ADV vs Google Maps: Starring Triumph Tiger 800 XCX and Kawasaki Versys-X300

10 September 2018, 09:13 AM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

The idea of an adventure motorcycle is a simple one. It is THE bike that can beat Google Maps.  

If you rely a lot on Google to get anywhere, you’d have realised by now, it’s not very sensitive to you or your machine. It’s more than happy to put you and your ‘bagged-up’ cruiser through ridiculously narrow, twisting lanes infested by hawkers. It also doesn’t mind guiding you and your supersport through a detour in the middle of nowhere with no roads, no help, and sometimes no network. All this to save around three metres.

But, you do care about yourself and your machine. And so, many a times, you double back. An ADV or an adventure motorcycle, however, just laughs in Google’s face and carries on. Or does it?

The Job

To find out if this adage (which it isn’t) holds true, we brought along two very capable adventure motorcycles, and two not so capable ADV riders to take on Google maps. The bikes in question are the Kawasaki Versys-X300 at the relatively lower-end of the ADV spectrum, and the Triumph Tiger 800 XCX at the – again relatively – higher-end of the market.

In Google maps was a route it had picked up from somewhere on the outskirts of Pune to Aamby Valley. And no, it was not the easier - although a tad longer - NH4. Google decided to take us via Shedani to Aamby Valley, because, well, it is shorter. Now, I don’t think I had ever been on this route before, but according to Google, this 75 kilometre route should take around two and a half hours.  Interesting.

The Tools

But, before we jump to the challenge, let me tell you a little bit about the motorcycles. The Versys-X300 uses a parallel twin. The engine, borrowed from the Ninja 300, makes almost 40bhp. And, it has straightforward cycle parts. The tubular chassis is suspended on telescopic front forks and a monoshock at the rear. It gets aluminium spoked wheels. And apart from ABS - which can't be turned off - the Kawasaki sports no other rider aids.

Kawasaki Versys X-300

Kawasaki Versys X-300

  • Displacement296 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)38.7 bhp
  • Kerb Weight184 kg
  • ;

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 4,69,000

The Tiger 800 has a gamut of electronic rider aids. There are different levels of traction control, ABS settings, power outputs and more. It has a fancy colour instrumentation as well. And, like the Kawasaki, this XCX version, also gets spoked wheels. And, it is green in colour! But, it gets adjustable suspension, a low seat height option, more stopping power, and a three cylinder engine that's both a powerhouse and a torque de force.  

The Challenge

What Google maps doesn't tell you is how bad the road conditions have gotten. It also doesn't tell you how the potholes are difficult to spot when it's pouring like the apocalypse. But, what Google didn't account for is the long travel suspension and the 19-inch front wheels on both the bikes. So, even though our two and half hours ETA was looking more like four and a half, at least we wouldn't be doubling back. 

I started on the Triumph. And the Tiger is heavier and less nimbler of the two. So, after a couple of attempts, I stopped slaloming to avoid those craters. I just went through them all. And unless I caught a really deep one with cliff like edges, the 800 glided through all of it. Sure, I slowed down. But, never did I feel the need to rock back in order to lighten up the front and save it from crashing into those massive holes.

The Versys with its relatively quicker steering and less inertia was easier to manoeuvre. I could see Pratheek make easy work of zig-zagging between potholes on the Kawasaki. I could also see that I was slowing him down. But, while I stood up and rode to take the bite off the potholes, bumps and everything else which the road was throwing at us, I could see Pratheek struggling to do the same on the smaller Kawasaki. 

Then Google decided we had had enough of the pockmarked road. And, it made us hang a right on a road which was significantly narrower but equally pockmarked. Plus, it seemed to be leading nowhere. But, we had to beat the maps, and so, we had to carry on. Come what may.

Now, as we rode along, I was tempted to stop and exchange the Tiger for the Versys. You see, this road we had turned on, wasn't just potholed; it was slippery, it was winding uphill, and it had tight and blind hairpins that involuntarily had me putting my foot down. Not that i could have done anything if the Tiger decided to lose its front, or I, my balance. Did i mention the Triumph weighs over 200kgs? Well, there's no saving that with your foot alone. 

Also, I am more than just uncomfortable when it comes to large, heavy and tall bikes; I am completely intimidated. And scared, especially, of the picking-it-up part. But, all my whats, hows, ifs and buts were completely unfounded. The Tiger is undoubtedly a big bike, and it's a little front heavy too. But, on the move, it was surprisingly manageable. And, if you understand balance, even more so. 

Finally, we had made it to the half way point. And while the others mulled over the hows and wheres of taking pictures, I just went straight for the Versys. I was craving for something lighter. And as we started rolling again, as expected, the Kawasaki immediately felt so light,  nimble and so easy to ride; it felt so natural, so confidence inspiring.

But, truth be told, a small ADV is a small ADV. It might be easier to ride, but it doesn't have that smile inducing torque every time you go for the throttle. You can't slide it around as easily or safely either,, just to make a good picture. And when seated (or standing up), a small ADV feels relatively cramped, restrictive and nowhere near as natural or comfortable to spend long hours on unlike a full-sized one.

Soon though, there was no road left. Google had clearly thrown its worst at us. The path’s awful surface and its narrowness, not to mention the complete absence of any life form on the route, had convinced us that we were headed straight for a dead-end. Or a cliff. But, even to get there, all we had were some slim gravel lines to tread on among all the water logging. And the one time I decided to be brave and wade through water, I almost crashed. The ditch was so deep, it took all of my ADVs suspension travel from knocking me over. Pratheek on the Tiger was having an equally challenging time. But, the point is, nothing could stop us.

The End

We made it to our planned destination three hours later than what Google had predicted. Even though I have a feeling that inside its AI head, Google would have been hoping we just turn around and accept defeat.

But, that’s what ADVs are for. To take you to places that aren’t well researched, or frequented or even well-connected. With an ADV one can just point it in a direction and start heading there without a worry in the world. Now, if you are wondering why we picked these particular motorcycles; is it because these have upright seating, spoked wheels and a green paint job? Well, yes, for the spoked wheel part. But, we didn't plan on these bikes specifically. Or this story, to be honest.

We just happened to have these two ADVs - one at the entry-level price point, and the other closer to the bells-and-whistles end of the market. And, we had a day to spare. What's more, it seemed like a better idea to ride instead of spending yet another day in an air conditioned office watching crazy dirt bike videos or double tapping on Instagram.

Now, if we had cruisers or sportbikes, we would have needed to look at the maps more intently. We wouldn’t have been able to just point anywhere and get going. And that's true even for street-nakeds. Majority of these still pride themselves for having sporty suspension and mildly crouched seating ergos. Not to mention, many run high-strung engines and have tyres that hate anything but the smoothest tarmac.

But not an ADV. And that's the beautiful thing about adventure motorcycles. These are your go-anywhere machines, and probably the only ones that beat Google maps at its game so comprehensively!

Photography by Kapil Angane

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