Which motorcycles should one consider if you wanted to tour? Or more so, which big motorcycles would be apt for the task? Logically, they would have to be of the middleweight category as that is the segment that is highly populated and is getting the most recognition when it comes to big bikes nowadays.
First, we identified the categories. We had to get a cruiser, obviously. We needed an adventure motorcycle, as they’re currently the ‘in’ thing. Naked motorcycles are ever so versatile and can do literally everything – city, tour and track. Lastly, we couldn’t forget something that Indian bikers fawn over – fully faired bikes. The boys were split in their choices. Ultimately, Triumph Tiger 800 XRx, Suzuki GSX-S750, Harley Davidson Street Rod 750 and the Ducati SuperSport S were finalised. We were all set to meet up at the end of Katraj tunnel at 6AM sharp to begin our road trip.
Okay, to tell you guys the truth, I desperately wanted to ride the Ducati SuperSport S again. The buxom Italian babe had done a number on me ever since the first ride at Lavasa and I had been devising plans ever since to involve it in some manner. Here was the perfect opportunity to highlight its best attributes, out on the highway. Abhishek, the maniac who believes you can cruise at 200kmph, was smitten by the Triumph Tiger 800. I was shocked he was willing to involve the Tiger over the Ducati Multistrada 950, given that he is a hardcore Ducatisti! Only God knows what goes on in that protein-shake-pumped brain of his. But I was glad to see the Tiger 800 XRx.
We could have easily picked up the fastest naked motorcycle out there and easily broken our backs as well as spirits in due course. We had to be clever. Something that was easy-going yet fun. Something that was reliable and comfortable to tour on. And since Varad was going to be riding, it had to wheelie! There were a few names in the mix but we settled on the sweet Japanese Suzuki GSX-S750.
You cannot have a touring story without cruisers and there was no doubt that we would be calling up Harley-Davidson to lend us a motorcycle. The only question was which one? I am not too fond of their Sportster series and hope they receive a much deserved update. So the Street series then, but which one? Common sense prevailing, you would opt for the laidback Street 750. But Alameen’s middle name, albeit unofficially, is ‘Chhava’ (‘dude’ for the uninitiated), and the Street Rod would do better justice to his personality.
“The Street Rod was underwhelming in this company. It may be one of the sportiest Harleys so far, and you may look super cool on it, But Alameen was lagging behind here in the current company”
With Rohit and Afzal ready in our backup car, we headed out on to the Mumbai-Bangalore highway and immediately stumbled upon our first hurdle. Abhishek, Varad and I had left our fellow Chhava behind. The Street Rod was underwhelming in this company. It may be one of the sportiest Harleys so far, and you may look super cool on it, But Alameen was lagging behind here in the current company. His frustration was becoming apparent as we had sped off and were nowhere to be seen. Not good friends, right?
While I was enjoying leading the pack on the SuperSport, with Varad and Abhishek right on my tail, Rohit had found a spot up ahead to get some shots. Upon arriving at the location, I was cursing him for choosing that spot. Why? Because he didn’t notice that between the road and the edge of the cliff where he wanted us to position our bikes was a large barren field filled with mud, slush and small rocks. I was on a fully faired frickin’ Ducati SuperSport S and he wanted me to get my bike through that! Gladly Abhishek and Varad agreed. The Tiger is a go-anywhere motorcycle and the GSX is so easy to manoeuvre that you don’t really have to fret too much over its obstacle-clearing abilities.
I was tip-toeing though the field, not wanting to land myself in a compromising situation. We were waiting for the Street Rod. Alameen wanted to stick to riding only on tarmac and refused to ride through the field. Some dude he is. I went back and got his bike. The Rod’s Revolution-X V-twin has so much of low down torque that she was happily going through the dirty stuff.
Shot done and we were hungry. Breakfast time was fast approaching. I got my Ducati SuperSport S out gingerly. As I went back to get the Harley, Chhava zipped off on my Ducati SuperSport S and the others followed suit. Karma you say? Well, they were going to get their end of the bargain soon.
I had no option but to ride the Street Rod until the intended stop. I have been a fan of the engine. It was indeed a revolution for Harley as it was one of their smallest cubic capacity engines for decades. More importantly, the engine is air-cooled and not water-cooled. In this motorcycle, the engine is tuned to make 62Nm with the gear ratios optimised to bring the best out of the mid-range grunt. With the speedometer hovering around the 100kmph mark in sixth gear, the Street Rod feels happy to chug along. Expect more and she will start to whimper and groan. It was ages until I finally got hold of the ditching crew.
“There was a slow hairpin and coming out of it, the missing low-end delivery was apparent as Varad popped a wheelie and got ahead”
While the guys were enjoying their breakfast, I stole the first key I could find. It turned out to be the Suzuki’s. With the twisty bits arriving next, I had little to complain. I wolfed down my brekkie, strapped on my lid and zoomed off on the GSX. Figuring what I had done, I guess the others too followed suit. Varad managed to snatch the Ducati SuperSport S from Alameen who then got aboard the Tiger.
I could see the two of them creeping in my mirrors. The K5-derived GSX motor was happy to keep good pace. It makes 113 ponies and each and every one of them were dedicated to enjoy that moment’s fast paced action. There was a slow hairpin and coming out of it, the missing low-end delivery was apparent as Varad popped a wheelie and got ahead. Yes, he does that. Yes, he is mental.
Rohit alerted us that this tomfoolery needed to be captured and he set up his camera at a spot. We were happy to do a couple of runs for the section. That is where I noticed an issue with the GSX. If only the bars on the GSX were just a bit wider to enjoy a little more leverage when throwing it around bends.
We were passing through the forest section, a perfect natural amphitheatre of sorts to hear the inline four rasp all the way to the redline. While the end-can may not look stunning enough, bulky being the right word, Suzuki engineers have created a beautiful melody every single time you open the taps. Near orgasmic.
Lunch time marked the halfway point of our trip and I still hadn’t ridden the Tiger. She left me spellbound in Spiti, no worries on good quality tarmac then. I swapped rides with Alameen for the trip back. I had gorged on some lip-smackin’ mutton thali and was in no mood to crouch and ride. The Tiger thus served to be a happy proposition as the upright stance gives you a commanding view of the road ahead. The Tiger also makes the most sense, given the state of our roads. Potholes, bumps, undulations or loose tarmac; the Tiger glided over everything in its path. When the road became treacherous, I could see Varad and Alameen struggling on the SuperSport and GSX ahead. God knows what Abhi was going through.
The Tiger’s mammoth 19-litre fuel tank had just indicated that it had consumed half its fill and I was sure the rest would be at quarter tank but the Harley was going to be running on fumes, for sure. The Street Rod has the smallest tank size here at 13 litres. We had covered considerable mileage plus the runs for Rohit’s shots must have consumed fuel rapidly. And that did turn out to be the case.
With the home stretch of 50km left and each one of us heading our own way a little bit down the road, it was only wise to get on to the original bikes that we had begun the day with. Damn it! The Ducati SuperSport S was the whole reason I concocted this story in the first place and I didn’t get to ride that bike much at all. I have professed my love for the Ducati SuperSport quite vividly in my first ride report, which sure irked my girlfriend as I had never paid her compliments to the same extent. With the L-twin motor thrumming beneath me, maintaining triple-digit speeds was child’s play. It doesn’t have max power rating here but still has the most useable power potential of the four. Just wring the throttle and she leaves the world to eat her dust. For me, she is literally sex on wheels, the kind which is a realistic and involving love and not the lusty aspirational one.
As I was having my evening brew at home later, I was just reliving the day’s memories. Obviously, I would not blink and take the SuperSport to Goa. She is everything I want. But the Tiger makes such a strong case for herself, the charm of riding an adventure motorcycle has grown on me. With friends like Ouseph and Vir spamming my Insta feed with Tiger posts, the thirst of getting muddy has grown exponentially.
The Suzuki would be the safest bet of the four to get me from Pune to Goa and back in one piece. The windblast will be an issue but we have been riding nakeds for years and we will still continue to do so. Luckily, we now have one which we can be fast, chilled out, safe and has a good soundtrack while gunning it.
That leaves us with the Harley. There will continue to be the folklore and appeal behind the American manufacturer. The Street Rod will make you work and at the end of the long ride, you will question your decision. Perhaps we should’ve got the more-sensible Street 750 then.