I’ve never been an off-road sort of guy. I like tarmac. Where the bike is nice and stable most of the time. Why? Because it gives me a sense of control over the machine and therefore my progress. This perception of control is reduces when going off road and it’s not something that has given me a lot of confidence. The contrary in fact. The idea of riding a motorcycle that will be twitching and sliding and doing all sorts of things and I should simply let it be isn’t something that I feel very comfortable with.
Imagine my trepidation then standing in the Sherco TVS tent staring at a bunch of bikes that TVS had designed, from the ground up, for nothing but off-road riding. Two of them being the very bikes that Harith Noah and Abdul Wahid Tanveer had ridden just two days before at the Rallye du Maroc. I can’t say the bikes didn’t intimidate me. For crissake, Harith’s FIM Moto class Sherco TVS bike is powered by a 450cc engine that puts out over 60bhp while Tanveer’s 450 Rally Lite bike will put out anything between 52-54bhp.
And no, teams don’t reveal exact output figures. Even the 300 Rally Cross and the 300 Cross Country that were at hand didn’t look like they’d be easy to ride. They were all tall and I could just about manage to put one foot on the ground from the slim saddles. Me in my very wrong road riding gear, the soft undulating dunes of the Sahara and the bikes that I would ride. I thought I was staring in the face of disaster. Twenty fantastic minutes later, I was back at the tent. And couldn’t stop jabbering about how great I felt. I wasn’t alone either, the others in the batch seemed super excited too.
Why? Because riding in the sand is enormous fun. Rookies that we all were, the Sherco TVS lead rider made sure that we were all riding well within our abilities. Hell, it was probably the slowest ride of his life. Poor guy. But boy oh boy it was fun. In the first 5 minutes I had fallen off the bike thrice! But sand being sand, I had simply crawled out from under the bike each time. Yep, sand doesn’t hurt when you fall on it. Even when one of us (not me) was pitched over the handlebars at one point, all he returned with was a heavily bruised ego and a torn jacket.
Not a scratch otherwise from what could have been really nasty. Riding at 50 on the sand feels like 100 with the bike sliding and twitching all the time. At first there is hesitation and panic. You just put on a brave face and keep going until realisation dawns. That this is all fantastic fun and that you can’t wait to do it all over again. No matter how counter intuitive it may feel to all that you’ve done when riding on the road. As for traction? I suppose it’s somewhat over rated.