Returning to an old haunt in the woods, we discovers a favourite stretch of bush road has been paved. Alas, it’s been tamed. Now it’s more civilized and rideable. Not unlike the
Triumph Tiger 1050.
There was a road through the woods of Vancouver Island. Muddy. Dark. Rough. The middle of nowhere yet only a couple hours from home. Ten years ago it was the domain of giant logging trucks hauling cedar on blind corners at time-is-money speeds. They weren’t the only hazards. There were bears too—as likely as the logging trucks to be in the middle of the road. Along this road is the village of Port Renfrew where a black bear once walked down to the pier and jumped in a boat to share a salmon caught by a local fisherman. It was a bad scene. The bear clung like grim death to both the fish and the fisherman while rescuers banged away at the animal with gaffs, knives and a hammer. Even in Port Renfrew this wasn’t an everyday experience. I used to head for this road whenever there was a dualsport in the office.
A few years ago things began to change. A project to pave the road commenced. It wasn’t done all at once, but over the course of two or three years. At first this was okay because there was still a dirt stretch in the middle that discouraged a lot of traffic—it wasn’t rough but it was still dirt. Even though it was being paved, not everyone knew. And the paved sections were good. Very good … and empty. It really changed when they gave the road a theme name like something at an amusement park. It is now part of a scenic byway—the 255-kilometre Pacific Marine Circle Route.
Now it is complete. You ran ride the route on pavement all the way. The road has evolved from adventurous to accessible. Like the 10th Anniversary Triumph Tiger 1050 that I chose for a recent trip around the Circle. It is a different Tiger than the last one I rode, which was more inclined toward bush roads than civilized roads. In limited edition trim, and kitted with an optional performance-oriented Arrow pipe, the Tiger 1050 is encouraged to stay on civilized roads where the only uncivilized element becomes the rider.
The 10th Anniversary Tiger comes with a set of hard bags and a unique matte grey and black paint scheme. As flat schemes go, it actually looks good. Sadly though, the distinctive claw marks are now gone.
THE PORT RENFREW ROAD WANDERS THOUGH THE FOREST following much the same route as before except it’s wider now and the trees are trimmed well back rather than hanging like a canopy over your head. It narrows only through a short one-lane section transiting a canyon where widening the road would have been an environmental challenge. All is well: the Tiger 1050 prefers the paving of paradise.
I had nearly forgotten the joy of riding a triple—with the exception of the Rocket III, it had been a few years since my last exposure to a Triumph multi. The torque and acceleration of the 1050 is impressive. The motor spools quickly from idle to 4,000 where it’s deep throated and enthusiastic. It is ideal now for a road where you’re on and off the throttle, on and off the brakes with kilometre after kilometre of technical riding.
The most challenging part of the Pacific Marine Circle Route is a western section that was already paved—the original unconnected arms of the circle. The road remains remarkably true to its logging road roots as it winds across gullies, along the mountainside and features the steepest and sharpest switchback I can recall riding anywhere on pavement.
The western side of the loop was never intended as a scenic byway. Its pavement is a patchwork of heaves, cracks and repaired washouts. But this section has always been a challenge. Which explains why it has also been a favourite among local motorcyclists. The Tiger’s upright seating position and wide bars are ideal for control, visibility and comfort. The firm suspension doesn’t absorb the bumps like the Tiger of old but it will brake much harder into a corner. The old bike was top heavy with soft suspension. The new bike is compact and firm. For what this road is now, the Tiger is just about perfect—both have come far in the past decade. As a pure riding experiences go, both the bike and the road have become better than they were 10 years ago.
The 1050 can now stand amid its sport touring competition as a worthy adversary whereas the Tiger 955 was challenged amid dedicated adventure touring bikes. But adventure in the case of the Pacific Marine Circle Route has been paved over in favour of rideabilty.
Do I sometimes wish for those empty roads, minus the barrelling logging trucks? Sure. But those roads are still out there—even if they are farther away. The new road is a rider’s road. Smoother, faster, evolved. That’s progress. That’s what 10 years will do for you.
By John Molony