An off-road noob and a cycling pro take their pocket-friendly weapons off the beaten path to get a dose of dirt-spiked adrenaline
With all the boys getting dirty with big, burly ADVs, I didn’t want to be left behind. Look elsewhere in the magazine and you’ll see pictures of the big Beemers splashing through the mud and the Royal Enfield Himalayan getting some air-time. I was thirsty for some muddy, slushy action too but needed something challenging. Enter the Aprilia Storm 125 – the Italian brand’s entry-level offering that gets chunky, dual-purpose block tyres, allowing it for mild off-roading. But like all scooters, it’s not easy to ride off-road thanks to the 12-inch wheels and CVT. Try hard braking when you’re going uphill and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Vishal caught wind of my plan and insisted on bringing along the Trek Marlin 7. I didn’t want to sound rude by telling him his cycle was no match for the Storm, but I guess my face gave it away and that was it! And thus began the manpower versus horsepower duel.
Don’t get me wrong. The Trek Marlin 7 can catch anyone’s fancy. The vibrant orange paintjob, Rockshox forks, internal cabling and the beefy tyres would tempt anyone to take up cycling. Heck, even I couldn’t resist. How did it go? You’ll find out in a bit.
The Storm is equally catchy with the bright matte paintjob, funky graphics and the robust rubber. Though, it looks more or less the same as the SR 125, there are a few minor changes that’ll be unravelled with a magnifying glass. It gets smaller, 12-inch wheels shod with dual-purpose rubber but sadly doesn’t get a disc brake, even as option.
I headed out of the city, eager to put the nine horses to work. Yes, the motor is the same as the one in the SR125, and makes the same peak power and torque figures, which meant pottering in traffic with quick bursts of acceleration to overtake lumbering cars and trucks is easy.
I caught up with Vishal at the agreed meeting point. I wasn’t going to be a bully and race Mr. Pedals uphill. I instead chose to ride alongside him to give him moral support in the form of constant reminders that I didn’t need to expend more energy than twisting my wrist. Vishal was having none of it, locking out the Marlin’s forks and went for it. We were halfway through the climb, yet Vishal wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The Marlin 7 had nine gears, and that was a significant help to him uphill.
Mother nature was on my side though, as the sun was out in full glory. Gradually, Vishal slowed down. The only reason I was sweating was because I wasn’t going quick enough and was consequently stewing in my riding jacket. Vishal eventually made it to our breakfast point, but not before taking a breather. Score one for the horsepower!
Before we hit the trail, we went down a broken road and that’s when I realised the Storm’s potential (and limits). The muscular 120/80 section rubber up front and 130/80 section at the rear work wonders on bad roads when compared to the super stiff SR 150. It absorbs the bumps better, making up for the stiff suspension setup. But only to a certain extent – I still had to slow down before the forks and my hands begged for mercy.
Marlin (and Vishal), would be in shambles, I presumed. However, the suspension wasn’t locked out anymore and with the 100mm travel on the forks, Vishal just peddled past me. Hard for me to admit, but that’s a point for manpower.
We were now approaching the smooth downhill section and both of us sighed with relief. I didn’t have to ride along with the slowcoach anymore, and he didn’t have to put in as much work. Then came the shocker! The drums on the Storm are a big disappointment. The front is almost numb, offering no feedback whatsoever. The rear is somewhat better, so I ended up relying more on it rather than the front.
Vishal though, was blisteringly fast. Gravity is clearly a friend. I had a hard time keeping up on the Storm, especially when the cycle continued to carry the same speed through the curves, and I needed to reign in the Aprilia before it did something silly. Maybe it’s all down to the Marlin’s lightweight Alpha Silver Aluminium frame and the wide handlebar that help it hold its line perfectly around corners or it’s Vishal’s titanium man-parts that allow him to carry those speeds.
We found an open green patch, with just the right amount of slickness to go slippin’ and sliding. After all, this was the whole reason we started all this madness! All it needed was a flick of the wrist and with the 9.9Nm of torque, the scooter was happy to go sideways. And who said a humble scoot couldn’t catch some air-time? I found just the perfect ramp and gassed it through!
The Marlin had no place here, I thought, but the Ped’lling maestro still had a thing or two to teach me about cycling. The Trek’s Tektro HD hydraulic disc setup was phenomenal. With a few slick slides, the man let his cycle do the talking! But come on, the horsepower still won this round.
I decided to take the cycle for a spin and I was floored… literally! I was shown my place by the cycle. A few more tries and I managed to keep the rear wheel (and my face) off the ground.
The Aprilia Storm 125 can tag along with your biker buds hitting the trails and even double up as an everyday hustler. The Trek Marlin 7, too, will impress you with its on/off-road capabilities and is an option for someone looking for a cross-country hardtail bike. And the best part? You won’t have to sell your kidneys to buy either of them!