After seeing the kind of off-roading I do with my road biased Triumph Tiger 800 XRx, quite a few people have asked me why I didn’t pick one of the off-road biased XC variants. Another related question is why I haven’t switched to dual sport or dirt tyres.
Both the questions happen to have the same answer. I take my Tiger off the tarmac for merely a small fraction of the time I’m riding the motorcycle. And when I do, I’m not an aggressive off-road rider. By that I mean, I take my time and negotiate the obstacles carefully. I don’t thrash my motorcycle around with the aim of getting from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible time. I just want to get to Point B, that’s all. In fact, the photographer in me is more interested in framing my motorcycle against a beautiful landscape rather than getting to Point B.
I would also like to point out that I am an aggressive tarmac rider. I consider tyres to be part of my safety gear, not some consumable like oil which I use and replace when the time comes without thinking too much. I’m extremely picky when it comes to tyres. When my initial set of Metzeler Tourance Next tyres wear out, I’m going to replace them with the exact same set or better.
For an aggressive tarmac rider, tyres are key to deciding whether the motorcycle slides and crashes out in a corner or stops in time. Traction is key to the safety of man and machine and that happens to be a function of surface area on the tyre tread. If you have the wrong tyres when riding slowly off road, at a maximum, you will drop your motorcycle, that’s all. You are going to drop it anyways when you take it off road. So a few more drops won’t make a huge difference. But if you have the wrong tyres when riding on tarmac then you have to significantly alter your riding style or risk crashing your motorcycle really badly, causing significance damage to your motorcycle and yourself. That’s why although I take my big, tall and heavy adventure motorcycle off-road, it will never sport dual sport or dirt tyres.
Last weekend some friends and I rode our motorcycles from Goa to Chikmanglur and back. The plan was to ride a few trails in the Nilgiri mountains. We rode a total of 1,110 kms and the total distance we rode off the tarmac wasn’t more than 5 kms. To put that in perspective, that’s just 0.5% of the total distance. It just doesn’t make sense for me to sacrifice the safety of my tarmac riding with such a little amount of off-road riding.
This is also why I picked a road biased XR variant over an off-road biased XC variant. The XR’s have better road manners. For example, the XR’s front suspension is stiffer than the XC’s and when you slam your brakes in an emergency, the front of the motorcycle doesn’t dip as much as the XC’s do.
I believe its very important to figure out what it is you plan on doing with a motorcycle before deciding on one. Read and listen to a wide variety of opinions and reviews. But use your brain when take a decision, not your heart. Adventure touring can be quite a dangerous hobby, especially in India. There are people waiting for you at home.