If you want to dismantle your ego, embrace a sense of smallness in this vast and fascinating world, abandon creature comforts, and feel much like a stranger in your own backyard- go take an adventure on a scrambler. Sounds strange and uncomfortable? Allow me to elaborate.
As the miles on your bike’s odometer begin to ramp up over the years, you start to fancy yourself as an experienced rider. When you choose a single discipline like dirt bike riding or taking road trips on street bike, you instinctively know what to expect, how to handle a bike for the particular application, how to navigate, how to dress, what to bring, where to go, whom to go with. Plans become overly articulated. Local roads, tracks and trails seem smaller and smaller. On a street bike, the adventure stops where the tarmac ends. Dirt bikes are equally limiting due to displacement or street legality. When you make the leap to riding a 500 pound street bike off-road, all of that goes out the window. Adventuring on a scrambler will scare the living hell out of you, and change your life for the better forever. At least, that is what happened to me.
I’ve been riding a 2008 Triumph Scrambler for about six years, but didn’t start riding it off road until three years ago. Even with a solid MX racing background, wading into sand or loose dirt on this top-heavy cumbersome beast sent chills down my spine. Trust me, I ate it. A lot. I broke parts. I broke my body. I broke my confidence. But I didn’t give up. It wasn’t long before I realized that no road or trail was off limits. No matter how slow I got there, I began to see things and places I’d never seen before as my Californian backyard expanded exponentially to reveal mind boggling extra-terrestrial landscapes. My eyes opened wider as I began to talk less about where I was headed, and simply took the action to explore more. The great outdoors once again presented a brand new fascination. It began to feel as if I were exploring other planets and uncharted territory as I discovered the veritable cornucopia of stunning terrain within a 500 mile radius of Los Angeles County. Weekend Warrior was never a more literal term.
My latest trip took place over the course of no more than 15 hours. Two wonderful riders and friends, John Ryan Hebert and Phil Read Jr., joined me as we set out on our version of Sunday Funday from Angeles Crest 175 miles north to Trona Pinnacles in the no-man’s land between the Sequoias and Death Valley. We may as well have been on a mission to Mars. Over 500 calcium carbonate tufa spires loomed in the distance as we mowed down a rutted dirt road through the Searles Dry Lake Bed. With three very capable scramblers in tow, we spent the day exploring this strange place. A nearby OHV area was too good to resist, and we were like kids in a candy store. As previously mentioned, these endeavors come with their fair share of bumps and bruises. I can’t deny that I may have tried to pick up a bright shiny penny off the ground with my face that lovely day. With each passing minute the light danced off of the rock formations, which seemed even more other-worldly than the moment before. Magic is real and it exists in spades during twilight in places like this. A spirited ride through the black expanse of the desert back to civilization had us home in our own beds before returning to the Monday morning grind.
Nevertheless, there are practical elements of these types of activities that should be discussed. Unpredictable terrain becomes inherent. Crashes require roadside fixes or first aid, and sticky situations in far off areas present serious consequences. Honing in on proper riding gear, the right riding partners (or GPS beacon like SPOT if you ride alone), survival supplies, spare parts and mapping skills are essential. The gravity of a crash 50 miles into a remote area without cell service is certainly worthwhile to note. Preparedness is worth its weight in gold, so do your homework.
In the last six weeks, I’ve put about 5000 miles on a 2019 Triumph Street Scrambler and feel as if I haven’t even scratched the surface. There is an urgency, an excitement- perhaps you can call it geographical FOMO. Each week, I long for the solitude of turning off of the beaten path onto a lonely dirt road. I insatiably crave the view of the horizon line from an elevation earned over miles of switchback trails, and the satisfaction of recounting a day of narrow near misses around a campfire. Scrambling is a drug. A habit I don’t intend to kick anytime soon.