To make the most of the three days at our disposal and to satiate the appetite for travelling, we embarked on a road trip astride the smallest Tiger of them all.
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Being one with a motorcycle as the kilometres tick away is a feeling worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime. For motorcyclists, that singular experience is the beginning of an addiction that promises endless chapters of thrill and travel. Bad roads and the discomfort that follows have always been thorns in my side whenever I plan a motorcycle tour.
Then came the media ride of the Triumph Tiger Sport 660. On the twisty mountain roads of Dehradun, the Tiger showed a lot of promise with its speed and agility; it certainly had the pace and ability to cover long distances easily. During the presentation, Triumph also mentioned that this motorcycle would come with touring accessories, including a top box and a couple of sleek panniers. That was probably when I decided that at least one road trip had to be undertaken astride the smallest Tiger in Triumph India’s line-up.
Triumph kindly loaned us a Tiger Sport 660 for a week and since it came equipped with the touring kit, we reckoned it was perfect for a travel story. With three days at my disposal, no time was wasted in filling up the panniers with the essentials. Usually, this would be followed by fiddling with a C-spanner to adjust the preload but the Tiger’s remote preload adjuster saved me a lot of time on that front and the following morning we were on the road just as the sun rose over the horizon.
On the highway, I was clocking close to three-digit figures in sixth gear with the engine purring away like a Cheshire cat. Thanks to the 64 Nm of torque spread well through the rev-range and the 81 hp on tap, higher speeds were available with a simple twist of the wrist but, while passing through some amazing scenery, I felt the need to take in the beauty rather than whiz past. Sport-touring is not about ripping over land like a guided missile. It is about enjoying the experience with the potential to tear along like a weapon should the rider demand it. That meant there was always enough time to take a few pictures along the way and then make up the time once back in the saddle.
The empty highway transformed into urban chaos as we neared Shirdi in Ahmednagar district. Throngs of pilgrims and local citizenry frequent the Sai Baba temple here and the site bears great religious significance. Riding the Tiger through traffic was not a problem at all because of its comfortable ride quality and how easy it is to handle but shooting and filming there was near impossible. So, with a prayer for a safe ride ahead, I re-joined the highway and set course for Aurangabad. The long straights and flowing corners that followed were home turf for the Tiger. Miles went by unnoticed as I enjoyed the motion picture that unfurled around me. The scenery raced past in the opposite direction almost in sync with the in-line triple’s unique and enticing soundtrack. That could have been my entire itinerary for the day but I already had one in place and it began with some art and history.
Ellora Caves are among the best expressions of Indian art in the Middle Ages and it was also our first stop during this trip. They were planned and executed between the sixth and eighth centuries AD and they are a marvel to behold; even by modern standards. The most remarkable of the lot was the Kailasa temple, the largest monolithic sculpture in the world. The carvings are so intricate that it beggars belief to even imagine that this was done by hand. Modern technology allows us to make mistakes and just undo them by tapping “Ctrl+Z” but this was hard, unforgiving rock and just imagining the amount of skill and patience needed to pull this off gave me the goosebumps. It got me thinking. The Tiger Sport 660 is quite unlike the other Tigers. This motorcycle was designed to be sharp and aggressive by the pen but it felt as if the wind had sculpted it to produce a beautiful machine; a form that is as functional as it is beautiful to look at.
When in Aurangabad, one must visit the Bibi-ka-maqbara as well. If inspiration is a cornerstone for art, then this is one of the best examples of inspired work in the country. Due to its similarity to the Taj Mahal in Agra, it is also known as the “Taj of the Deccan”. Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb commissioned this structure as a tomb for his beloved wife and the architect in charge was Ata-ullah. He was the son of Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the principal designer of the Taj Mahal. With this interesting piece of history filed away, it was time to leave Aurangabad and get on to one of the best stretches of road on this whole trip, the highway to Nashik.
Progress was rapid on the freshly laid smooth tarmac and it gave me a chance to explore the triple’s capabilities some more. As the revs rose, the soundtrack went from smooth and mellow to an urgent scream that was only interrupted by the gear-changes as I used the quickshifter to shift through the transmission. Time flies when one is having fun and so distances disintegrate when the Tiger is involved. Within no time, I found myself entering Nashik city limits.
Nashik is a city that boasts of a fine balance between culture and development, as is easily interpreted from the cityscape. If one is able to fly a drone high enough, it is easy to see that along with the city infrastructure, Nashik has acres of greenery and that is where I headed next. Vineyards and wineries are among the first things most would associate with Nashik and wine tasting is something I had not tried before. The Tiger’s “BreakAwayFromBoring” inspired me to give that a shot instead of walking around temple complexes. So, I fed York Winery’s address into the MyTriumph app and followed the directions on the motorcycle’s console to lead me there.
At the beginning of the tour, we were informed that we had missed out on the harvesting season which is earlier in the year. Otherwise, it was interesting to see how wine is made. From crushing the grapes to fermenting them and then storage in wooden barrels, it is a painstakingly precise process. Following that, we were ushered into a tasting room to sample a few of the wines made at the facility; “sample” being the key word here. Of course, we do not encourage any form of inebriated riding. Besides, I was already intoxicated with the speed and thrill offered by Triumph’s smallest Tiger and considerably drunk on all the interesting things and places I got to see on this trip.
Travelling broadens the mind but doing the same thing astride a motorcycle makes one aware of new dimensions and perspectives. The Triumph Tiger Sport 660 lived up to its credentials of being an able sport-touring machine and it effortlessly managed all the heavy lifting needed for this trip. It was the quickest thing on the road when I needed it to be yet easy to handle when I got stuck in traffic and returned a ride like a magic carpet on the highways. In the modern world where problems are many and solutions are few, this motorcycle that promised to be an all-rounder was a refreshing change of pace. It stayed true to itself and delivered on all counts. Like any other road trip, there were challenges on this one also, but ever since it was picked up and finally returned, not one thing went wrong with the Tiger. If I were to describe this ride and the subsequent experiences as a chain of events, then the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 was easily its strongest link.