Before we get to the riding part, a gymkhana is an obstacle-laid closed course that needs to be completed in the shortest duration possible. With a variety of high and low-amplitude undulations, an off-road gymkhana tests a motorcycle’s suspension, ground clearance, and all other aspects which play an important role in off-roading.
The gymkhana starts with two sets of huge tyres, which scared me when I saw Pratheek going over them and landing hard on the front every time. However, it wasn’t as scary as it looked. I rode up the entry plank and gave aggressive throttle just before touching the tyre, which helped me get some air. On Vikrant’s instructions, I even tried doing the whole exercise in the first gear and going full throttle. This resulted in the rear landing before the front, making it much less scary. Now, given the lack of low-end grunt in the 390 Adventure, I had to keep the bike in first gear to keep the revs in the meat of the power band for the needed drive. Also, every time I went through the tyres, I could feel the front of the bike bottoming out, similar to other bikes.
Now, it was time to execute a tight U-turn to get into the second lane. This wasn’t the easiest task on the 390 as I found the throttle to be a little choppy, resulting in abrupt acceleration. However, the extremely light clutch was a big relief, and the wide handlebar gave a lot of leverage while steering.
That said, the U-turn brought me face-to-face with my nightmare – a bunch of sizeable stones, terrorising me with their sharp edges from a distance. Conquering my fears, I kept on going and crossed the stone block with clenched teeth. Although I didn’t fall, I wasn’t too far from it because of the lack of acceleration and the fact that I was holding the bar too tight. Even the bike’s belly pan scraped a few stones which only increased the panic.
The next lane comprised a gigantic sand hump flowing over a barrel. This was easily the least difficult. The course of action was, as you climb up and are about to descent, move your body to the back. Which I did, and it went smoothly. But again, the low ground clearance showed its effect with a ‘khrssh’ sound. Next up was riding over a long and narrow wooden beam where it was all about the technique. Keep looking at the start of the beam and as soon as the bike is on top of it, look at the end. And the faster you are, the higher are the chances of you acing it. Obviously, I failed at it in the first few attempts.
The last lane had the log jump and slalom. Executing the former at a fast pace was really unnerving. After the front wheel went over the log, the rear of the 390 ADV kicked up with a harsh jolt, sending a shiver down my spine. However, the trick I used on the tyres helped here — trundling slowly up to the log and giving full gas as soon as the front wheel touched it. This way the front lifted substantially, and the rear landed first. Then through the slalom, tipping the bike on either side was quite manageable. But I found the long turning radius to be really slowing me down.
We also did the braking test. The task was to approach the braking starting point as fast as we could, apply both the brakes completely and come to a halt. All of that with the rear ABS off. On the road, it isn’t as scary as it is on dirt. The front brake of the 390 Adventure has incredible bite and the ABS isn’t very intrusive. This allowed the front to lock up at several instances while intervening just before washing out. As for the rear, the right amount of progression meant the slides weren’t extreme.