I firmly believe that big, tall and heavy adventure motorcycles are ridden off the tarmac using just two things – skill and confidence. You start out with neither and then as you keep taking your motorcycle off road and start figuring things out for yourself, you slowly develop the skill (and the muscle memory that goes with it) which then eventually builds your confidence. It doesn’t matter if you are tall or short, fat or thin. Also no amount of YouTube videos or sitting in a classroom listening to an expert sharing wisdom will get you the skill or the confidence you need to ride an adventure motorcycle off the tarmac.
On the third day of my ride to Andhra Pradesh on my Triumph Tiger 800 XRx, I rode from Narsipatnam to Lambasingi, a remote village far from the main national highway. After I had a cup of coffee I decided to ride to Araku. My Garmin GPS told me that there was no road from Lambasingi to Araku and I would need to turn around, head back to Narsipatnam and then take the road to Araku from there. I was about to do that when I decided to check Google Maps and was surprised to find a small road weaving its way from Lambasingi and meeting a broader road somewhere halfway to Araku.
If I was riding my Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, there would be no question on what to do next. I would return to Narsipatnam. But I was riding an adventure motorcycle and decided to see if an adventure lay in front of me that day. So I started riding down the road described in Google Maps. I passed a couple of villages and then abruptly the road condition deteriorated. Huge potholes, long gravel stretches, sharp climbs and dips into water streams. I kept on riding kilometer after kilometer and realized that I hadn’t crossed a soul in quite a while. I stopped for rest and checked both my mobiles phones. No coverage. I was possibly in one of the remotest parts of the country with no sign of life around me and no way to communicate to anyone. I wasn’t even sure what kind of wildlife was lurking in the thick jungle I was riding through. Obviously not many people used this road which is probably why nobody had bothered to fix it for decades. If I had a serious mishap here, I would probably need to wait for hours for someone to find and rescue me.
I had to make a decision. Turn around and head back the road I knew I could manage or keep riding deeper into an increasingly sinister unknown. I said to myself, “You bought an adventure motorcycle, right? Here is your adventure. Don’t turn your back on it now.” So I pushed forward. After a while the forest cleared out and I started riding through some amazing landscape. I resisted the urge to stop and take pictures as I was still worried about the possible wildlife around me. After riding for around fifteen kilometers I found myself in the middle of a coffee plantation and I heaved a sigh of relief. This meant I was approaching a village and I rode into it. The road improved from there on and I eventually made it to the nicer road to Araku.
Even though I didn’t cross paths with a tiger or leopard that day, this felt like a mini-adventure to me. The fact that I have been riding my Tiger on trails in Goa gave me the skill and confidence to take that road on Google Maps and ride into the unknown.
People often ask me to advise them on which motorcycle to buy. If I think the person is a Facebook rider I recommend a Harley right away. No point wasting their time and mine. But if the person wants to truly explore I recommend an adventure motorcycle. At present I’m recommending a Triumph Tiger 800 XRx because that’s what I know best. The XR range of Tigers are designed for tarmac but also have a respectable amount of off-road capability which I can say I have tested. I also recommend people to take their adventure motorcycles off road from time to time even though it may not be part of their plan. You never know when you may want to of have to get off the tarmac. A landslide or accident could block a highway and force you to take a lesser traveled path.
It is very important to understand and appreciate that riding a big, tall and heavy adventure motorcycle on tarmac is very different than riding it off-road. My XRx has an off-road mode. But its not like I can press a button and ride on gravel like how I ride it on tarmac. It’s poles apart actually. It’s better to experiment with your adventure motorcycle when you are with friends in a controlled environment and gain the skill an confidence rather than find yourself thrust into a sticky situation without a clue as to how go about getting yourself out of it. It’s better to drop your adventure motorcycle, learn to pick it up and carry on riding than keep it polished and shining in your garage.
Unless you want to be a Facebook rider. 🙂