Top Gun India Adventure Riding Academy Review

I am a big believer in riding schools. Yes, self-taught is great too, but only to a point. And, if you are serious about improving your riding, no matter what genre, a school with the right instructors and curriculum can do wonders. 

Take the California Superbike School or CS Santosh’s Big Rock dirt riding school, for instance. Not only did these schools make me a more confident rider, they also helped me get rid of some poor riding habits that I had developed over the years. Poor riding habits are the one big downside to being self-taught.

So, here I am again, at yet another riding school. But, this time it’s about managing big, heavy and tall adventure motorcycles off the road. 

Which school?

It’s called the Top Gun India Riding Academy and Vikrant Ghate runs it. Now, even though this was Top Gun’s first adventure riding school, the team behind it has been running riding schools for a while. The Vortex Racing Academy at Kolhapur to develop track oriented skills being case in point. 

For the adventure school, Top Gun brought in Bret Tkacs. Now, for those not in the know, Bret Tkacs has been riding and training people on adventure bikes for over 20 years. And that means he has seen every possible rider type, rider error, and rider excuse there is when it comes to riding big bikes off the road. And, of course, in 20 years, he has honed the curriculum to the point that it works for beginners and experts alike.

Which bike?

 

I rode the Ducati Multistrada 950. But, it was an interesting discussion that got me there. In short, this is what happened.

I asked Ducati for a bike. Given the type of school I was attending, they insisted I take the Multistrada 1200 Enduro. I vetoed it obviously; the bike is just too daunting. I wanted the Desert Sled instead; it’s lighter, more manageable, and there was less to break if I dropped it. 

And so, we arrived at the Multi 950 instead; as the Hindi saying goes – “Na tera, na mera”. Sure, there might be more to break on this bike compared to the Desert Sled, but, given the lower seat height and more manageable weight against the 1200 Enduro, the 950 would work just fine.

What I learned?

The 950 did work fine. In fact, its 200kg plus weight actually accelerated my learning curve on the dirt. 

Day 1

The first thing I learned about riding ADVs is that you don’t ride them like you do dirt bikes; something I did almost all the time. The thing is dirt bikes are light, nippy and easy to wheelie. ADVs on the other hand, are heavy, powerful and well, not the most agile.

And so, we started with the basics.

We spent sometime riding around the track to understand how our bikes behave on slippery and dusty terrain. Then, it was time to get our riding position corrected, both while sitting and standing. The important thing here is to keep your weight as much at the front as possible and don’t hang on to the handlebar. Grab the tank instead. This is the only way the bike is free to do its thing on dirt and stay the right way up. 

Next up, was all about balance. On a tall and heavy adventure bike, balance is crucial. And, it is especially true at crawling speeds when you don’t have the gyroscopic effect helping you. So, to better understand the balance point of the bike, we walked around it holding the most fragile bits on the bike and tried not to apply any force to keep it upright.

Then it was time to apply the balance theory on the move. And to do that, we rode as slow as possible without putting the feet down. This, of course, is only possible with good throttle, clutch and brake control. And, applying them all together, but in varying quantities. This helps when you are tackling tight trails. But, as I learned (or didn’t), it’s not the easiest skill to master.

[“Source-timesofindia”]