The Triumph Tiger Trails taught us a thing or two about off-roading, so it’s only fair that we share it with you.
Last month was quite rewarding for me. First, I attended the Honda Ten10 Racing Academy (HTRA) where I learnt the basics of riding on a racetrack. And, a few weeks later, in came the invite for the Triumph Tiger Trails to learn the basics of off-roading. Organised close to home in Lonavla (Maharashtra), it gave me a geographical advantage, so this time around I didn’t have to squabble with my colleagues to be a part of it.
Just like HTRA, at the Triumph Tiger Trails too, it started off with a classroom session before hopping onto the motorcycles. The session was led by Vijay Parmar, veteran rallyist and chief trainer of the Triumph Tiger Trails. 15 minutes in, I realised that the classroom session would probably be the only common factor between the two rider training academies. Off-roading is a completely different ballgame altogether.
Inspect your bike
Whether you’re riding on a racetrack, off-road or even while touring, this one aspect remains common – and extremely vital. Vijay Parmar insisted that we take a walk around the motorcycle, sit on it and spend a few minutes with the machine before starting to ride. By doing this, you not only get a feel for the bike and its ergonomics, but it’ll also help you identify if anything is loose and needs a quick turn of the wrench. Tyre pressure is also vital, and it’s advised to drop the tyre pressure of your motorcycle when riding off-road. Dropping the tyre pressure increases the footprint of the tyres, thereby increasing grip on slippery surfaces. It also makes the ride more compliant, so it’ll not only help you get better traction but also a better ride over rough surfaces.
Look where you want to go
This is another rule that applies to motorcycling (and motorsport) in general. There was a slalom course with cones placed at near equal distances. We were to ride across each one of them without touching our feet on the ground. While Vijay Parmar made it look rather simple, for us newbies it was easier said than done. Standing up on the pegs and riding slowly around the cones, at first the attention immediately went at the front edge of the motorcycle. But once I managed to look ahead, it was half the battle won.
Posture and weight transfer
When riding on the track, it’s advised to lean into the corner but when riding off road, you need to push your body in the opposite direction of the turn. This will automatically help you balance the motorcycle with a better centre of gravity. A combination of your vision, and the right body posture, was key to successfully completing the slalom course – something that a lot of us struggled with. In fact, even on some of the other challenges, posture was crucial for the successful completion of the course. Going uphill, you need to transfer the weight to the back to ensure that the rear wheel has better traction – and vice versa.
After the slalom course, there was a small patch with pebbles and stones leading to a steep descent. Riding on the road, we’re habituated to using the front brakes. But during off-roading when going downhill, using the front brakes may result in the loss of traction or the front folding out on you. For better control in such situations, just a tap on the rear brake generally does the trick. As I rode through this section, I had to drill it into my head to make use of the rear brake. But it was only when I completed this section did I realise that it does really result in better control – and thereby more confidence.
Next up were a few water crossings and hill climbs. Not knowing what could possibly be hiding under the muddy water is a little forbidding. In such situations, it’s only human to grab tightly onto the handle bar – and that can make a simple water crossing much more difficult. The trick here is to lean forward and have a relaxed grip on the handle bar allowing it to plough its way through the water. This one was possibly the most fun and easiest activities of the day. It was no wonder, then, that we kept going at it until the folks at Triumph were forced to call it a day.
Trust the motorcycle
The Triumph Tiger is a very capable motorcycle. Through the course of the day, quite a few of us had falls but it was only a matter of picking it up and going at it again. Of course, considering its 200+kg weight, lifting it off the ground wasn’t an easy task, but thankfully, the Tiger Trails taught us how to do that too.
The Triumph Tiger is a big and bulky machine, especially for someone of my size. It’s daunting to look at, and heavy to ride sometimes, but after spending a day learning how to manage the motorcycle, we felt a lot more confident. As we spent more time with it, all the nervous energy was converted into childlike excitement – and, as the evening sun vanished into the horizon, we had to reluctantly hand the key back. How I wish we had more time to play in the mud.