Day two. After a terrible night’s sleep (on which I blame the off-strip hotel bed and the growing excitement for the coming day’s adventures), I woke up bright and early, ready to undertake my first ever motorcycle road trip.
I managed to stuff everything I bought (thanks RevZilla!) and brought into the excellent Triumph-branded Givi Outback Expedition panniers and lock everything to my bike. The only sketchy thing was the pair of brand new, unmounted Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2 tires that Spurg was kind enough to include with the bike. I had them cinched down to the top box pretty well, but the bike was already around twice as heavy as anything I’d ridden.
Luckily a solution presented itself in the fine gentlemen from the MotoLA subreddit who were going to join us for breakfast. They were smart and had brought a full-size truck to transport them, their bikes and their gear all the way back to Los Angeles and kindly agreed to schlep my tires all the way back for me.
With everyone all packed and mostly ready to go, we found our way to the Peppermill, a Las Vegas breakfast landmark and proceeded to have a breakfast beer before looking over the establishment’s bill of fare. If you’ve never been, I recommend it. The food is adequate, but the interior is like having a fever dream in a mirrored room full of Nagel prints.
We get back to the hotel, Abhi and Nathan finish packing and we get ready to hit the road. Abhi asks if I’m comfortable maybe trying a little bit of dirt riding because they need to grab a few more shots before heading back to California. I, only slightly mortified, say sure and we wind our way through the desert to the Kelso Dunes.
Keep in mind, this is my first day on a new bike, loaded down with bags, etc. Even with the relatively fresh TKC80s that the bike was shod in, it was not the ideal way to experience off-pavement riding for the first time. Still, I encouraged Nathan and Abhi to go on ahead, and I went down this sandy, dirt road at my own pace. I only managed to drop the bike once on the way in, in a few inches of sand, right in front of my compatriots and a family with children.
They were kind enough to help me sling up the Tiger, and Abhi rode it out of the sand for me (I’m new, give me a break) and we made our way back towards the highway. For some reason, maybe because it was dark, the ride back down the dirt road was more difficult than the ride in, and I nearly wiped out but after loudly shouting, “NO!” in my helmet and opening the throttle further, I managed to stay on my bucking, fishtailing ADV bike and once the road smoothed out. Back on pavement, I was able to allow blood to flow back into my fingers once again.
We went straight from the dunes to Interstate 40, winding the throttle open, turning up the heated grips and settling in for a long, cold ride. Poor Abhi was wearing a motocross jersey, and I wasn’t totally convinced that he wouldn’t freeze to death on the way back.
After a couple of hours, we stopped for fuel in the middle of nowhere. My mirror had come loose, and there was no appropriate tool in Triumph’s shitty toolkit so I went into the convenience store and bought a little toolkit (which turned out to be awesome and now forms the basis for my much-expanded kit). By the time I came back out, Nathan and our bikes are surrounded by a large group of people.
A middle-aged Asian man was very excited about the bikes and was having his joy translated by a small woman in her early 20s, possibly his daughter. Nathan was beaming with pride and was doing his best to relay stories of adventure to the man. Eventually, the rest of the family sidled up, and everyone got in on the fun. Motorcycles do attract the nicest people.
After our brush with minor gas station celebrity, we manage to air our tires back up to appropriate freeway levels and decide that cannonballing back to Los Angeles would be preferable to stopping for food on the way. We roll out onto the highway with the temperature dropping further and headed west.
It was at this point that I tried out the cruise control that comes standard on the 2015 Tiger 800 XCx and let me tell you, my dudes, it was glorious. I was able to relax both my hands with my grips turned up to maximum and tuck down behind my windscreen, chewing up the miles.
The rest of the ride went on fairly uneventfully, which is a good thing. I was still at the stage where riding on the freeway freaked me out a little, and I didn’t need any further de-incentivization. Nathan peeled off ahead of us, determined to make it home by 10. Abhi stuck with me until I had to peel off the 10 freeway and head home.
Rolling up to my building, exhausted, cold and filthy felt so good and I really felt like I’d accomplished something. I had no idea the kind of toll a ride like that would take on me but I was so proud of myself when I finished it. I lugged myself and my bags upstairs and collapsed on the floor of my apartment, ready for the next day’s soreness.
So, after all of that, was I glad I got the Tiger? Absolutely. For a rider with my experience level, who is my size, I think it was the perfect choice though the modified suspension that Spurgeon fitted likely went a long way towards me forming that opinion. If you’re out to do hardcore off-road ADV riding, crushing continents, etc. then maybe the Tiger isn’t the best choice, but for someone who rides every day in a city, and dreams of taking long on-road trips in the future, it’s amazing.
Since my ride back from Vegas, I’ve fitted the Pirelli Scorpion Trail 2 tires (which are awesome, and make riding in the city so much more pleasant even if they are way less cool looking than the TKC80s) and done some maintenance on the chain, the air filters, and fixed a few broken things like the front turn signal and the kickstand return spring.
Next up I’ll fix the broken windshield front mounts, have the steering head bearings adjusted and refit the stock front sprocket to gear the bike back up to hopefully increase my range. The rest is just focusing on riding and getting better both in traffic and in the twisties. The Tiger is a surprisingly gnarly bike in the canyons, and much more capable than I am as a rider.
I’ll plan on updating this series in a few months when I’ve lived with the bike longer, and I have a few other things in the works for Bike-urious, so keep your eyes peeled. Lastly, if you want to check out the writing I do for a living, head over to Roadshow by CNET and say hi in the comments.