First things first: these are not adventure bikes. The Triumph Tigers might have fallen into that category at one time, but now the term fails to describe what they really are and where they really go. These are rally bikes, built specifically for the NORRA Mexican 1000 by Chicago Motoworks, Icon Motorsports and Mark Vanscourt. A store-bought adventure bike is only capable of so much. It has a mission that requires it to be rideable off-road, but pavement is still its native environment. If one goes into the dirt two or three times a year, that would be more than average. These bikes were designed to be creatures of the dirt, as capable of off-road racing as a 450-pound, twin-cylinder motorcycle can possibly be.



If you don’t know what a rally is, that’s okay. The term has been abused and misused so much that the meaning is blurry. The format currently used by NORRA is a five-day event that has a different course each day, where the segments are added up to come up with the overall winner. The event begins in Ensenada and ends in Cabo San Lucas, just as it did back in 1967 when the first Mexican 1000 was run. For the record, NORRA is the organization that ran the first Baja 1000 47 years ago. The National Off-Road Racing Association preceded SCORE as the premier racing organization in the Baja peninsula and ran the original 1000 until 1972 when SCORE took over. NORRA reemerged in 2010 with a three-day event designed primarily for vintage cars. Now it’s open to modern, focused machinery like the Raiden Tigers.

The main reason they were built was to provide Icon Motorsports with a hard-core way to test its new Raiden line of adventure bike gear. Each bike had two Icon-clad riders. Mark Vanscourt, who was the foreman for the whole project, teamed up with Johnny Scheff on the white Triumph. Joe Bolton and freestyle/stunt rider Ernie Vigil rode the yellow one. If you don’t know who Ernie Vigil is, Google him. Among other things, there’s a video of him riding a Triumph Scrambler that’s just amazing.

Mark started on the project months ago, so he had time to test the stock Triumph and come up with a game plan. The truth is that a standard-issue Triumph could conceivably finish the course. But, it would be brutal. Most of the effort went into making the bike more comfortable in rough terrain. Job one was Ohlins suspension. The shock was a bolt-on replacement, but the fork required a kit. The stock fork was gutted and an Ohlins cartridge was installed. Soupy’s Performance makes suspension linkage that allows you to adjust the seat height of the bike, which was handy considering the fact that Mark and Ernie are about a half-foot different in height. The yellow bike was almost an inch shorter than the white one. A GPR steering stabilizer was used with Flexx bars to cancel out any impacts that made it past the suspension. For the seat, Seat Concepts came up with something that allowed more mobility than the stocker without sacrificing any comfort. The wheels were rebuilt by Woody’s Superlace with mousse inserts.

Motor work was limited to an Arrow pipe and EFI remapping. When you have motorcycles this fast, making them more powerful isn’t the point. Road-book navigation was used on both Triumphs, which meant they had large, electrically advancing roll charts instead of a GPS. The bike also had a Safari main fuel tank and a Rally Raid auxiliary tank, bringing the total fuel capacity to 10 gallons. That’s far more than they would actually need.


TIP TRIP               

This year, the NORRA course was essentially the same as the long version of the SCORE Baja 1000 course. That means that Mark, Ernie and company were riding the same sections as the 450s that dominate that race. Even NORRA doesn’t have enough big twins to separate them into a class, so there were no illusions that the Triumphs could actually win. At this point, a good solid finish was a noble goal. And, who knows? If there were enough fast sections, the big bikes might win a stage or two.

As it turned out, the bikes routinely topped out around 130 mph in the dirt. At that kind of speed, a bike creates its own weather. Wind is the number one enemy, and rider protection becomes just as important as suspension or handling. The Triumphs allowed their riders to tuck in and hold on. That kind of speed is also exhausting. You constantly fight the lifting principles that make airplanes fly. If a rider just relaxed, he would quickly find himself 20 feet in the air, watching the bike ride away without him.

In the end, it wasn’t speed that proved to be the biggest problem for the team. It was a lack of it. When the bikes got into tight, slow canyons, they were geared too high and too heavy to manhandle, resulting in clutch problems. Both bikes actually completed the entire course, but one had a clutch failure in a special test that took it out of the results. The other finished relatively intact but a full 10 hours behind the leader.



Afterward, with Mexican dirt still covering the yellow Tiger, we took it for a local ride in the hills of Southern California. What an amazing bike. It looked tired and beat, but it was still capable of wicked acceleration, screaming like a Formula One car. The mousse inserts were somewhat worn out, and that made the Conti TKC tires soft and tacky. The bike actually had great traction.

We made the mistake of filling the main tank with gas. That’s a lot of weight. When you combine that with the sheer size of the bike, it is intimidating. A stock 800 is big enough, but when you add the oversize tank and all the navigation equipment on top, you feel like you’re a mouse whispering instructions in an elephant’s ear. At first, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around the fact that the Raiden guys were actually racing these machines for five days.

As it usually happens, though, we made the mental adjustments necessary after the shock wore off. The size of the bike “normalizes” surprisingly fast. That’s when the fun starts. The Triumph was a hoot and was capable of much more serious off-road terrain than we ever imagined.

We wouldn’t expect many Triumph owners to make these kinds of changes. This is an extreme level. But some of the modifications, like the suspension, seat and bars, seem perfectly viable if you plan on going off-road at all. The fact that you could also ride it to Cabo is just something to think about. o




We got a chance to ride the yellow Tiger the day after it got back from Mexico. It could have done the trip again.



Icon Motorsports put together the project to test its new line of Raiden adventure bike riding gear. The Triumphs were built by Mark Vanscourt with Motoworks Chicago.



The cockpit is dominated by the navigation gear. The hard-core guys still use a road book instead of GPS.



The road to Cabo is fast but not smooth. The NORRA course is essentially the same as the long version of the SCORE Baja 1000.



Most of the protective hardware is from ALT Rider, Touratech and Cycra.



The Arrow exhaust gave the three-cylinder motor a wicked growl.




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