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We just had to find out what it felt like to whack the throttle open on the Desert Storm winning TVS RTR 450 FX

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It’s a damn shame. Really is. I used to think that TVS was one of the good guys. But now, I’m not so sure. Right now, I’m harbouring a whole lot of negativity. So much that a Guy Fawkes mask might not seem out of place. I’m seriously pissed off that TVS won’t sell this motorcycle here. I might have a stupid grin plastered on my face, but inside, I’m really pissed off!

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I’ve been going round TVS’ test track for a while now and with every passing lap, my grin just keeps getting bigger. And with every passing lap, I also ended up going faster and faster. Now, TVS’ test track outside Bangalore is no small affair. If they weren’t so secretive about it, it would’ve made a world-class supercross track.

It’s got jumps. It’s got whoops. It’s got table-tops. Hell, it’s even got one of the longest straights I’ve ever seen on a closed, off-road track. But forget all that. As magnificent as the track here is, it is the motorcycle I’m testing on it that is making me grin ear-to-ear – the TVS RTR 450 FX. Yes, the same motorcycle that just went and won the Desert Storm. And it didn’t just win, TVS’ Nataraj and Tanveer brought the motorcycles in, in first and second places.

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I can see why, now. The RTR 450 FX is an incredible machine. For a fully race-prepped enduro, the RTR is super friendly. But don’t get me wrong. It’s no slow-poke. It can hit upwards of 120kph on shifty surfaces. Might not sound like much, but trust me, it is.

At those speeds, especially off-road, you’re looking at so much information being thrown at you that your brain pretty much explodes from trying to process all of it. So, it’s not something everybody can do. But for those who are brave enough, the RTR 450 will make for a trusty companion.

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The RTR’s 450cc single is tuned for rally raids. This means the engine is all about mid-range to top-end performance - fast rather than quick. It is built around an aluminium, double cradle frame and has fully adjustable WP suspension at the front and back. The rally setup also means the suspension is set up towards the stiffer side to accommodate the sustained high-speed work required on the special stages.

On TVS’ track, the long straight lets you stretch the RTR’s legs a bit. I could come flying around the last left-hander with my tail hanging out and open the throttle all the way with nary a thought. The rear would come around in a perfect arc every single time and the knobblies would find traction and put the manic power down to the ground.

The result is acceleration that takes you all the way to fifth before you have to slow down. Not because I ran out of track (of course, that was part of it), but more because my brain started to yell and scream all kinds of expletives. Remember that brain explosion I was talking about? This was that.

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And just as my brain was trying to recover from that blast of speed, it got even more confused. No matter how much off-road time I clock, every time I come back to it, it takes me a little while to reset my head to accept the magic of knobblies. So, the first time I got to the left-hander at the end of the straight, I panicked and slowed down to snail’s pace. But lap after lap, the pace went up and I could start to appreciate the RTR’s dynamic capabilities. The top-of-the-line suspension bits give the RTR great poise through corners. The sophistication shows.

The WP components manage to send lots of feedback your way without sacrificing on the shock absorption. This is no motocross bike (that would be the RTR 350, next on my to-do list), so it isn’t meant for supermans and backflips. So if you’re expecting it to laugh in the face of 100-foot jumps, you’re going to be disappointed. But that’s not saying it won’t handle air-time.

The kind of air-time the 450 likes is the kind you’ll find in between dunes or over a crest on a super fast special stage. It’s what this bike was built for and it does this exceptionally well. So put it on a rough trail and it’ll do that brain explosion thing again with the kind of pace it can set. Perfect rally setup, this.

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Even the way the engine works, points to this bent of mind. As with any off-road motorcycle, the amount of torque the RTR generates is tremendous. The combination of torque and tyres leaves your reflexes a few milliseconds behind. And that’s without the gearing being focused on acceleration. The rally raid setup means top speed is where the game’s at. So when you sit on those long straights, going full whack, the engine isn’t dying. The gearing, too, is conducive to such high-speed action.

The longer ratios make the acceleration less violent (relatively, of course) and the motorcycle’s temperament a lot calmer (again, relative). But don’t take this motorcycle lightly. Treat it without respect and it will chew you up and spit you out. And that’s not a pleasant state to be in.

But in seasoned hands, it is magic. I could barely scratch the surface of this motorcycle’s capabilities. Something that Nataraj and Tanveer proceeded to demonstrate with their ridiculous pace around the track. Did I feel inadequate? Of course!

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Being a rally raid bike, the RTR 450 FX is required to be sort of road legal. The rallies demand it. Hence, you’ll find headlights, auxiliary lights, turn signals and brake lights on this. And in my head, if it’s sort of road legal, it can sort of be sold to me for sort of road and trail use. But alas, the world of two-wheeler manufacturing is not so simple.

There are a lot of hurdles to cross before this dream becomes a legal reality. But come on TVS, you’re one of the good guys. The nation needs a full-size off-road motorcycle. It’s about damn time!

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