‘There is a trail right behind 21 Enduro that I strongly recommend. It’ll be fun,’ he said. This was my conversation with Sangram, our friend and the man behind 21 Enduro Park, before I arrived at the place a few days later. Long story short, the opening shot of a 200-kg motorcycle doing airtime isn’t something that we’re used to on a daily basis. At least I’m not. You see, this is the beauty of dualsport/dual-purpose/adventure motorcycles. Unlike sportsbikes that demand a racetrack to exploit their full potential, or a dirt bike that requires a closed dirt track, an adventure motorcycle only needs to get off the tarmac and head into the wilderness. Who would have thought it could be that simple?
Okay, you do need to do your homework before riding off to the middle of nowhere, but the point here is that you don’t need a dedicated track for these bikes. To keep matters simple, we decided to pick the most affordable adventure bikes: the Hero XPulse 200, currently the cheapest and lightest motorcycle in this segment, and the other was the now-beloved Royal Enfield Himalayan. Also, the XPulse here isn’t a stock one; it features Hero’s rally kit while the Himalayan is bone stock. Named after the fabled mountain range, I like to call it an ugly duckling because of its nonconformist looks that have grown on me and it’s capability that makes me dream of owning one.
Now, going trail riding/offroading is always fun, but can also be risky without any preparation or in the wrong mindset. Knowing your motorcycle and what it is capable of is the most basic and fun fundamental aspect to learn before hitting the trails. Besides that, it is also crucial to know how to make use of your own weight on the motorcycle. It is this secret that applies no matter whether you are riding on or off the road, to remain in control of the machine, rather than being controlled by it. And we all know how much we hate that.
With Sangram astride the XPulse and yours truly on the Himalayan, we practised several exercises that are a part of 21 Enduro Park’s curriculum. Imitating Sangram, I rode while standing on the ’pegs while gripping the tank and shifting the weight from one side to another. Once I had the hang of it, we rode our motorcycles in a circle while standing on either side, followed by kneeling on the seat, and then only holding the handlebar with one hand. Another set of exercises involved modulating the clutch to maintain the bike’s momentum without stalling or losing balance. All these activities help to understand how the motorcycle’s weight is distributed between the wheels and how the rider can make the most of it to their advantage.
With every minute that I spent practising these exercises, I was no one’s business; the Himalayan doesn’t take to wheelieing too well thanks to its weight. My learning phase of getting the front wheel up was the other factor that I didn’t wish to try on this day. However, with every crest, I was happy to whack the throttle open to enjoy small moments of weightlessness as the Himalayan’s suspension would stretch out before softly landing back on the ground like a pro. The other thing that I was able to manage was kicking the tail out around corners to leave rooster tails of dirt into the woods.
Once atop the trail, I found myself surrounded by the vast expanse of the mountain range that continued beyond the horizon. While Kaizad was occupied with the trigger of his camera, Sangram and I were already making plans to scale the other mountains on my next visit. The XPulse was easily the faster and more able motorcycle here thanks to all the factors mentioned. Nonetheless, the Himalayan, although it lugs its own considerable weight, is no less capable. It may not be the fastest or the easiest to chuck around, sure, but it will get you to the top of that mountain regardless. In the end, with the abundance of offroad trails that lie on the outskirts of just about any city, it is the fun factor that matters, and these motorcycles are the cheapest and the best way to get there. Once you’re bitten by the dirt bug, there’s no turning back.