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.