TRIUMPH'S NEW - AND SMALLER - TIGER
Take a look at this photo of Triumph’s new Tiger 800 and you’ll notice two things. Firstly, it’s not a bad looking bit of kit. Some dual-purpose type bikes have a touch of the uglies, but I reckon this looks pretty good. The second thing you might notice is that it is wet! This photo was taken just before the start of my test-ride; well actually, just after the start, as I’d just left on a group test-ride when the rain started. We retreated to the dealer’s shop to wait out the storm before going again. It made for an interesting, and somewhat telling, test-ride. There was a time when the Tiger was a real dual-purpose, all roads type bike. (Click here for my test of the early one). I remember an ad for one of the early models that showed an Indiana Jones type bloke ferrying his Tiger across a river in the jungle on a raft made of logs tied together. Back then you could take the tiger into the wilds. But then Triumph refined it. Triumph realised that, like most dual-purpose bikes (and most 4WDs), The Tiger spent most of its time prowling sealed roads. So they made it a road-bike. (Click here for that one). But, apparently, there were still some who mourned the passing of the old Tiger; there were still some who wanted to go trail-riding on their Triumph. Now, Triumph is a company that listens to its customers. I also suspect that they were keeping a close eye on what was happening over BMW way. I can just imagine the scene in the Triumph board-room. The top chappy walks in and says (to be read in a voice like David Niven in one of those old war movies), “Tally-ho, listen up chaps! Those damned Bavarians have a couple of 800cc bikes that are built for road and off-road; jolly decent old bikes they are too! So here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to beat Bavarian at his own game. We’re going to make a couple of 800cc bikes that will, and I hope you’ll pardon the pun, triumph over them!” okay, I don’t think John Bloor actually talks like David Niven, but the directive I’m sure would’ve gone something like that. And the result of that directive was the new range (well, a range of two) Tiger 800s. Just like those “damned Bavarians”, Triumph has produced two bikes with slightly differing briefs. One is more road-orientated, although still having appropriate rough-terrain accoutrements like a larger 19” front wheel etc. The other one, called the XC (for “Cross-Country”, no doubt) is basically the same bike, but sits higher, has a bit more protection (stronger bash-plate) and has an even bigger, trail-bike-like 21” front wheel. Tyres are different and there are a few other differences too. Both these bikes are intended to do more dirt riding than the bigger model. Going on the principle that most of these bikes – especially as bought by the readers of this humble web-site – will spend most of their time eating up black-top rather than dusty fire-trails, it was the more road-orientated version I was most interested in having a ride on. I got the chance to do this when the Triumph test fleet rolled into town.
IN THE DRIVEWAY
The first thing to say is that these Tigers aren’t parts-bin specials; they are totally new bikes. Triumph designed them to be serious and capable adventure-tourer type machines. And that all starts with the frame, which Triumph says is made from steel because steel is easier to repair back-of-Bourke when it’s crashed. The cynics might say that it is also cheaper to make than an alloy frame; and if you crash it badly enough to need frame repairs it’d be a moot point because the rider would need some repairs too. But Triumph are quite insistent on this crashing thing. Apparently part of their R&D involved repeatedly chucking them down on the ground with increasing ferocity to see what broke. (Imagine how much fun the R&D blokes from Hinckley would’ve had doing that!). They wanted to make sure that it was only the ancillary stuff that broke, not any of the major functional items. The engine uses some bits from the 675 unit in the Daytona and Street Triple, but is mostly all new. Yep, this Tiger is a whole new deal, and a lot of thought and development has gone into it. Looking at the XC, it’s obvious that Triumph designers had pictures of other bikes up on their walls. With that pointy beak-type thing it looks a bit like the Ducati Multistrada. And of course the BMW has this double-decker mudguard thing too. I still don’t get this; one mudguard is enough! Put it up high if it’s a trail-bike, down low if it’s a road-bike. Giving it a high one and a low one just makes it look silly! Thankfully, they haven’t gone the punched-in-one-eye look of the BMW’s twin lights though. Other, more important, differences between the XC and the standard 800 include bigger diameter front forks (with 40mm more travel), longer-travel rear suspension, and as you’d expect from this, a seat-height that is 20mm higher. The XC is also 5 hg heavier. Oh, and if Sir picks the XC version, Sir won’t be charged any extra because they are both the same price. But back to the “standard” 800. Without the bird-like beak, to my eye it bears some resemblance, around the headlight area, to the Yamaha TDM900. In any case, as I mentioned at the top, I reckon it looks pretty good – especially for a dual-purpose mount. It is still a duallie though, and this utilitarian nature can be seen by the exposed frame – especially around the rear of the bike – and other things like serrated foot-rests. Another example is the mounting for the instruments. The instrument pod is mounted on the end of a solid tubular section that looks a bit like a battering-ram. As one observer commented, “If you hit something the instruments would smash, but the rest of the bike would just plough on through!” The riding-position is good, with ergonomics that are just about perfect for this style of bike. The foot-rests are low, so you don’t feel at all cramped. The bars are high and wide. Despite the roomy feel of the bike I could still easily get both feet flat on the ground. The seat is adjustable for height, which helps with this no doubt. (Although I don’t know which setting this was on). The seat is a bit firm, and the sculptured shape doesn’t let you move around much. My bony old bum was starting to get a bit sore by the end of the ride. And it wasn’t just me who was critical of the seat, another test-rider who briefly sat on it also commented on the “hard seat”. The whole bike feels light and easy to manage. No doubt the wide bars help with this, giving excellent control. Controls are all light to use too. The clutch is especially light. The gear-change is light and positive. Finding neutral was never a problem and clutch-less up-changes (with accompanying momentary roll-off of the throttle) were easy, light, and totally smooth. Instruments are new too. It’s all very easy to read and informative. As you can see in the photo, there is an analogue tacho (red-lined at 10,000rpm), with a digital display to the left containing speedo, gear indicator, fuel level, engine-temperature, odo, and time of day. And it’s all displayed together, without any need to push buttons to get at it. There are buttons, of course, to access other stuff, but all the important info is right there for you. Hit the starter and there is that typical Triumph whistling sound; in this case so loud that it almost drowns out the rest of the engine noise. At higher revs the engine’s unique three-cylinder wail becomes more prominent though. Regardless of sound, the engine is a beauty! It pulls easily and smoothly from as little as 1,500rpm, even in top. Get it over 4,000rpm and it really gets into its stride. At around 8,000rpm you start to hear the motor more and it lets you know that it’s working harder. It might go through different stages, but it’s smooth and responsive right from idle up into those high numbers. (I didn’t quite get it to red-line). It cruises effortlessly between 4,000rpm and 6,000rpm. The fuel-mapping has obviously been designed to deliver a smooth, rather than snappy, response to the throttle. This suits the nature of the bike (making it safer on loose surfaces) but does make it feel less lively than it really is. Gearing runs at 23kph per 1,0000rpm in top, which suits the bike pretty well. It will cruise easily at 110kph – 120kph; which equates to around 4,500rpm – 5,500rpm. Road-testers often comment about the inspiring nature of the Hinckley triples, and they are great engines! In many ways they are a good compromise between a twin and a four. They have the smoothness (almost) of a four, albeit with a bit of rawness added in, but they don’t sound as busy at high revs. So at the above-mentioned cruising speed the Tiger feels smooth and relaxed. At times there is a throaty rumble at lower revs, then the afore-mentioned soulful wail at the higher numbers. There is also a bit of “popping” from the exhaust on the over-run. It’s a rather metallic “cling-cling” noise though, which sounds, worryingly, as if something has come loose! When you’re cruising at highway speeds the screen does a good job of keeping the wind off, so you don’t suffer too much from the upright riding-position. The ride, over-all, is good. Larger bumps, dips and humps in the road are handled very well, and it feels remarkably smooth. But then it surprises by feeling a bit jiggly over sharper smaller-amplitude bumps and road surface irregularities. The test-route was the same as used for the Sprint GT, Daytona, BMW R1200R and others. It ranges from suburban running to a twisty mountain back-road, to major highway. The mountain road is choppy in places and has large humps and dips. The Tiger smoothed this road out very well, and remained perfectly stable. Yet on the highway there were some sharp jolts from minor bumps and ripples. The handling is light and easy, and quickly inspires confidence. This was evident right from the start of the ride. Now at this point it would be appropriate to tell you about the test-ride. Remember I mentioned rain? Well, it started almost as soon as we left the dealer's’ driveway. Just a light shower at first, but then it got heavier and was accompanied by a strong side-wind. We’d only gone a few blocks. Normally, a strange bike in those conditions would be a little unsettling; not so with the Tiger. Apart from the fact that rain was beginning to soak through my Draggin jeans, I was confident and at ease on the bike. The lead rider took us around some side-streets and back to the dealer to wait out the storm. When the storm passed we headed out again. Second time out the Tiger felt almost like an old friend. Going up the twisty mountain back-road, for probably the first time on one of these group tests I had no trouble keeping up with the lead rider. True, he was going fairly slowly, because that road can be a bit treacherous in the wet. More tellingly though, I was often pulling away from the riders behind me. I am a very cautious rider in the wet, so this was not down to any particularly skilful wet-weather riding ability, it was all down to the easy-to-handle, confidence-inspiring nature of the bike. The engine characteristics helped here too. I ended up leaving it in 3rd gear for most of the way, which proved ideal. In the corners it was low in the rev-range and the smooth power delivery made it feel reassuringly safe. On the straights the revs rose and the more lively response provided enjoyable performance. Of course, at times you do feel the slight gyroscopic effect of the larger front wheel, so it’s not going to flip-flop through the twisties like a Daytona or Speed-Triple, but for the speeds I was travelling at it was never a problem, and turn-in was always easy and accurate. And it does help with the feeling of stability. When we got to the top of the mountain we stopped to allow everyone to catch up, and some riders swapped bikes. Not me. They would’ve had to prise me off with a crow-bar, because there was no other Triumph I would’ve preferred to be on; in those conditions on that road. The brakes were okay, although the back stopper felt a bit wooden at times. Again, considering the nature of the bike and its intended purpose, you wouldn’t want too much initial bite, but there were a couple of times when I would’ve preferred a stronger feel; a couple of times when I had to unexpectedly press harder to achieve the result I wanted. ABS is optional. So the new Tiger is a great bike! A better seat and a bit of fiddling with the suspension to improve the ride over small amplitude bumps would turn this into a great bike indeed; a bike equally capable of a blast through the twisties, a ride down some dirt back-roads, or an interstate tour. That’s pretty good all in one bike!
COUNTING THE DOLLARS
I was discussing the Tiger with a friend who raised the issue of value for money; and this is where it gets a bit tricky. The main competition, as I indicated at the top, is probably BMW; namely the F650GS and F800GS – both of which, confusingly, are 800s, of course. They sell for $13,950 and $17,350 respectively. The Triumphs fit right between the two, with the XC being the logical competitor for the F800GS, but the more road-orientated 800 being a competitor to the similarly more road-orientated F650GS. That makes the XC better value, and the 800 not so better value, against the Bavarians. It’s also more expensive than Yamaha’s Tenere 660 (which, admittedly, has a smaller engine, but only marginally so), and even the more road-orientated TDM900. Then if you look at Suzuki, the benchmark by which other makes’ value for money is judged, and mostly fails, the V-Strom 650 is a whopping $4,000 cheaper. Yes, that’s really in a class down from this in terms of engine size and power, but even the 1,000cc version is cheaper. Then, just to add further to the confusion, the Tiger’s big brother is just $600 more than the 800. (Although it's more road-bike than the smaller Tigers). But yes, when it comes to spending the money, well, it gets confusing!
SNAPSHOT Triumph have done a great job with its new dual-purpose bike. It’s not perfect, (what bike is?), but it’s very good. And you don’t have to get it in the dirt to appreciate it; this bike is a good thing when it’s prowling the black-top too. More capable off-road than its big brother, and easier to ride, I reckon it’s going to steal a few sales from its stable-mate, as well as its Bavarian competition.
Engine: cylinder, 799cc. Power: 70kW at 9,300rpm. Torque: 79Nm at 7,850rpm.
Fuel capacity: 19 litres.
Weight: 210kg (wet).
Seat height: 810mm - 830mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 110 X 19”, Rear:150 X17”
Brakes: Nissin. Front: Twin 308mm disc. Rear: Single 255m disc.
Price: $16,250 (+ORC).
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There have been a few tweaks since I tested this almost 4 years ago. Styling has come in for a few tweaks, and with sharper lines in its minimalist bodywork it looks even more purposeful than it did here. For 2015 the road-going version – as tested here – is now called the 800 XR. Engine specs remain the same, but Triumph is claiming up to 17% greater fuel-efficiency. The more off-road orientated verison is still called he XC, and gets WP suspension. Both models have a more up-spec version, denoted by “x” after the name. This brings standard ABS and traction-control, plus three power-modes, and what Triumph call an “Advanced trip-computer”.