The year was 2015. I was still in college and riding the shiny new RS200 that my parents had recently gotten me. Whatever I lacked in experience, I thought I made up in enthusiasm as I chased my far more skilled friends down Lavassa’s twisties.
While I wasn’t rash, I definitely was punching way above my weight. The end result? Me losing control on one of the corners as the bike slammed into a wall. The funniest part - I didn’t even know why I lost control.
Physical injury? Not much, the gear did its job of protecting me well. Mental scars? SO MANY. Even four years later, I still wasn’t confident around corners...
Back to 2019, I get an invitation to join a motorcycle manufacturer on a ride from Chandigarh to Ladakh. Not a good idea for someone who’s scared of ghats, right?
That’s when I came across Vikrant and his Top Gun India academy of motorcycling. But wait, do we really need a motorcycling school? You learn your balance as a kid on a cycle and your dad/ friend teaches you how to shift through gears on a motorcycle.
While riding a motorbike is apparently simple, riding a motorbike properly isn’t, and that’s where the Top Gun India Riding Academy steps in.
Approximately 10 years ago, Vikrant Ghate had his own racing team burning up the MMRT near Chennai. It was there that it dawned upon him that regardless of how fast he and his Maharashtra-based racers were, the South-Indian riders were always quicker.
This boiled down to the fact that the racetracks in Chennai and Coimbatore helped create a training ground that the west-coast guys just couldn’t compete with.
A successful commercial pilot, Vikrant decided to give back to the community and started the Top Gun India riding academy.
“This isn’t a racing school and the whole objective isn’t to go home faster. It’s to ride better and safer. And with more confidence,” barked Vikrant at our first briefing session.
I was joined by seven other student riders for the day and our instructors would be Clinton Cordeiro who made it big in the Indian racing scene along with Vikrant himself.
A quick briefing session, some dos and don’ts about track etiquette and we were out on the track. For those who, like me, have never been to a track, it’s pretty simple. You start slow and learn the track for the first few laps.
But as soon as I started pushing myself through the paces, I once again was gripped by that familiar sense of fear. The same sense of losing control and not knowing why.
And that’s exactly why a riding school is so important. It gives you a safe space to speak about your fears and it’s almost always that there’s going to be someone else who has faced the same issue. As we got back to the classroom, I voiced my concern.
Vikrant explained the way the bike behaves, the way the rider behaves and after some group discussion, comes up with a couple of probable solutions.
We got back on the bikes and I was eager to test if this newfound knowledge actually made a difference. I rolled on the throttle, leaned down in the corner, kept the advice at the back of my head and ta duh, came out cleanly through the dreaded corner!
It was almost shocking how I was doing something so wrong for so long without knowing that the solution was literally right around the corner! (pun intended)
The rest of the morning and afternoon was filled with similar scenarios and situations where real-life situations were brought to light and tackled. It doesn’t really matter if you’re on an entry level bike or a fully loaded adventure tourer, the fundamentals are the same, and the skills go down a long way.
Over the years we’ve seen a surge of performance motorcycles arrive at our Indian shores. Right from the tiny pocket rockets to the much larger supersports, the choices are many and so are the takers. So, while we have great power, we do need great responsibility to match. Which is where a riding school steps in.
Coming back to my Ladakh trip. I did manage to keep the rubber side down throughout the trip and I actually enjoyed the hairpin corners a lot more than I thought I would. Now, if only I could find some larger corners on a bigger track with maybe, a bigger bike. Hmm, time to make some calls.