On Any Sunday, well, last Sunday – as it happens – The Bike Shed and Off The Kerb hosted around 40 riders; Bike Shed crew, BSMC members and Bike Shed regulars on a proper Sunday Scramble, you know, that old-school dirt-bike thing we all did as kids on our DT175s, PE250s, TS125Xs and other trail bikes that looked a bit like their motocross counterpart – if you squinted a lot.
The idea behind the Bike Shed Scramble was to take old and new “scramblers” onto the dirt, for some fun in the sand, mud and gravel, complete with a river crossing or two, some modest descents, manageable declines and stuff that makes everyone feel heroic without smashing limbs, shins, or bike parts.
Technically it was a trail ride, and we were expertly guided by Off The Kerb; a crew of riders who usually take wannabe Enduro heroes into the woods one of their Fantic 250/125s, but what made this different was that we wanted dirt bikes with a road-bias and a retro feel, from old school 650 Dominators, Trailies and Twin-shock Beemers to more modern Street Scramblers and Desert Sleds from the likes of Triumph, Ducati, BMW, Bullit, Mutt, Herald and Husqvarna, etc. …Sorry to all those on big new adventure-prepped GS1200As, KTM Enduro weapons and lithe CR450s.
We wanted bikes with high(ish) mudguards and road-legal knobblies, and the word “Scrambler” either scrawled on the sidepanel, or implied by the bike’s silhouette. There were also a few superb customs, and conversions, from Ashley Watson’s long-serving W650 to Luke Mullender’s 1969 BSA Victor Special, and of course Vikki rode her Little Big Noise Honda NX650, while I took at my chunky-tyred Triumph Street Scrambler. Chef Pete was brave enough to take on the Yamaha XV950SCR.
The day was about learning how to enjoy our bikes on accessible trails, with a great bunch of people, great organisation and good food & drink. But most of all it was about having fun. Egos were to be left in the car park at Rykas as we headed out with the Off The Kerb’s instructors and guides in 3 groups, divided-up roughly by experience, confidence and bike type.
The trails ran across public highways and byways in Surrey, and were all suitable for pretty much everyone on each bike. There was one slightly challenging stony section at the start, with big lumpy flints, which did claim at least one small tumble, (which we might skip next time), but with a little practice, confidence and some gung-ho we all managed the sand, mud and water, and genuinely surprised our instructors with how well we could all go on road-bikes in dirtbike-guise, and mostly piloted by London riders.
I’ve done a fair bit of riding in the mud and dirt, especially as a teenager, and I’ve done a few laps at Dirtquake and ridden around Golding Barn on a WR450 or two, so I wasn’t quite a beginner, but it’s been a long while, so I was pretty uncertain how I’d get on riding the Surrey hills several decades later on a big heavy 900cc Triumph Bonneville Street Scrambler. The rear Fox shocks suggested some degree of sophistication and I’d already fitted some TKC80s onto the Triumph’s skinny rims, but I’ve been spoiled by lightweight, full-on motocross bikes in my recent muddy past. I really had no idea if I’d even get the bike up a rutted path, never mind through a slippery stream.
The bike was a very pleasant surprise, and coped very well with the slippery and uneven terrain. It certainly inspired as much confidence as my time on the Desert Sled in Spain, and the extra weight was compensated by the acres of torque in all gears. If I was to criticise, my aftermarket pipe was poorly positioned for standing up, kinking out exactly where my lower leg needed to be fully extended, but after I rotated the bars forward a few cm this was almost completely cured. If you own one of these bikes, spend 3 mins with an allen key and you’ll have a much better day out in the dirt. I would also consider an aftermarket front fork insert, to give some more progressive suspension and take the jarring bumps out of my clumsy landings, but to be fair, I only bottomed out a few times, and I was trying to get both wheels off the ground – which is pretty silly on a bike like this.
Photography by Dan Jones.