Steep inclines, deep ruts, countless spills and unlearning old tricks – the Triumph Tiger Academy was all that, and more.
When you’ve been practicing something for well over a decade, it becomes really difficult to unlearn the bad habits that you’ve undoubtedly acquired along the way. I found myself in just such a predicament after having spent a day at the Tiger Training Academy. You see, for years, I’ve been riding motorcycles in a way that I feel is correct – in my mind, the perfect way to ride. Come what may, my brain would tell me to tackle a particular situation how I thought was correct – which isn’t necessarily how it’s supposed to be done. As a result, the training session at the Triumph Academy came as quite a rude awakening for me.
As is the case with all such training sessions, it began in the classroom. Our trainer for the day was Vijay Parmar, who’s a familiar face for anyone who follows rallies and cross-country events such as the Raid de Himalaya. More importantly, though, he’s a skilled motocross racer. In the classroom, we were told about some basic aspects of riding a motorcycle such as the Triumph Tiger off-road. This included familiarizing yourself with the motorcycle and its array of settings first. And choosing the right mode matters when you’re going up a steep incline or down a slope – get it wrong and you’ll come tumbling down with a 230-plus-kilo motorcycle on your back!
Following the classroom session, it was time to go out and grab the bull by the horns. The first course was the “figure of 8.” Anyone can ride a motorcycle fast, but it’s the low speed balance that matters the most. During this activity, we learnt just that – the art of balancing a motorcycle at low-speeds. But trying a slow-speed slalom on a motorcycle with the girth of a Triumph Tiger 800 XRx was quite a task. Let’s just say that my first outing was quite embarrassing, as I was far from perfect. In my defence, I could say that I hadn’t yet got the hang of the motorcycle – but that would be a lame excuse.
For the next activity, the bike was to be taken up and down two steep crests back-to-back. Now here’s where you need to know your motorcycle inside out – especially if it happens to be a modern day adventure motorcycle like the Tiger 800 XRx. You can’t take a steep descent in default road mode, with the full electronics on. You’ve got to put it in its off-road setting, so that the electronics – like ABS and traction control – don’t cut in at the wrong time. For instance, ABS in road mode acts on both wheels while in off-road mode it’s disabled at the rear and allows a certain level of slip at the front – allowing for a little bit of feedback without undue intervention. I did exactly what I was told, and so it turned out to be a cakewalk.
After that, I felt familiar enough with the bike to handle more severe obstacles. The next round included going down a rut, taking a tight U-turn and then coming up a steep slope and out the other side. Okay, so I did stall the bike just after I came out of the obstacle – but that was it really.
Next up, though, was something I thought was the trickiest bit of the entire training session. It’s called “Hill Fail,” and like our instructor said, “it’s the horror of horrors for a rider.” In this bit, you go up a steep incline – and I mean really steep – stall the bike midway and then come back down the slope. Now, usually, when you’re going up on an incline – in a 200 kilo plus adventure machine – it’s suggested that you take it in one go. But, of course, there’s a good chance that you’ll stall the engine midway and slide down – with the serious risk of injury. So, the purpose of this exercise was to show us how to get out of such a situation if need be.
It was quite simple – in theory that is. You just needed to go up the incline and stall the bike midway. Then you don’t just hold onto the clutch pedal once the bike is stalled. Instead, use the front brake and clutch simultaneously to engine brake and come all the way down. Now, this bit of unlearning was too much for me! As soon as I stalled the bike midway through the incline, muscle memory kicked in and I grabbed the clutch immediately. Although I didn’t technically fall off the motorcycle, I did slide down the slope quite badly. To be honest, it was the scariest feeling I’ve experienced on a bike in a long, long while. However, I attempted it again and managed to complete the task as instructed.
And with that the day came to an end. What did I learn from the experience?
Well, off-roading is a completely different ballgame and it’s very important to understand that it requires a totally different approach. If you apply what you do on the road, it may lead you to hurt yourself quite badly here. No matter how many riding years you’ve got under your belt, you have to learn and unlearn some basic habits. And if you really want to exploit the full potential of your dual-purpose adventure motorcycle, you’ve got to alter your skills as a rider while riding on the road and off it. That’s when you’ll exploit the machine to its full potential, and that’s also when the fun will actually begin.