Triumph Tiger 800
Narrow mountain roads winding through a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, and a pair of Triumph’s new Tiger 800s to keep me company
The new Tiger is a massive improvement that rules the wild and even the concrete jungle
Triumph have carved a successful space for themselves in the mid-sized adventure-touring space with the Tiger 800 — a bike that, with its comfortable ergos, forgiving suspension and flexible three-cylinder engine, seemed like the perfect tool for those looking to cover long distances on our unpredictable indian highways. Since its introduction to the indian market in 2014, the Tiger 800 has been the go-to machine for motorcyclists looking for big-bike power in a sturdy, touring-inclined package and, with no competition in this niche, sales have flourished. Last year saw the introduction of two new players in the segment: ducati’s multistrada 950 and honda’s africa Twin. These bikes offer better equipment levels, including comprehensive electronics packages, full TFT displays and off-road-specific riding modes, making the Tiger suddenly feel dated. The more recent launch of the BMW F 750 GS and F 850 GS has made it even more apparent that Triumph definitely needed to up their game to stay relevant in a suddenly crowded space, and the British marque has done just that with the introduction of the 2018 Tiger 800. We recently travelled to morocco where i rode both versions of this new motorcycle — the road-biased Xrt as well as off-road-friendly Xca — to bring you this report.
i wouldn’t call this an all-new motorcycle; after all, it shares its chassis and swingarm with the outgoing model, it continues to be powered by a liquidcooled, 12-valve inline triple that displaces 800 cc, and it still sports the very recognisable Tiger silhouette. Triumph have done the smart thing by letting the Tiger retain its identity, while upgrading several areas to level the playing field with today’s competition. The twin headlights, though similar in layout to the older Tiger’s, are now full Led, more curvy than angular, and are garnished by a pair of Led DRLS that create a menacing, slant-eyed signature. above the headlights is the new heightadjustable screen that can easily be set with one hand while on the move and is flanked by new aero deflectors to further reduce wind being directed towards the rider. The 19-litre fuel tank
leads down to new side panels, while the tail section is devoid of any plastic bits, leaving the tubular subframe exposed and retaining the tough, nononsense look of the old tiger. one of the important new bits is the upswept exhaust, which is now freer-flowing, lighter and smaller than before, and i am happy to report that it makes a strong, gruff sounding note, while the characteristic, high-pitched triumph triple whistle has been greatly reduced.
triumph claim that there are over 200 changes to differentiate this bike from its predecessor; however, all of them are not visible. the important ones within the engine and drivetrain include a new crankshaft, new clutch, and reduced backlash between the gears to smoothen throttle response. We also get a shorter first gear to aid acceleration and improve tractability when crawling through challenging terrain, eliminating the need to feather the clutch to prevent stalling. another new bit is the seat, which triumph have reworked with new foam compounds; it takes the rider’s form while still providing great support without sagging, and i can attest to the fact that it is supremely comfortable, even after hours in the saddle. the handlebar has also been moved 10 millimetres closer to the rider, so smaller riders won’t find themselves having to reach forward to the controls.
We had two days to sample these motorcycles in the hills about 50 kilometres from Marrakesh, and day one was dedicated to seeing what these machines could do on tarmac. i first got astride an Xrt, after ensuring that the seat was at the lower of it two settings, 810 rather than 830 mm, which was comfortable enough for 5’6” me to just about get both feet down.
as i turned the key in the ignition, i was greeted by the superb five-inch colour TFT screen that hosts a plethora of information and can be customised to suit the rider’s preferences and riding style. Permanent information includes a speedometer, tachometer, gear indicator, clock, fuel level, ambient temperature, and the current riding mode, while the strip along the bottom can be customised to include trip meters, fuel consumption, coolant temperature, service information, display style setting and more. the riding modes available on the Xrt are rain, road, off-road and sport, and
The Tiger is definitely a quick motorcycle and, with that free-revving engine, you can pull hard through the gears and be at seriously illegal speeds in no time
each of these has its own parameters for throttle map, traction control and ABS. rain mode is meant for low-traction conditions, and features the most conservative settings, with throttle response turned down and the electronic nannies at their most intrusive. power delivery gets progressively more direct as you move to road and then Sport modes, with the ABS and traction control allowing the rider more liberties. The Off-road mode turns down the traction control even further to allow small slides before cutting in, while shutting off ABS to the rear wheel.
Triumph have also provided a customisable ‘rider’ mode, which allows you to take full control of all the parameters, or completely switch off the traction control or ABS. The offroad-biased Xca also features a sixth rider mode, called Off-road pro, especially for experienced off-road riders, which switches off traction control and ABS completely while smoothing throttle response for perfect control in the rough stuff.
creature comforts include cruise control, two charging ports, heated grips and heated seats for rider and pillion; i was especially grateful for the last two as it was below 10 degrees celsius when we started the ride, and these understated features kept my hands and nether region warm and toasty. all the functions, from display options to rider modes to heated grips, are controlled by the excellent new switchgear which is easy to use, intuitive and still retains perfect ergonomics for the horn, indicator and headlight buttons.
We were soon tailing Triumph’s lead rider along narrow roads that wound their way around the massive ranges that surrounded us, breathing in the fresh mountain air and getting to know the new Tiger. as we started picking up speed, i was truly amazed by how tame and manageable this large motorcycle felt once on the move, and we were soon riding along at a decent clip on some very nice roads.
I was truly amazed by how tame and manageable this large motorcycle felt once on the move, and we were soon riding along at a decent clip on some very nice roads
The standout feature of this threecylinder engine is the wide spread of torque; peak torque is 79 Nm at 8,050 rpm, and over 85 per cent of this is available from as low as 2,500 rpm, while peak power is 95 PS at 9,500 rpm. What this translates into is usable power in any gear all across the rev range, and speed can be piled on with a simple twist of the wrist, without the need to downshift; ideal characteristics when covering long distances.
The engine isn’t built for blistering performance at high revs and, consequently, feels somewhat strained approaching 9,000 rpm; it is happiest between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm, although it has the punch to spin up all the way to the redline without hesitation if you get greedy with the throttle. The ride-by-wire throttle is light, smooth and works extremely well with the immaculate fuelling to ensure that rider inputs are transmitted to the rear wheel in a smooth and linear manner. even in Sport mode, with its aggressive throttle
map, on-off transitions are jerk-free and seamless, and the only way to elicit a harsh response is by getting really hamfisted with the go-grip.
The Tiger is definitely a quick motorcycle and, with that free-revving engine, you can pull hard through the gears and be at seriously illegal speeds in no time but, with the composed chassis and suspension, and the rider shielded behind that tall screen, the bike never feels brutally fast or scary; it is only after a glance at the speedometer do you think that, maybe, it’s time to slow down.
The Tiger Xrt handles curves with poise, and i soon got comfortable with throwing it into corner after corner, the low foot-peg feelers occasionally grazing the tarmac. Of course, it doesn’t turn in with the quickness and certainty of a sportier motorcycle, but the neutral-handling chassis is helped along by the adjustable Showa suspension at both ends, while the metzeler Tourance tyres provide loads of grip and confidence, even at full lean, and seem like an ideal compromise between durability and performance for a touring-inclined rider. The 43-mm upside-down Showa fork retains the same 180-mm travel as the old bike, is now adjustable for compression and rebound damping, and is no doubt responsible for the minimal fork dive when the new Brembo front anchors are engaged. The rear is endowed with the same Showa shock as before, with adjustments for preload and rebound damping, and 170 mm of travel; needless to say, the motorcycle glides over bad roads, potholes and speedbreakers without losing any composure. even when i spotted a bump just ahead of me at triple-digit speeds, all i had to do was lift my rear off the seat by a few inches, and the superb suspension took care of the rest without losing composure.
This got me wondering what the off-road-biased Xca’s even longer-travel suspension was capable of; a fully adjustable 43-mm Wp upside-down fork with 220 mm of travel does duty at the front, while a Wp shock with
After a day spent on a variety of surfaces, from sticky tarmac to broken roads and gravelly trails, it was now time to go off-road!
preload and rebound damping adjustments and 215 mm of travel does duty at the rear. These units, in conjunction with the massive 21-inch front wheel, raise the seat height of the Xca by 30 mm, making it adjustable to either 840 or 860 mm. The Xca also comes with tougher Bridgestone Battlewing tyres that are better-suited than the metzelers to the bike’s dualpurpose nature, and for the serious offroader who plans to see as little tarmac as possible, Triumph recommend the knobby pirelli Scorpion rally tyres to take on harsh terrain.
i did spend some time aboard an Xca shod with the Bridgestones during the on-road part of our ride, and although i could barely tip-toe from the 840-mm-high seat, i got comfortable with the higher perch in a few minutes. The ride quality was even more plush than that of the Xrt that i had been riding all morning, and i was soon flying over several small bumps that i saw but never felt. push the Xca into a corner and it is slower to steer than its road-going cousin due to the longer-travel suspension and the higher front wheel, but an experienced rider will be able to adapt this into his riding style.
Both the Xrt and the Xca sport Brembo front and Nissin rear brakes, which do a great job of shedding speed; however, the front brake lacks a sharp initial bite, although braking power builds strongly after the initial squeeze and the bike sheds speed efficiently and without fuss. The strong bite was missed while riding on well-surfaced tarmac, although on broken or gravelly surfaces the progressive nature of the brakes made more sense.
after a day spent on a variety of surfaces, from sticky tarmac to broken roads and gravelly trails, it was now time to go off-road! day two was spent riding up and down dunes and across dry river-beds on the Triumph Tiger Xca, shod with the aggressive pirelli knobbies. Not being an avid offroader, and barely able to reach the ground, i started out cautiously, but with some guidance from the highly experienced lead rider i soon built up the confidence to switch into the Xca’s Off-road pro mode, overriding the safety net of traction control and aBS. i was amazed by the amount of grip afforded by the tyres, even in loose sand or gravel, and, with some practice, was soon riding hard up steep dunes with the rear wheel spinning away. The Tiger handles this terrain surprising well for a motorcycle weighing well over 200 kilograms wet, and changes in surface, sudden dips and crests and just about anything else did little to unsettle it when on the move; indian roads shouldn’t be much of a challenge!
Two days in the mountains with the Tiger twins and i am convinced that Triumph have executed a massive improvement on the outgoing Tiger. The new bike feels up-to-date, smoother and sharper, is endowed with a modern electronics suite and that superb TFT rider interface, while retaining the top-notch build quality that we have come to expect from Triumph. This 2018 bike is ready to pick up where the old Tiger left off and take on the many challengers in the mid-size adventure-touring segment.
Pick the dash layout that works for you
LED DRLs give the Tiger an aggressive new face
USB charging port under the seat
Tiger 800 XCA
Spoked wheels, longtravel WP suspension and the protruding beak identify the XCa
Exhaust is lighter and sounds better
XCa gets a substantial bash-plate
New switchgear is intuitive, and allows you to access all the modes and features without taking your hands off the controls
Aero diffusers keep wind blast off the rider’s arms and chest for fatigue-free riding