Learning how to offroad for newbies in India

He says you must always first go and physically check the place and then drive, it took a few rounds for this rule to set into me.

Turbolove recently shared this with other BHPians.

Hi there,

This post is about how I went off roading for the first time ever with Distinguished Bhpian Dr. Tejas Kothari (Tejas@perioimpl) showing me the ropes.

Prologue: I've always loved cars as a kid, tried to make a career as an auto engineer, but that didn't work out. I got out of the auto field, but the love for cars never left me. Fast forward to now, we have a 3 year Jeep Compass 4x4 manual, which was primarily bought due to the hefty discount and six airbags and not the 4x4 system. Dad has used it for 3 years and I was to take the Sonet with me and shift to Bangalore. Now come January and I put an ad for the Compass and I'm not happy with the offers we got, I was never on board selling it completely anyway. Then I came across the Team-BHP threads about Dr. Tejas Kothari and his article in Autocar in mid Jan. The whole setup looked quite good.

On 29th Jan, we were thinking of lowering the Compass's asking rate to sell it and I suddenly remembered about learnoffroad. I called up the number on the website and Tejas Kothari answered, I asked him straight away that I have no experience and a Jeep Compass rather than a ladder frame car, could I still come and try my hand at off roading? He said, "yes, we've done some cars like the Hexa and Kodiaq". Then he asked why do you want to do this and my answer was simple "I just want to try out off-roading and see if its something I like". I then asked him if a 1-1 session was possible for the day after on Sunday. He said yes and I confirmed with him later that night.

Fast forward to 31st Sunday, I meet him at Vashi toll naka, spotting is easy with his Pajero standing out tall and then I followed him till the training ground at Pali. The first thing when following the Pajero you notice are the stickers, they are just funny like "not drunk, avoiding potholes" or "back up" written on the spare wheel with Bender (Futurama) showing guns. You see these stickers and think this guy looks fun. The drive after exiting the expressway was lovely and reminded me how nice a handler the Compass is as compared to the Sonet (I know its not a fair comparison). And how could one forget the sound of the turbo singing post 2,000 rpm.

After reaching the ground we sign the indemnity paper and got started. He first taught how to go about inspecting the car and your driving position. In my case I had a bad approach angle due to the low wind deflector. However, I wasn't worried a lot about it since it was flexible and had seen people take it off right out of the showroom too.

Then we walked to the first few obstacles and understood them, the first one was where the car goes down a steep decline and then comes a steep incline. Here the doc goes about explaining that I need to come down slow since I have a bad approach angle, less to worry as I exit the decline since my departure angle is better. In the car, my decline was fine, but while coming up and since the Compass has a snappy clutch and starting out on such a steep incline was new to me, I ended up slipping the clutch and burning it up a bit.

Then we proceed to the bed of rocks, a lot of sharp rocks at angles. I think this one was to let us check if ones lowered tyre pressure correctly (we hadn't lowered the pressure).

Then came the multiple big pipes in a line, those we have to drive over super slowly so as to ensure the car doesnt bounce and hit something underneath.

Then we move to the hill which is to be taken at an angle. Here I needed the docs complete guidance as I didn't have great visibility and he had to help me reach a good approach angle and get over. We had to try a few times but in the end we got through. We started by making the approach angle right and reaching the point where front left tyre was in the air and the rest were on the ground. Used momentum to get across and now have the rear left tyre in the air with most of the vehicle across the ridge.

After this, we did all 4 obstacles again.

Then we moved to the next obstacles which was learning how to attack declines at an angle so that my low deflector doesn't scrape and also properly following the spotters instructions. Here is where it started to get more intense as the car would already be at angle new to me and then I had to be really good with modulating the brakes to ensure they don't lock up the wheels or are too light to slow down the car since I didn't have hill descent control.

Then we moved to where I had to learn how to get the vehicle up an incline. Doc pointed to an incline and I was like yeah we can do it. He says you must always first go and physically check the place and then drive, it took a few rounds for this rule to set into me.

While doing the climbs, I had a hard a time because while starting on the incline, I don't want to slip the clutch for fear of burning it, but if drop the clutch too fast the car would bog down and stall. I started dropping the clutch at higher rpms so that when the rpm came down, it would still be in the power zone, this took getting used as its something I have never really done. The jumpy nature of my clutch to build up speed suddenly when engaged and then calm down didn't make it any easier either.

As time passed, we figured that starting from a flat ground leading to an incline would be easier for me. Here the car was able to climb happily with the revs ticking at 1500-2000 rpm. Whenever we tried to do a climb in the 2nd gear the engine got bogged down and stalled due to large difference between 1st and 2nd gear, I think it might be around 700-900 rpm.

Then we broke for lunch and doc took me to a Maharashtrian place about 15 min away. I had puranpoli after ages and it was 100% delicious.

When we came back, it was time to do the off camber obstacle.

Now here, the doc was calmly spotting outside and giving me instructions whereas in the driver's seat, I was scared that the car will scrape its sides, but it got through just fine without a scratch. Post that was a decline which I was now more comfortable doing.

Then we went down to the trail track, here there were some ridges and ruts which I needed to cross at an angle. The amateur in me was like yeah this is deep sure, lets do it an angle. The doc then points out the tricky approach means you'll hit even at an angle. So you turn around and use some rocks to build up and ensure the car doesn't go too low. Simple trick, but crucial.

Then we went to this flat-ish ground where most people with RWD cars could do donuts. I asked the doc to attempt it in my car, however with the fwd bias we couldn't, although we got the "right indicator light out" warning on the mid, so atleast something came of that attempt.

Then we moved to another obstacle wherein you enter at negative camber, but right at the exit you have to make a hard turn and need momentum. Doc had suggested my approach angle is too bad for it, we still went ahead and tried. The result - the compass passed through in the second try. However, I nicked a small part of the wind deflector and got a small scratch on the bumper. I was totally fine with this, I did the obstacle in reverse again.

Entering it in the reverse direction:

Then we put down the cars and he started showing all the tools used for recovery. His car is like an encyclopedia with all the stuff just loaded it in it from ropes to bow shackles to a tool kit, pretty much everything you could need. And his knowledge of how to properly use all this was pretty awesome too.

During this whole time, he also shared stories about his off-road experiences which honestly was just as fun to listen to as doing the actual off-roading.

At the end, when we left, the compass drove just fine with no squeaks and rattles and got me home comfortably.

I can safely say that off-roading has got to me and I definitely make a hobby out of this. Now I just gotta search for some off-road groups in Bangalore I could join and get more practice at this.

At the end of a great day with the certificate:

Noob goes off-roading for the first time in a cross over with a professional off-roading trainer, enjoys the hell out of it and is now gonna try and make this a hobby.

Here are some additional pics:

Thanks to Turbolove once again! Check out BHPian comments for more insights & information.

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