warm.


Looks a bit warmer than a tent, doesn’t it?

DSCN0030Keith, supplier of the beer tap sits between Ken and Mal, who went to the Elephant rally this year in the Bavarian mountains, in the snow. Notice the rather special hats, also arranged by Keith.

DSCN0098 DSCN0063

I’ii have a pint of that, says Jason, ex White Helmet of backwards riding fame, cheers Keith


This tent looks alright, Mal deciding where to be comfortable.



Nice view outside as well.      Wonder what we will do next year? and a thanks to Jan and Julie for the home cooked food.

Wiststanstow Classic Show

We started from Bridgnorth on a dry and cold day and made our way to Wistsanstow via the Ludlow road.  As usual there was more to see on the hall car park than inside the hall.  After a stroll around we left to find suitable refreshments and finished a pleasant day with a short tour around.

Feathers 014

Here we are at Wistanstow on a village pub car park.

Feathers 015

This Triton was seen at Wistanstow.  Is this the one you want to take home? For me oh yes.

2016 Dragon Rally


We met up as usual at Llangollen as seen here and prepared to move off after a bite to eat.

The check in point was on the A5 at Capel Curig at the well known cafe and outdoor centre. Tickets on the day were available at £30.  Prepaid £25.  We were directed to the campsite at Llyn Gwynant where we have stayed before. The site was ok for tents being soft and more importantly fairly dry, but there was a strong cold wind which did stay for the weekend.

007Dave and Ken having just checked in and looking like happy bunnies because it’s not raining

So up went tents with Keith the Landmark man lending a welcome hand in the wind, and then Rally badge collection where hot soup was available.

012This was the bike park on hard standing, parking on the grass was frowned upon.

The entertainment area and bar area was too small for comfort so for us the evening entertainment was tall stories around a campfire.  It would have been good fun if it wasn’t for the cold wind making us burn on the front and freeze on the back. Everyone asked at some point the same thing – why do we stand around in a field, in February, in Snowdonia, and pay a lot of money for this dubious privilege. No-one came up with a satisfactory answer.  It is a deeply etched tradition for some and always will be.  There is no logical answer.  However, nowhere will you see a greater variety of machines and also marvel at the ingenuity of some individuals.

Visiting Snowdonia is always a great pleasure and to ride through this country is even better and so we had great ride back and still no sign of rain.  Cannot be bad.

A Personal History of Hinckley Bikes – Sidecar Steve


This is my current Hinckley – a Street Triple R, but going back a few years –

Around 1990 when Hinckley was just starting up I was riding Harley Sportsters because that was the nearest thing  to Brit bikes at the time (without the tassels )  The first Hinckleys were big machines, heavy and expensive and did not become a serious consideration for me until the first 900 Thunderbird made an appearance.  I have a vivid memory of Kevin Ash riding one of these for MCN and describing it as Triumph’s brilliant Thunderbird.  So the Sportster was traded.  A visually stunning bike it attracted attention everywhere it went.  Lovely to ride but not without a few problems,  these being inlet rubbers and the rattling alternator shaft fixed under warranty.  20,000 miles later and after a few tours the new Trophy Mk2, a dedicated touring bike with great reviews was next.  Even now I think these are great bikes.  My wife and I had some great holidays on this bike and saw much of Europe and almost all of Scotland and Ireland.  At the time, these machines were were serviced every 3000 miles and after 50.000 miles of touring it was still as good as new.  The only engine problem was spitting a plug out which was fixed under warranty.

The new 790 Bonnie appeared and the attraction now, of a bit less plastic was there.  The Bonnie was selling out and part ex. value on the Trophy was poor, but another Thunderbird got a much better deal.  This Bird rode brilliantly, for a short time, then it started running on two cylinders, popping and banging.  Back it went, but no real problem was found.  Back it came and the problem reoccurred.  Back it went to be fiddled  with and back it came with unreliable running.  Back it went and a new CPU unit was put in.  Fetched it back and it broke down on the way home. back it went in the van for another CPU unit.  Back it came but still it was not totally right.  Enough of that.

The new TT600 was having a bad press, mainly because it was a track bike on the road not because it was a bad bike. It was reprogrammed and with new cams for softer running and very heavily discounted, it was worth a look.  I had never had a sports bike, so for not too much dosh, I had one.  The only problem it had was a burned out alternator lead, replaced under warranty.  I loved this bike, reliable and comfortable.  The Thunderbird I sold for cash, glad to see the back of it., and a friend of mine bought the the TT, a few years later, and I bought a used 955 Sprint ST.

The 955 Sprint had a known history and was 100% reliable. A very useable bike with an an excellent range and decent sized panniers.  Around this time I became fascinated with outfits, and I knew that  Hinckley triples had more than enough grunt to pull a chair, so I started making enquiries.  To properly convert the Sprint, the cost was prohibitive, so it was a matter of finding one.  Eventually I did, a Thunderbird Sport with Watsonian GP. so the 955 went to finance that.  Outfits can be tremendous fun if properly engineered.  They are nothing like  a bike and nothing like a car.  The best tour we did with this was the antrim coast of Northern Ireland right around to Londonderry.  it was also good for one or two Dragon Rallies.  I kept the outfit for about six years, always with a solo as well.

I have always wanted a Triton bit never managed to own one, however the factory were now producing something in that realm, the Thruxton.  Irresistable.  Brilliant.  Great motor. Clip ons, arm pump, but it has to be clip ons.  Put up with it.  That’s what I thought anyway.  I did manage a tour of Scotland and had enormous fun, best fun on any bike so far and never a problem.  But now the 675 Daytona popped up.  Why not a modern day sports bike. ? The bike press were raving about it, so I had to have a test ride.  It was the sound of the underseat exhaust that sold it.  How could a standard road bike sound like this?  Quite simply, the faster it went the better it was, but keep an eye out for license loosing territory.  I used this bike for many things including commuting and eventually the neck pain in the daily traffic won out and I spotted a heavily discounted brand new 1050 Sprint.

Oh dear, for me this was simply wrong.  I thought it would be like the 955 or an improvement, but for me it just didn’t work. It was an ABS bike with non ABS clocks in it so has to go back.  There was nothing wrong with it, it was reliable but for me just a bit awkward.  Lesson learned – always test ride before  you buy.  For most people it was probably a fine bike.  Another lesson I learned was about the silly costs of repairing fared bikes.  One day while cleaning the back wheel and putting it on the centre stand, it bounced off the stand and fell over.  Cost of repair, £1300.  What? WHAT? For falling over?

Following the 1050 Sprint was a 790 T100 Bonnie.  Totally reliable, but not much puff in standard trim.  A jet and air filter change  with free flowing pipes makes the difference, a must with these older generation 790 Bonnies.  This was later traded for a 1050 Tiger which was lowered about one inch.  A beautiful looking bike  in my opinion.    Gleaming black and absolutely stunning.  It must have been at about 15000 miles that the motor became noisy.  They rattle anyway, but this was more than that.  A cam chain tensioner was replaced under warranty but the rattle was still there.  While at the dealers I loaned an 865 T100 which I loved, so decided to go back to a Bonnie, this time an SE with ally wheels.  An all day useable (as long as you put a touring seat on) bike, good for anything.  The bare aluminium needed care though but always looked good when polished.

One day at a dealer visit, I looked at one of the new 1600 Thunderbirds, looked at the price tag and asked why the discount?.  We just want to move it, they said.  OK, move it to my garage then.  I had read about these in some detail and previously had test ridden one.  Without doubt, these machines had the finest build quality I have seen.  Thick paint and chrome.  Brill to ride, a pain to keep clean.  for me that was a problem I did not really want as I am not a fan of polishing.  These bikes are good in storms though as they are so heavy they do no budge in side winds.  Anyway with the low price I paid it could trade it for very little loss .  I considered long and hard about the blacked out storm 1700 version, but non of these were discounted anywhere so it would involve a big chunk of money.  For anyone considering a bike this heavy I would say – get an ABS version.

I ended up with the best all round bike in the world, bar none.  The Tiger 800.  It even doesn’t look too bad when it’s mucky, After saying that it’s not exactly pretty when it’s clean, but none of these adventure things are anyway.  It does everything at a level of competency. I would give it a minimum of 8/10 for whatever you can think off.  Might go back to a Tiger, they really are that good .

As I said at the start I currently have a bonkers mad Street Triple R.  It had to go back for a replacement fork leg, and I complained about overly stiff steering, but was told that is how they are, they are all like that.  3000 miles on, the steering has loosened a bit and after setting the suspension at factory comfort level, it is brilliant suspension on the road probably the best I have had.  If you decide on one of these, trust me on this, you want a quickshifter.  Yes you do – don’t argue.  I must try the Daytona version.

So where now?  probably not down the retro route as I have a Meriden, and that Streety is one difficult bike to follow it is sowwww good.    I might just keep it

These comments are purely my own and not that of the club.

Sidecar Steve




NEC Classic Bikes


Perhaps at the extreme end of bike building but an interesting chop built by Qwen Fletcher.


A view of the Triumphs, in the foreground an example of the other end of classic biking with a well travelled Tiger (I think) equiped for long hauls.  The Triumph stand was once again organised by Allen Broad and the result of a joint effort by ourselves and our freinds from Meriden branch

Mike Estall visits Birmingham & Wolves

IMG_3051 (1)

Mike, on the left, signs a copy of his Triumph Tiger Cub Bible for Mark who restored a cub some years ago.  Mike, who is generally regarded as THE authority on cubs very kindly gave the club a very professional talk and presented about 200 photos, some never seen before.  Mike put this presentation together for our club after meeting Alan at the Stafford show.  We owe Mike a big thank you for doing this for us.