The Way of the Desert Sled

Behind the scenes of the print-exclusive story on the Hammarhead Jack Pine Triumph.

The Way of the Desert Sled

The Way of the Desert Sled

The Way of the Desert SledCycle World

There are knobby marks in my psyche where the soul of the Hammarhead Jack Pine flows in and pools like satin-black mercury. It gives me the kind of heavy buzz that only primal motorcycling sounds and images can muster. My ’58 Triumph Trophy does it every time, too.

It's the cultural force of all those pictures of Ekins, McQueen, all the iron-men heroes you've heard of, and thousands you haven't, who raced and lived desert sleds. Bikes that look like the "youth" pictures of the Jack Pine's grandparents, lithe and vital, nurturing and passing along the values and virtues of wide-handlebar, chunky-tire, torquey-Twin freedom.

When I first saw Hammarhead Industries’ modern Triumph Scrambler-based Jack Pine, I knew we had to ride it, and I couldn’t think of anybody better to do a feature for the print mag than Peter Egan (see the August, 2011, issue on newsstands July 5, the lead spread of which is pictured above).

So we got the figurative band back together and took the Jack Pine to Lone Pine, California, filming site for thousands of Westerns, in the shadow of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney. To do the Jack Pine justice—not to mention the brave souls who raced bikes (not quite) this big in the mountains and deserts of America—we threw stunt-ready Mark Cernicky in the modified, shortened saddle to do the unearthly riding.

It was no small thing what Cernicky pulled off. He probably shook a few molars loose on the 70-mph jump landings (really), but both he and bike were essentially unscathed. The tires, well, they were scathed. And Egan did fix the battery connections (not Cernicky’s) after we got back to our home-base garage...

Desert Sleds - Cycle World
Desert Sleds - Cycle WorldCycle World

The purity of the bike in motion is as gripping as the images it evokes. There is lots taken off of the stock Scrambler frame, and Works Performance fork springs and twin shocks give the Jack Pine's 450 pounds dry a positive attitude. Keihin CR round-slide carbs and a barky, short Zard low pipe make it seem like the throttle cables are connected directly to your midbrain.

Dr. Hammarhead himself, James Loughead (pronounced James), rolled into Lone Pine on the bike, after showing the dedication of hauling it cross-country from his Philadelphia headquarters. He'd made a few social calls in the Bay Area and left one of his cohorts to pick up donor bikes in the Hammarhead transporter, then rode his way down. Cernicky said "thank you" for the fresh_ish_ Continental Twinduro adventure-knobbies James had spooned on, but MC was a little miffed that I completely topped off the fuel tank before his first sliding photo passes in the very loose dirt. Just trying to keep your skills sharp, buddy.

For some historical perspective, I dragged out my fairly original and often-commuted-on Trophy 650, and CW friend Bill Getty (a big wheel in the vintage British parts biz with his company JRC Engineering) loaded into his 1971 El Camino the '54 Triumph T110 sled he's ridden in Barstow-to-Vegas nine times, as well as the gorgeous 1958 Trophy that Roger White used to win the Big Bear Run in '58. White beat Bud Ekins and 821 other riders that year. Egan did a fun interview with 76-year-old White in the print issue and, as ever, a great job on the main feature, "The Way of the Desert Sled."

It was a fantastic couple of days out of the office and a reminder of both where we have come from on two wheels, and the fact that stripped-down, honest motorcycles have an eternal, powerful appeal. The buzz continues. I do love my pre-unit Triumph, but the thought of dropping $14,500 on the Jack Pine keeps crossing my mind.

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