Triumph Tiger XC 800 Test
I always get excited when a motorcycle manufacturer releases a new model adventure bike onto the market. During these economic times a new release doesn’t happen that often so when a new contender enters the ring all eyes are on them to see if they’re up to the challenge.
So when Triumph stepped up and pulled on the gloves with their new Triumph Tiger XC 800 its appearance alone looked as though it had BMW F800GS customers in its sights with its point of difference being the extra piston. Would that be enough?
To be fair I had long forgotten about the Triumph Tiger in the early noughties. Their 2004 Tiger adventure tourer was a pretty respectable bike with a fuel injected liquid-cooled 955cc three-cylinder engine, a sturdy tubular steel perimeter frame with long-travel suspension and powerful triple-disc braking set-up.
It had a 24 litre fuel tank, frame-mounted fairing, twin headlights plus a range of accessories including hard and soft luggage, heated grips and mudguard extensions. It looked the business and did the job. Unfortunately the bike started to sink into roadism when cast alloy wheels were introduced until by 2010 the Tiger had morphed into a naked road bike with 17 inch wheels front and rear.
This time Triumph are hedging their bets. While still retaining the Tiger 1050 they have now released two new versions of the Tiger. The road orientated Tiger 800 with cast aluminium alloy wheels, 17 inch rear and 19 inch up front, and their new adventure tourer the Tiger 800 XC with spoked wheels, 17 inch rear and 21 inch up front. Yayee!!
When we saw the first photos of the new XC it looked like an F800GS replica but in the flesh it’s a different story. After the beak nose that’s where the BMW similarities stop. At the heart of the bike is its 799cc liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder powerplant with a bore and stroke of 74 x 61.9mm and multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection. This is mated with a six speed gearbox and chain drive. One of the key features of the engine is an oil cooled alternator that pumps 645watts so you can run auxillary lights, GPS, heated grips and charge your phone or light up a small suburb.
It sits within a tubular steel trellis frame with a cast aluminium alloy swingarm. Up front is Showa 45mm upside down forks providing 220mm travel and at the rear a Showa Monoshock with adjustable preload and rebound damping with 215mm of travel.
As we mentioned the front wheel is a 36-spoke 21 x 2.5in, Excel aluminium rims and rear 32 spoke, 17 x 4.25in up the back. Our test bikes were fitted with Metzler Karoos front and rear.
The whole package is brought to a stop with twin 308mm floating discs, Nissin 4 piston radial calipers up front and a single 255mm disc, Nissin 2 piston sliding caliper. Our test bikes had no ABS but ABS models are available for those less skilled in the art of slowing down when things get greasy.
When it gets down to dimensions it has a wheelbase of 1568mm and a wet weight of 215kg which is a little on the porky side. Then again it has a fuel tank capacity of 19 litres, which is two more than its german counterpart. I can live with that.
Where Did We Ride It?
Our test ride was over three days, which varied from expressway conditions to snotty uphill’s and deep creek crossings. It started from Canberra up to Moss Vale, NSW across to the coast and back to the ACT. It was a very good opportunity to test the XC in all conditions it maybe subject to.
What’s To Like?
The Triumph Tiger 800 XC has to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Throwing my leg over the bike for the first time had me a little nervous. For me it was a stretch to reach the handlebars and gave the impression of a road bike. That was quickly dispelled as I found standing on the bike off road felt completely natural.
On the black top the bike felt like a high revving road bike and to be honest, a bit low geared. But you quickly realize that the extremely smooth 800cc motor is built to rev and the bike seems to lack bottom end but when you turn on the gas it comes on very smoothly as everything starts flashing by. It’s very comfortable and you could really chew up the miles. It also has an adjustable seat that you can set at 845 or 865mm and the screen is quite effective and for taller riders there is a larger screen available. It makes an awesome road bike but how will that translate off-road where it counts?
Off-road the Triumph is surprisingly confidence inspiring. You find yourself running the engine at one to two thousand revs above what you normally would. As the group approached through the bush it sounded like a bunch of super bikes with the engines revving at 8000 rpm as the back tyres broke lose.
The Showa suspension seemed a little stiff at first but once I found I could ride it a lot more aggressively the suspension with the rear preload turned up was doing the job. By the end of the test we had to launch off erosion humps to get the front forks to bottom out. Control was also helped with long footpegs and an ample rear foot brake that was easy to find. As for the brakes they had great feel both front and rear and for me they were spot on.
The design team at Triumph have made a smart move by making the plastics on the side of the tank and around the radiator guard inexpensive to replace. Scars from minor falls won’t scar you for life.
For extra protection our test bikes were fitted with Alloy Sump, Protector Engine Crash Bars, Front Mud Guard Extender, Paint Protection Kits, Rubber Tank Protector, Headlight Protector and despite the punishment we dished out nothing broke. The other Triumph accessory fitted were heated grips, which came in very handy on those cold Canberra mornings. They are a bit hard but on the high setting you could heat a hot dog bun on those things. In fact there is a total of 55 different accessories available including luggage. And it’s the little things that show that Triumph have put a lot of thought into the development of the bike. When you load up the rear of the bike Triumph have fitted a lever to dip the headlights so you’re not lighting up the trees.
Overall the Tiger didn’t shy away from any obstacle and most of all I liked having no traction control or ABS. You could just go for it without thinking about which button to push. The standard package comes in at $16,290 and $17,290 for the ABS model and represents excellent value for a bike of this caliber. Triumph have made it easy by allowing potential buyers design there bikes online, print out the result and take it to there dealer. An innovation that will have customersin the showroom and out on the road sooner.
What’s Not To Like?
Being a smaller frame I found when seated the reach to the bars a bit of a stretch especially when trying to turn full lock right and have clutch control. Not a big deal on the road but difficult maneuvering in technical sections. The bike has a cable-operated clutch and perhaps a hydraulic clutch would have suited a bike this size.
As with this style of adventure bike it only comes with a 19 litre tank which, for this country, falls short of our vast distances. The good news is that Safari Tanks are already developing a larger tank to increase the Tigers range.
One area that may be a problem is that the engine draws its air through a paper filter that sits under the tank and breathes through a snorkel from under the seat. To access the filter the tank has to be lifted and its not a quick job. We did some deep creek crossings without a problem and Unifilter are investigating the idea of a prefilter on the snorkel.
The Final Word
The Triumph Tiger has a brilliant engine that’s very smooth and the power is delivered to the rear wheel effectively without those seat upholstery-pinching moments. It’s one of the most comfortable bikes I’ve ever ridden and will deliver you at your destination in good shape.
It handled deep creek crossings to snotty, rocky, rutty uphill’s that, if I’d known was around the corner, I would not have attempted on this bike. Nevertheless when suddenly confronted with a tricky technical section you could get up on the pegs and point the bike in exactly the direction you wanted to go. Hit a rock or rut and the Showa suspension would keep things under control.
After ruining the original Tiger, Triumph have redeemed themselves well and truly. If you are in the market an 800cc class adventure bike then you must test ride a Triumph Tiger 800 XC.