Is the Honda X-Adv really designed to go on track? With the chance to take part in the Thames Vale Advanced Motorcyclists (TVAM) Skills Day at Thruxton, I thought it was a great way to find out.
It’s the first time that Thruxton opened it’s doors to TVAM and was exclusively for club members. Based on the format of the IAM Skills Day it was a day to learn in a controlled environment, where riders would improve cornering ability and machine confidence. The IAM run similar courses, that are open to the general public.
Each hour would be broken into twenty minute blocks, a classroom session followed by track session and much needed break. We’d have our riding deconstructed, reconstructed and be pushed out of our comfort zone into challenge zone and hopefully, not too frequently, into panic zone.
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With tyre pressures adjusted, led by Steve, the instructor, I headed on track, with other slightly apprehensive fellow pupils in tow. We formed a metal snake and coursed round the Hampshire circuit.
A very mixed group found the X-Adv dwarfed by a BMW S1000RR, Aprilia RSV4 and KTM Superduke. With a 90mph maximum speed limit imposed on the day, I hoped they wouldn’t leave my 54bhp twin motor in their wake as the day progressed.
Cones marked the turning points, corner apex and exit points, being an airfield there are few features and it would be nigh on impossible to work out where to turn without them. We set a steady pace round the first few laps, still our twenty minutes flew and we were soon back in the pits.
Helmets off, water drunk, we chatted our way through the session, we were all taking in so much information and already I realised I’d be learning lots through the day.
As the day progressed the X-Adv became more of a talking point, as it does wherever I travel, curiosity caused amusement with some. I didn’t see any of my fellow participants open their underseat storage, whip out a bacon sandwich and have elevenses. The joys of my little X-Adv know no bounds and never cease to cause me and others to smile.
I was pushing both myself and the bike further than I’d done while riding on road and became more confident. I’d opted to avoid manual mode, one less thing to think about while out on track. With gears firmly fixed in the third setting of Sport mode, one I’d not really used much on the road, the bike revved higher and lower gears held longer.
In auto mode the X-Adv lacks engine braking, I almost caught myself out at one corner and flew towards the turning cone far too quickly. Definitely pushing from challenge zone into panic zone, eyes on stalks and heart pumping I squeezed the brakes and followed a totally new line through the bend.
As sessions progressed I could feel the layers of information building and my confidence in the X-Adv (and myself) grew. The combination of classroom and on track tuition was the right mix and balance, riding on track in the small group meant we had chance to lead and be led.
The most amusing session was where we were taught about anchor points on the bike and where to grip to aid movement and body positioning when cornering.
Grip the tank - what tank? Shift feet on the pegs - what pegs? I had to learn how to move around on the footboards and the bike felt unstable if I tried to shift whole body weight too much. Instead I concentrated on moving my upper body position, drop the leading shoulder into each corner, peer round the screen and if I could shift a small bit of cheek off the saddle I did. The aim was to keep the bike more upright and not drag it over too far, using my weight to aid the turn.
I felt like a riding goddess but photographic evidence showed I wasn’t really moving a massive amount but anything would be better than nothing.
As the day drew to a close I was shattered, my brain was slowly turning to mush, my rear tyre had a satisfying amount of bobbled rubber and my fuel figures had dropped to an all time low of 54mpg.
My little Honda really isn’t designed to go on track but I’d had a ball and it was £125 well spent. I’d smiled all day, learnt loads and was now the unofficial, unverified, untimed Thruxton Lap Record Holder (on a Honda X-Adv). I was ready for the 130 mile ride home….I just hoped someone had ridden ahead and got the turning point and apex cones in place for