“Endless desert. Mountains. Dunes. Forests. We rode the Scrambler 1200 pretty hard,” says Alex Rach, ex-motocross rider. Around the sprawling urban metropolis of LA and then out in the middle-of-nowhere Mojave desert, both Alex and fellow ex-motocross rider Zack Young review the bikes and give an insight behind the scenes at a Triumph shoot.
Shipping out the XE and XC Scrambler 1200 models to California, Triumph enlisted the help of two guys who really know off-road riding for its promotional videos. Alex Rach from the UK and Zack Young from California got to be two of the first riders to test out the machines. Triumph in-house photographer Grant Evans documented the shoot using analogue black-and-white Ilford film.
Zack lives and breathes motorcycles: “I grew up in California and Colorado and got into motocross quite young. I competed right up until my body got tired of it, after about 20 years. It’s super hard on the body but so much fun and it’s been a big part of my life everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve done quite a few of these shoots with the Triumph team now, so it’s great to see the development.”
Although Zack is mostly dirt, he’s a street rider too: “I’ve cruised around a bit on the roads, mostly laid-back riding in town.”
If there’s one place that defines urban it’s LA. A melting pot of cultures, an infinite criss-cross of asphalt and ever-growing population, it makes Judge Dredd’s Mega City One look like a reality. It’s the perfect place to drop the Scrambler 1200 XC, the more road-focused option. Zack hopped on to test the road half of its dual-purpose identity.
“We rode around town and Hollywood. I was on the XC for the first few days and I liked it a lot. It’s a little lower, which is great for street riding. It’s super comfortable too; I had a passenger with me and it was a breeze. You could ride miles and miles on it.
“We spent two days in LA and two days in the Mojave. In town was a chance to see how the bike could deal with everyday city riding. It’s surprisingly light, nimble and takes it all in its stride. It was great, but the motocross rider in me was itching to try the XE out. Alex had been riding it first and it looked like fun.”
Alex, like Zack, got into motocross early: “My dad bought a bike off some chap who’d won it in a competition and was flogging it. It was a Kx85. My next-door neighbour raced bikes and took me to a local race to watch – my nearest tracks were Doncaster and Preston. Soon I was racing all the time and later rode for major manufacturer teams.”
Devil in the desert
The Mojave Desert is vast. Once home to cowboys but declared a National Preserve in 1994, the hot Californian sun no longer casts uniform shadows of both cowboy and horse on to the desert floor.
The terrain, however, is largely unchanged since those times. It’s every bit as harsh and unforgiving. Swapping saddle for seat, hooves for wheels and reins for bars, the Triumph team head out into the nothingness.
The slither of a blood-orange sun slowly melted away to the black of a Mojave night.
“We were out in the middle of nowhere. It was really early in the morning. Myself and Zack road the XEs and scouted out some cool locations. The bikes were amazing. They handle much like a motocross bike, which is incredible considering their size in comparison.”
“We had an XE each,” Zack explains. “So we were able to do some proper scrambling together. The suspension is very capable – you can really push it. You can have a blast on this thing. We were getting off the ground a bit, wheelie-ing. We were doing all kinds of riding from gravelly hard-pack dirt roads with steep elevation changes to super sandy conditions.
“One day we were out on the dry lake bed and we raced flat-track style. What’s great about this bike is that it doesn’t take long to figure out.
“Once you’ve learned the bike, it’s very predictable. Me and Alex were pushing the bikes and pushing each other. It seems like the faster that motorcycle goes, the more competent it is. It reminds me of a 450 enduro bike.”
“The Mojave is so huge, it’s unbelievable,” says Alex. “The terrain varied so much – powdery sand, quicksand, fire roads, mountains, plains – it has it all. We’d turn a corner and there would be 70-metre-high boulders, and another turn there would be a wooded area.”
As a racer who’d competed in South African desert terrain, Alex enjoyed the dunes: “The XE really is amazing. It’s similar to a motocross bike as it feels much lighter than it is, you’d only notice the size difference at very low speed and on tight corners.”
The team would stop shooting around 11am until 3pm as the light is too strong in the middle of the day for film, taking refuge in the only cafe for miles around, which Alex remembers quite distinctly: “It was the sort of place where everyone stops talking as you walk in. It was so dirty and I’m pretty sure I got food poisoning!”
For the shoot, the Scrambler 1200s have a new GoPro feature that proved to be useful, as Zack found out. “We got to try out the GoPro connectivity, and some of the footage was used in the promotional video. You can start and stop recording with the interactive button – it’s really cool. If I owned one of these I would definitely take advantage of that. Usually filming something takes away some of the spontaneity of riding, but with this you don’t get that. Click a button and record.”
“The key takeaway for me was the handling,” Alex says. “Oh, and it sounds awesome. And it’s really fast! It was a brilliant experience to ride these bikes and to ride with Zack. We really rode these things hard and they blew us away, riding straight off the street and hitting these sort of terrains – unbelievable.”
Zack gives his verdict: “If I had to pick one thing about this bike that I like, it’s that I wouldn’t have to choose a specific type of motorcycle. I could ride this around with my mates in San Francisco but just as easily bring it out to the desert and tear it up.”
He continues: “It was fun to be some of the first guys to play with the bike. Riding with Alex was a blast as he grew up doing the same thing on the other side of the world. The team got on really well, they let us ride like we were out with our buddies. It was a great attitude and atmosphere – just let it be, have fun and capture the moment.”